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Police Complaints Board Issues Report on Identification Requirements for D.C. Police Officers

Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Recommended practices will improve service, enhance community relations

(Washington, DC)  – The District of Columbia’s Police Complaints Board (PCB), the governing body of the Office of Police Complaints (OPC), today submitted a report to Mayor Muriel Bowser, the Council of the District of Columbia, and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Cathy L. Lanier recommending new ways to improve identification requirements for MPD officers.

In April 2005, The First Amendment Rights and Police Standards Act of 2004 (Police Standards Act) took effect in the District, which required MPD officers to clearly display their nameplates and badges while in uniform.  The new law also expanded OPC’s jurisdiction to include the authority to investigate and resolve “failure to identify” police complaints. 

PCB released a report in 2006 recommending MPD officers provide business cards to each of its officers after receiving numerous complaints from the public alleging that officers were not identifying themselves when asked to do so despite the enactment of the Police Standards Act.  MPD adopted PCB’s proposal, but officer information was not printed on the cards and their use was deemed optional. 

Since the 2006 report and set of recommendations was issued, OPC has received nearly 400 complaints and inquiries containing allegations that MPD officers failed to identify themselves in some way. 

PCB believes that officers who properly identify themselves to the public will help foster trust and cooperation between law enforcement and the communities it serves.  Officer identification also improves police accountability by ensuring that officers engaging in possible misconduct are identified, reported, and investigated.  Therefore, PCB makes the following recommendations:

  • MPD should issue a revised general order reiterating the Department’s policy on officer identification and requiring officers to verbally state their first name, last name, badge number, or provide a Department-issued business card upon a citizen’s request for officers to identify themselves.  The revised order should also stress that officers cannot refer people to a ticket or report when asked for their name and/or badge number.
  • MPD should conduct recruit and in-service trainings to reinforce the policy requirements.  Doing so will ensure that both recruit and veteran officers are aware of the importance that the Department places on their duty to provide proper identification.
  • MPD should provide officers with uniform preprinted business cards that include, at a minimum, the officer’s name, badge number, email address, Department website and require their use.

“Proper identification is very important to the community’s perception of our police officers,” said Michael Tobin, OPC executive director.  “Officers who fail to properly identify themselves negatively affect the community’s trust in the police department and undermine efforts to improve police-community relations.”

To view a copy of PCB’s full report and recommendations, visit www.policecomplaints.dc.gov