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November 11, 2013

Officer Who? Why police should wear name badges

by dankrogers

Last week the Queensland government announced that police will no longer have to wear name badges. Their identification will be replaced with a 5 digit number. Triple J’s Hack Program invited me to contribute to a live panel discussion on the issue with the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Ross Barnett also talking. For the segment, follow this link. My comments start at 24:30.

It is important that police decisions be subject to measures of accountability. The wearing of clear name identification is an effective way to ensure police actions are subject to measures of oversight.

The Fitzgerald Inquiry led to the introduction of police name badges as a way to ensure greater accountability among police. It is concerning that we are now taking a backwards step in de-identifying police. The UK are doing the opposite. They have for many years only had number identifications but are now moving towards name badges.

It is important that police, like any other government employee, be held accountable when they misuse their powers. This principle is even more important for an event like G20 if you look at the history of these events. In Toronto over 30 police were recommended to face disciplinary proceedings. A subsequent public inquiry found wide scale abuse of police powers on the ground. It’s easy to say ‘well that’s Canada, things will be different here.’ To that, my response would be that the powers given to Canadian police were very similar and Canadian protestors were actually protected by that country’s Charter of Rights. We have no such protection. Also, Many Canadian police took off their ID badges to deliberately avoid detection of misuse of powers. This shows that it is an important safeguard.

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