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Saturday 20 July 2019
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Badge of honour

EFFORTS BY the Police Service to procure special badges for use by officers to help the public more easily identify them should be expedited and this measure speedily implemented. While it is unlikely to completely solve the problem of people impersonating cops, it could benefit both the police and members of the public.

All over the world, the police badge has long been the most recognisable and visible symbol of policing. It is a sign of authority, sacrifice, and service. Adoption of this measure will not only supply members of the public with a graphic means of identifying police, but it will also go some way to boosting police morale.

Since the Middle Ages, badges have been items of honour and nobility. Today, the badge is a palpable reminder to each officer of the trust bestowed in them. While no clear timeline of implementation emerged during Minister of National Security Stuart Young’s appearance at Senate Questions on Tuesday, it is clear efforts are underway to evaluate various tenders that have been submitted.

A key part of this evaluation by the Police Service must involve measures that can be put in place to counter the obvious problems that might accompany the introduction of badges: the manufacture and trade of counterfeits.

In this regard, there is a wealth of experience internationally that could provide guidance. For example, authorities in New York have long had to contend with the use of fake police badges, especially within the police complement. Losing a badge can mean paperwork and a heavy penalty. Additionally, federal law prohibits the sale or purchase of counterfeit police badges. At the same time, in many other cities cops are allowed to have more than one badge, or do not get penalised for losing their badge if promptly reported.

Whatever form ancillary measures take, they will have to be rigorously enforced. While care must be taken not to unduly burden the police, there is an urgent need to bolster public confidence and to reassure members of the public of the integrity of police systems. In this regard, it is hoped all stakeholders, including the Police Social and Welfare Association, will be consulted and that legal measures will be brought into effect alongside the introduction of this measure should it move forward.

Meanwhile, it remains essential for the public to co-operate with legitimate officers and to assist authorities by reporting any instances in which police fail to divulge identifying information. While it may be difficult for members of the public to file reports on cops whose names they do not have, supplying as many details as possible to the authorities could still help curb the practice.

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