Name: BK Klev – Prison Break Tattoos
Address: 5306 Washington Ave, Houston, TX 77007
On 10-2-16, Detective L-O interviewed subject BK Klev regarding a tattoo studio known as Prison Break Tattoos. Following are the results of this Detective’s investigation:
Q: Sir, can you state your name and occupation for the record?
A: BK Klev – Sergeant at Houston PD and owner of Prison Break Tattoos.
Q: How many years have you been employed as a law enforcement officer?
A: 25 years.
Q: Can you describe for Law Officer what Prison Break Tattoos is about?
A: It is the only prison themed tattoo studio in the country. I wanted to create a place where police officers and first responders felt comfortable knowing that we are all family. The entire studio is set up like a movie set. It’s totally theatrical. I have real prison bars, real prison bunk beds. I have an electric chair that will “zap” you if you misbehave. You have to be buzzed in to areas. It took about 8 months to build. It is truly one of a kind.
Q: Why did you feel the need to create a haven of sorts for first responders?
A: I always had good luck with anyone who has put ink on me. Something in me was always uncomfortable though. Before what seems like the huge ink movement of today, shops weren’t on every corner as they are now. I usually had to search for a good one and they weren’t always in the safest neighborhoods or staffed by those of high character. That became more of an issue after I became a cop. Sitting in a booth having some work done to me with deep sentimentality while someone getting a gang tattoo in the booth right beside me was somewhat unnerving and uncomfortable. I personally enjoy zoning out when I’m getting inked-up, even as someone is stabbing me with a needle. It really wasn’t relaxing and enjoyable having to keep my head on a swivel. Especially with some of the current public sentiment on the profession.
Q: Why tattoos Sgt. Klev?
A: My love for tattoos started years ago. I got his first tattoo prior to joining law enforcement. I was instantly addicted to the art and the expression that it signified. I ended up getting both arms done within a year. I was totally hooked.
Q: Were you concerned with any stigma that may exist related to tattoo parlors?
A: Most certainly. Those days are gone for the most part. Everyone is getting tattoos these days. Cops, firefighters, school teachers, even doctors. I think people have always had that image of that sort of speakeasy, seedy tattoo shop in a dark alley, full of biker gangs. The kind of place where you have to knock three times and guess the right password to get in. they’re literally everywhere right now. Good or bad….there might be a thousand in Houston alone.
Q: Have recent reality type shows that showcase the tattoo industry helped?
A: In some cases, most definitely. I think the business began to take off long before that. But they definitely helped in making it explode onto the forefront. They have helped the industry a great deal. They also hurt a little though. Like with anything titled reality, a lot of people that may have never received a tattoo think that you can walk into any shop in the world and get an entire back piece done in thirty minutes. Or with some unreal expectations that may be able to be done. That is not the case of course. And the shows didn’t always portray that necessarily. It’s just an impression people get when they see it, like it, it’s like a thirty minute operation. It doesn’t happen like that here It doesn’t happen like that anywhere.
Q: Were you artistic as a child?
A: My mother sent me to art camps since age 11 or 12. I was into visual and performing arts. I graduated from the Houston High School for the Performing Arts. I was totally into the arts and my love for tattoos. I ended up starting college with that in mind. Although I loved it, I realized after my first year that I needed something with a higher calling. I needed to feel like I was contributing to something big. And law enforcement did that for me. Art became second. I turned my attention to criminal justice and fell in love with it.
Q: Did your work in the arts affect or influence your approach to police work?
A: Not at first. But through the years and different assignments throughout the department, it really came in handy. Having full sleeves of tattoos definitely helped with the image I was trying to portray especially in a UC (undercover) position.
Q: How did your department react to you entering the world of tattoos?
A: They were great from day one. They helped me get an extra employment permit. They did have a little concern because of that stigma, but over time, some came and checked the place out. They got to meet some of the clientele which consisted of a lot of first responders and their families. They could see through social media and word of mouth that we did a lot of tattoo work for widows and children of fallen officers and that we did a good amount of charitable work for the first responder community. I was concerned at first, but certain members of the department really went out of their way to support me. I don’t have one complaint and I wouldn’t want to work for any other department. I mean that.
