The Police Department’s “Velcro” Policy

Department Reverses Policy, Will Now Require Officers To Display Names On Uniforms…Most Of The Time…

On Monday (Jan. 25)   Buffalo police Commissioner Byron Lockwood announced  that  the Buffalo Police Department is  reversing its policy and will now require officers to display their names on their uniforms.

It’s close to being an “about face” since September when Lockwood and the mayor announced that that officers were only required to show an ID number and not a name badge.

Under the reversed policy, police  officers names  will be on Velcro patches that  can be removed but ID numbers have to be displayed at  all times. Officers who do not  display their names on uniforms, Lockwood  said, will face “progressive discipline.” 

The only time names will not be  required to be displayed   is during “civil unrest.”    ID numbers must still be displayed. 

However this summer   all too many peaceful protests apparently fell into that category.    And  it is during such demonstrations  when authorities tend to unleash their abusive authority on unarmed demonstrators.

Advocates  who were opposed to the decision to remove officers names from their uniforms  in the first place  still see a problem with transparency in this “reversed policy.”

“I think it’s unfortunate it  (the reversal) didn’t  go further,” said Attorney John V. Elmore, co-chairperson of the Minority Bar Association of Western New York’s Criminal Justice Task Force.  

Others agree,  suggesting that a name tag  should be a permanent  fixture on an officer’s uniform at all times. 

“I strongly believe that  Buffalo – the second largest city in the state –  and its Police Department, should use best practices,” Elmore added.

Last September the Minority Bar’s Criminal Justice Task Force   issued seven recommendations for reform   including strengthening civilian oversight of the Police Department, opening police disciplinary hearings to the public and making sure officers turn on body-worn cameras.

Attorney Elmore   noted  that theTask Force  has also  advocated for legislation  modeled on  the Syracuse Right to Know law  and that he testified  on this issue in front of the Common Council  twice. 

We actually  presented a law in written form – applicable  to Buffalo and it was  tabled both times –  we were very disappointed.”

Elmore acknowledged those  community  groups  who supported and stood with the Minority Bar in   their efforts,  including  The Urban Think Tank, the WNY Concerned Clergy, the Stop The Violence Coordinating Committee and others.“There shouldn’t be a need for community  pressure when it comes to the  Police Department  utilizing the best practices,” said Elmore.