BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Minority Bar Association of Western New York’s Criminal Justice Reform Task Force is calling for all Buffalo Police Department officers to display their name and badge number on their uniform at all times.
In September, Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood changed the department’s policy that officers must display their names at all times. The new rule requires officers to display a badge number. Mayor Byron Brown said this change came after threats were made towards officers online. BPD Captain Jeff Rinaldo said more than a dozen officers received anonymous threats to themselves and their families.
The Minority Bar Association, together with the Urban Think Tank, the NAACP Buffalo Branch, the Concerned Clergy of WNY, Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo, Buffalo Police Advisory Board, Stop the Violence Coalition and others are urging this change in policy be reversed. They said this change in policy was an impromptu move towards less transparency.
The Buffalo Police Advisory Board said they were not consulted about the change. The Minority Bar Association of WNY Criminal Justice Reform Task Force said they were also not consulted.
The Minority Bar Association said this change took place after around a dozen officers were threatened out of 740 officers. They said the fact that small percentage of officers were threatened does not support the passage of the new policy that removes officers names.
The Minority Bar Association argued instead, to protect officers, those who made threats should be prosecuted by the Erie County District Attorney under New York’s Penal Law. They said the charge Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree, Penal Law 240.30 would be applicable to the threats. A spokesperson for the Buffalo Police Department said those charges could not be pursued because the threats were anonymous.
The groups explained this new policy creates distrust between officers and the public. They highlight the relationship that can be built off of knowing an officer’s name.
The organizations also said measures that promote anonymity and make police officers less identifiable causes officers to behave in manners they normally would not.
The Buffalo Police Benevolent Association said that badge number can then be used to find out the officer’s name by making a Freedom of Information Law request to the police department. The Minority Bar Association said this is unacceptable for FOIL requests take too long.
Members of the Minority Bar Association also pointed out police departments in the surrounding area require officers to display their name on their uniform.