Calls for Police to wear ID numbers

While the police union says that numbering officers will put their lives at risk, politicians and legal experts argue the numbers will provide the public greater legal security

A debate has been reignited over whether police officers should wear ID numbers so they can be more easily identified.

The calls have been made following a two year investigation by the police prosecutor into the identities of police officers that arrested a man they wrongly thought was a terrorist.

The man complained about his treatment by officers in the back of a police van. But despite the publication of a photograph showing the officers escorting the man into the police van, the police prosecutor was still unable to verify their identities.

The announcement was met by outrage and disbelief by politicians who called for all police officers to start wearing ID numbers to prevent future cases where police are given responsibility for identifying each other.

The well-known defence attorney Knud Foldschack says that a culture of solidarity permeates the police force, making it unlikely that they would give each other up and making police ID numbers the best solution to solving identity problems.

 “The best option would be to pass a law so that police officers would carry a number that means they be identified,” Foldschack told Ritzau. “It could just be an easily identifiable number. Police in other countries wear numbers.”

Spokesperson for the far-left party Enhedslisten, Christian Juhl, also called for police ID numbers.

“If officers wore clearly visible identification numbers it would make it much easier to complain against particular incidents,” Juhl told DR. “It’s essential to a citizen’s legal security that they are able to complain about the police. And in this particular case it seems strange that it is not possible to identify officers when their pictures are printed in a newspaper.”

Opposition parties Dansk Folkeparti opposes the proposal, however, arguing it is open to abuse.

“We also need to consider the legal security of police officers,” legal spokesperson Peter Skaarup told DR. “If they have numbers visible it will become easy to abuse and could end up with persecution of individual officers at demonstrations.”

The same argument was fielded by Peter Ibsen, the head of the police union, Politiforbundet.

“There is the risk that in critical moments a number will be misread leading to an officer being charged for something they haven’t done,” Ibsen told Ritzau. “There is also the risk that during disturbances, anger could be directed at a particular officer. It would be easy for people to agree to throw stones at a particular number.”

Ibsen argued that a better system for registering which officers take part in various operations would be preferable.

But former police commissioner for Copenhagen Pole, Kai Vittrup, argues such procedures already existed making it impossible for Copenhagen Police not to register which officers were involved in the arrest.

“In a situation in which you are told that someone is wanted or charged with terrorism, then it’s certain that in the system I worked in, we would know exactly who was sent out and who was doing what,” Vittrup told DR.

According to Vittrup, the arresting officers could not avoid being registered.

“It is completely out of the question. If you have arrested someone then you know exactly who did it. Everything is complete idiocy and impossible.”

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