Police refuse to identify themselves
Although required to give their name and station location, many cops clam up when asked, citizens say
Over the past five years, many residents who have asked police officers to identify themselves have had that request denied. According to a Gallup poll conducted for Berlingske newspaper, three out of ten people who have asked police officers for identification have been turned down. Along with their name, cops have refused to identify which station they were attached to.
Innocent residents report that they have been questioned by police without officers ever saying why they were being queried or identifying themselves.
Nationally, about 20,000 people – one percent of the population – said that an officer had denied to give their name when asked.
The lack of information becomes a major problem if a resident has a complaint about an officer.
In one notorious case, police reported that they could not identify the officers who put an innocent man into the back of a van in December 2009 while Copenhagen hosted the COP15 climate conference, even though there is a widely-circulated photo that clearly shows the faces of the officers involved. The man was subsequently subjected to hours of humiliating treatment and his wife was also arrested. After 13 hours, the police came to realise that it was a case of mistaken identity. The couple complained about the treatment, but four years later no police officer has faced punishment for the incident. The public prosecutor says it has given up on identifying the officers in the photo.
Problem? What problem?
The police association Politiforbundet refused to acknowledge that there is a problem.
“Police officers can always be identified if they were sent on a call by a control centre,” association head Claus Oxfeldt told Berlingske.
Rasmus Blaaberg, the head of the independent police complaints commission, Den Uafhængige Politiklagemyndighed (DUP), said that officers refusing to identify themselves gives cops a “credibility problem”.
“It is obviously a minority of cases, but it is still a relatively high number,” Blaaberg told Berlingske.
He said that it was hard to determine just how many cases of complaints against officers were dropped because those involved simply could not identify the cops involved.
Police inspector Mogens Lauridsen expressed shock that the number was so high.
“We occasionally get complaints from citizens saying they couldn’t get a name, but it is pretty sporadic, so I am surprised that the study said that it is three out of ten,” Lauridsen told Berlingske. “That is not good enough.”
Lauridsen said that the phenomenon may be the result of officers interpreting exceptions to the reporting requirements too loosely. An officer is not required to give their name, for example, to anyone who they feel is combative or intoxicated. Officers are required, however, to say where they work, but some of the residents polled said that officers refused to even give up that information.
A numbers game
The problem of police identification could be at least partially solved if Danish cops were required to wear numbers on their uniforms. That idea has been kicked around forever, but is apparently currently in limbo somewhere inside the halls of the Justice Ministry.
Neighbouring Norway put numbers on police uniforms ten years ago, and both police and the Norwegian Justice Ministry have reported no problems arising from the practice.