Just how many times should you tell an adult they have to follow the rules before they actually follow the rules?
The Ferguson, Missouri police department requires that officers wear their name badges. Yet, that requirement didn’t stop many of the officers present during the protests that followed Michael Brown’s killing from not wearing nametags and refusing to identify themselves to members of the public when asked. The Department of Justice took notice and on Tuesday, issued a letter reminding the officers that they are, in fact, supposed to be wearing identification as per their department’s regulations.
In the letter, per Reuters, they instructed officers to begin following the requirement immediately:
… the Justice Department said its investigators had observed Ferguson police officers not wearing, or obscuring, their name tags on their uniforms, a violation of the police department’s rules.
“The failure to wear name plates conveys a message to community members that, through anonymity, officers may seek to act with impunity,” the letter said.
Then, in a second later dated from Friday, the DOJ reiterated that identification is required, although the main purpose of the letter was to demand that the police stop wearing “I Am Darren Wilson” solidarity bracelets:
It further was reported to us that some officers affirmatively displaying these bracelets had black tape over their name plates. The practice of not wearing, or obscuring, name plates violates your own department’s policies, which we advised you earlier this week when we requested that you end the practice immediately.
On Sunday, the New York Times reported on an event in Ferguson where the journalists spotted a police officer who wasn’t wearing a name tag. When questioned by a cameraman on his identity, the officer declined and left the area.
That’s three strikes — three continued violations of the regulations and rules. If it were any other job, their bosses would’ve fired them.
It’s important to remember the police perform an important function in our society. Order and structure are necessary for the continued perpetuation of the social organism. However, there are things the police can do to increase the empathy that the population feels towards them. I’d encourage them to take note of everything the Ferguson department is doing and do the opposite.
It won’t make things perfect, but it will be a good first step towards establishing strong ties with their communities.