Think you have the right to demand police identify themselves? Look closer



Wow, there’s a big surprise.


Policing by consent if the police are just citizens like the rest of us requires accountability and transparency. To deny that is to acknowledge that they are in fact at least semi-militarised and an occupying power. Much as you may not like to admit it, that means you’re living in a police state.


It’s not a constitutional issue, he notes, and the federal government has no basis on which it can demand thousands of agencies meet any specific guidelines.

They integrated thousands of school districts, didn’t they?


So basically, we have to obey anyone claiming to be a police officer even if they refuse to identify themselves because if we don’t we’re going to get hammered by the legal system. So if that plainclothes dude wearing a ski mask says he’s a cop, do as he says.


Easy enough to fix.

The law should be changed so that any cop not wearing clear identification shall be presumed to be an imposter and the public shall have the right to use deadly force to stop said imposter.


“But even when policy or legislation mandates that they disclose, officers rarely receive punishment if they fail to do so.”

So, it’s treated pretty much the same as every other form of wrong-doing by police, then.


That was done through the Commerce Clause, which was a weird use at the time, and is still a matter of concern today.

However, law-enforcement agencies are a unique category. There’s both common law and modern law that give authorities some autonomy in the interests of preventing federal control of the police. Even states have to invoke special powers to exert control over local authorities.

Since stranger danger is a thing, let’s talk about the consequences of this policy or lack therof: any criminal can don a uniform, and do things under cover of police work, and dodge responsibility. Doesn’t matter if it’s a mafia hit or an off duty cop with an axe to grind. Having a unique identity is the only way the very worst officers can be distinguished from the very best.
It may not be true that all cops are pigs, but if they all look alike, are we forced to assume the best, or the worst?


No doubt the exception, but occasionally there are consequences:

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Sort of like “stand your ground.” Have you noticed that juries are somewhat inconsistent in their decisions when SYG is invoked, depending on who is in the dock?

Yeah, that. Cop-killers are lucky to make it to trial, and are almost always convicted and given the maximum sentence. Self-defence or not.

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Why is the murder in December of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos cited as an example of police officers endangered by the release of their identity? It’s pretty clear that the perpetrator was out for any police officers he could find. He didn’t have Officer Ramos’s or Officer Liu’s name. If he had, how would he have been able to find them, out on patrol in their squad car?

That incident is fodder for another article, about whether every single police officer should work undercover. Thankfully, the discussion hasn’t reached that point yet. Let’s keep it at bay by avoiding muddled thinking like this.

The same is true about the Lakewood, Washington incident. Are this incidents mentioned to support the idea that police work is dangerous (and not the topic of the article, which is whether police should identify themselves)?

Police officers do face danger, and many of them are literally heroic. Still, we must hold them to a high standard of behavior. And we must therefore have a way to enforce that standard.

Go back and read the paragraph, because I think it’s straightforwardly stated. Police officers face danger — but relatively little, despite carrying guns and confronting criminals. Police work is physically, mentally, emotionally exhausting, and I’m glad there are people who want to engage in it.

And there are killings. These killings tend to be trotted out as “proof” that police are under constant threat, and thus that hiding identity is to protect them. In fact, the vast majority of killings of officers have nothing to do with their identity. So that’s the point of that part of the article. Exactly as you state.

From my love of true crime [and alternate identities of all forms], it seems apparent that people’s most relevant and likely danger in any sort of crime [or merely socially alternative circles] is not undercover agents, but informants – who the police or spies rely on for the brunt of their work. And just about anyone can be turned.

Successful undercover agents or spies tend to be allowed anything, and the bulwark of their work involves being able to say or do things which one would figure would be the last thing their “real self” would do. Even if very often this typically is just telling stories of things that they never did, anything graphic especially tends to stick in people’s minds. Being willing to grasp and revel in a shameful appearance for undercover work is well defined in Sun Tzu’s depiction of a spy.

In the West, of course, the undercover agent very typically is someone who is of deplorable virtue, but in fiction, it gets much more fascinating. (Not including figures like Joe Pistone or even some DEA who have helped break up truly dangerous groups like violent biker groups, even if I generally find their history to be more of a malicious, anti-social nature, like the recent work by the Met Police which has come to light in multiple bad cases of exploitation.)

(Speaking largely from a perspective of one whose favorite shows currently include the Americans and Forever, both shows which heavily involve the concept of people living undercover.)

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I love that people think that popo are going to dump an undercover operation because you utter some magic words.

You guys talking about me? >;]P

Yes, I have dumped a few undercover investigations.

It’s even worse than you think. Police officers are allowed to lie when questioning somebody, so there’s no way to tell whether the ID a police officer presents you is real or fake.

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SO what happens when a cop asks me for my ID? Is there a law that says I have to show it to him?

In the USofA, it depends on the state. Here’s an overview:

IANAL. Consult an actual attorney for actual useful information.