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Lawsuit targets NYPD over concealment of officers’ badge numbers with black ribbons during demonstrations

Lawsuit targets NYPD over concealment of officers’ badge numbers with black ribbons during demonstrations
The NYPD faces a lawsuit over officers covering their badge numbers during protests. Apparently done to mourn fallen officers, the practice seems to be nationwide, but critics claim it is used to avoid punishment for misconduct.

Many police officers in New York have been covering their shield numbers when deployed at the scenes of mass protests against police brutality in the city, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) said in a letter to the NYPD. This violates the police’s own rules, aimed at helping aggrieved members of the public to identify perpetrators of police misconduct, and gives “a sense of impunity” to violators themselves. The associates demanded that the NYPD put a stop to this, threatening to sue the city otherwise.

The NYPD officers started wearing black ribbons over their badges in April to commemorate officers who died due to Covid-19, but the practice has drawn increased attention amid the nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd. One of the officers at a protest event told the Intercept the ribbon covering his shield was to honor fallen comrades and simply “fell down” over the digits.

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An NLG lawyer told the news website they sent the letter because it appeared that “there seems to be a collective sense that there will be no discipline for violating the Patrol Guide,” and that the practice has grown beyond mere individual incidents in the past.

The NYPD is not the only force facing questions over officers’ conduct. In other cities some cops have been covering their identities while responding to protests, photos on social media indicate.

Last week a Seattle police officer, who was seen with his badge number covered, was widely accused on social media of macing a child. The activists were quick to identify the alleged assaulter and demanded disciplinary action. But the Seattle Office of Police Accountability said that, while the incident did happen, Jared Campbell, the accused officer, was not the one involved in it.

Police Chief Carmen Best said Seattle police “don’t feel like they’re hiding their identity” by wearing mourning ribbons, but pledged to find a way to make them more visible since they contributed to the “problem with the element of trust” from the public. Incidentally, she was wearing a ribbon over her badge as she was talking to journalists.

Placing a black or black-and-blue ribbon over a badge in memory of a killed officer is a time-honored tradition in many police departments across the US. But it has been viewed with increasingly strong suspicion by critics of the police, who say the ribbon has become a symbol of the Blue Lives Matter movement.

A counterpart to Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter is intended to remind that police risk their lives in the line of duty and sometime have to pay the ultimate price. Critics see it as an attempt to downplay or deny the violence perpetrated against people of color by members of the force.

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