Citing a growing lack of trust between citizens and the police department, a local criminal justice task force is urging Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood to a rescind a policy which allows officers to remove their name tags.
The policy change comes after claims a dozen officers have been threatened either electronically or by telephone. Officers still must display their identification numbers and badge numbers. Still members of the Minority Bar Association of Western New York Criminal Justice Task Force say that is not enough. At a press conference at Mt. Olive Baptist Church on Buffalo’s East Side Tuesday afternoon, Task Force member and Buffalo Chapter NAACP President Mark Blue said the police department’s change in policy is concerning.
“We have been tasked with giving our information whenever we’ve been stopped,” he said. “By recognizing the name and badge number, that gives us some recognition of who that person is. One of the problems that’s been happening is without that name recognition and that badge being displayed properly, if I were to ask them for their identification, some police officers get indignant.”
Legal Aid Bureau Attorney Samantha White said the removal of name tags furthers the divide between citizens and police officers, and calls into question the transparency of the police department.
“To remove that piece of information off of the uniform, it doesn’t help the process of holding police accountable,” she said. “Even through their own system.”
Some Buffalo police officers have covered their name tags during racial justice protests over the last four months, including while guarding Brown's house in June and while breaking up a confrontation between protesters and MT Pockets bar patrons in September.
Brown and the police department have said at least 12 officers have been the victims of “doxing,” harassment via telephone or the releasing of personal information on the internet.