Q: How does a tattoo studio assist charities?
A: Prison Break Tattoos donates a portion of every tattoo we do to charity since the day I opened my doors. Charity work is very important to me. This goes back to the higher calling and being part of something bigger than myself. My personal favorite has to be The Houston 100 Club. They help over 30 counties in Texas. They support the families of first responders that have died in the line of duty. They will pay off debt and send their kids to school.
Q: Does being part of the studio help keep you grounded and relaxed from the stresses of the job?
A: When I’m in the studio, although extremely busy, it’s time to unwind. Getting to know the customers and finding out the meaning behind some of their ink can be very relaxing and fulfilling. Especially when the meaning is powerful. I feel so honored that they chose Prison Break. It is very therapeutic.
Q: This detective has observed online videos and tributes from people all over the country that travel to your studio for ink. How does that make you feel?
A: Really, that’s what this whole experience is about for me. Giving first responders and their families a place to come where they feel comfortable and free of any kind of perceived stigma. I had someone from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police fly down just for a tattoo. I had someone from Australia in for ink, though they were actually in town for some kind of training. Recently, I had a MP from the Air Force ride a motorcycle over 8 hours just for a tattoo at Prison Break. Knowing that some people are willing to go by a hundred thousand shops just to come to mine is incredible. The support from my brothers and sisters in blue and all first responders from across the country and beyond has been amazing. Some of the reasons that either emergency workers or their families come in is deeply personal and sentimental. They’re all very personal to me. After all, we are all family. It could be me. I have an incredible staff. We come up with amazing designs that are approved by the customer. I take all the emotion and meaning that they provide to me and try to come up with something that they love enough to carry with them for life. So they all hit me deeply. They are all very important to me. I remember all of them like they were yesterday that we did them.
Q: Do you have any tattoos that are deeply personal to you?
A: Most do really. My favorite is my religious Star of David. Hidden within the tattoo is the thin blue line. Most don’t catch that part. Of course it’s my favorite. It’s real personal and truly just to me.
Q: Do you have any family members on the job that you looked up to growing up?
A: No. But sometime around the late 80’s, maybe 90, the house we were living in burned down to the ground. I remember coming home and finding my mom outside. She was devastated. But I remember these two cops that were with her. They stood by her and comforted her all day. I was really moved by that. I never forgot that. When I came to that turning point in college, that image came back to me. I remembered that day and how they helped my mom cope. I knew when I hit that crossroads in college, that’s what I wanted to be.
Q: Can you describe your worst experience on the job?
A: Honestly, kids. Anything with kids. That’s always the worst. I responded to an accident once where this drunk parent totaled a vehicle. There were three children in the back and they were all dead on arrival. The parent driving didn’t have a scratch and was oblivious to the carnage. I remember the strong smell of blood and alcohol. The smell still gives me nightmares.
Q: What about a good experience?
A: Well there are a ton. The one that affected me the most was finding another officer on the floor in the bathroom. He was inside a bathroom stall and his feet were sticking out a little. I could tell he was lying down. I called out a few times and got no response. So I kicked in the stall and saw it was a buddy. He had a massive stroke right there. Usually no matter what position someone might be in a bathroom stall, I tend to not want to know what they’re involved with. But I could sense something was wrong. It was like 4 in the morning and I’m just happy I was there. I ended up winning a life saving type award for it. But for me, it was all about the call I got from the hospital later on explaining that if I had ignored it, he would have died. He was literally just hanging on.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: Prison Break Tattoos was founded on a very simplistic yet focused way of thinking. Find a solution to a problem people have and build a business out of it. It’s said that many companies have a certain culture. Prison Break Tattoos is no exception. Simply put, Prison Break Tattoos supports all men and women who everyday risk their lives. We support them and honor them, as they are true heroes. I am honored that my brothers and sisters in blue and all first responders have put Prison Break Tattoos on the map. (You can find BK and his amazing staff at 5306 Washington Ave, Houston, TX 77007. They can be reached at 713-INKED-UP. Like then on their FaceBook page at facebook.com/prisonbreaktattoos. Show your support for a fellow first responder)
*Evidence photos on file
End of report………………