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Editorial | Police ID numbers now
The number of public complaints against the police has soared in the first half of this year, Jyllands-Posten reported on Wednesday. Unfortunately, scores of these complaints are dropped because the officers involved in the incident cannot be identified. By some estimates, that occurs in more than one in every six cases.
The most high-profile case, of course, revolves around a complaint lodged in 2009 by a man who claims he was treated unfairly while in police custody due to a case of mistaken identity.
This particular case has all the trappings of a farce. It occurred during the 2009 COP15 climate conference, where the actions of the police have already been deemed illegal. The case languished for two and a half years, was recently dropped and then only subsequently reopened due to a public outcry. It’s also emerged that some of the officers who were known to have taken part in the incident were never even interviewed by the public prosecutor assigned to look into the complaint. Those officers who have been identified certainly know the names of their colleagues with them that night. If they haven’t been asked to give up those names, it is incompetence on the prosecutor’s part. If they’ve been asked and refused, it is a cover-up.
Many have called for the Danish police to sport identification numbers, as in the case in many other countries.
This too is proving to be an example of gross inaction. For more than 18 months, authorities have been reportedly discussing the pros and cons of requiring police to wear ID numbers and after all that time the solution that is emerging is an unacceptable one. The Justice Ministry is reportedly considering a solution that would use a mixture of colour codes and numbers to identify an officer’s rank and function, but wouldn’t allow for the identification of individual officers.
It’s hard to see the argument against police identification. A refusal to add ID numbers only gives the impression that the police have something they’d like to hide. If that’s not the case, why not make officers identifiable so that any bad apples can be properly weeded out and those cops who help make the community a better place can be duly recognised and commended? Good police officers have nothing to lose by putting a number or their name on their uniform.
When a widely-circulated photo that clearly shows the faces of two officers and the partially obscured faces of three others hasn’t been identified in well over two years, it erodes the public’s trust in the police.
The obstinate refusal on behalf of the police to adopt clear identification only adds to that mistrust.