Virginia State Troopers (VSP) were caught at a White nationalist rally September 16th covering their name tags with black tape. Pictures posted to social media quickly went viral stirring up a conversation as to whether police officers were allowed to conceal their identities in uniform. Questions arose prompting the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia to reach out to the VSP via email.
Spokesman for the ACLU Virginia chapter, Bill Farrar said that the practice observed by the officers created a concern of accountability.
ACLU Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga said “Lack of transparency and accountability that encourages an atmosphere of secrecy and anonymity in policing only serves to undermine trust between the public and law enforcement. This is especially true where, as here, officers concealed their identities in circumstances where it is a felony for members of the public to conceal theirs for similar reasons.”
“Public officials performing their duties in public should be readily identifiable on sight by the members of the public they serve.”
According to Virginia State Troopers policy on service uniforms, all uniforms issued to sworn personnel will have a cloth name strip immediately above the right breast pocket. The policy does not specify whether troopers are allowed to cover the cloth strip leaving room for speculation. According to the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police executive director, Dana Schrad, said that it was not standard practice.
Per Virginia law it is a felony for members of the public to conceal their identities and at the very same rally the troopers were working, four people were arrested for wearing masks the ACLU iterated.
“These people are now facing possible prison time and lifelong ban on voting for the acts they committed, although their intent—to remain anonymous and avoid harassment—is the same as that of VSP officers who covered their nameplates,” the ACLU letter read.
In an attempt to curb the mounting suspicion behind the troopers’ actions VSP spokeswoman, Corinne Geller said that the agency did not have a written policy in place against the officers covering their name tags. Officers only covered up their name tags at that event due to recent trolling of police online Geller offered up as an excuse. She did not provide any further details into the trolling claim.
The state police Twitter account backed up Geller’s claims tweeting that troopers hiding their names is “permitted as it protects troopers from being trolled,” citing the same claim of troopers already being trolled.
Standard procedure in the state of Virginia says, “Employees shall give their names, and sworn employees shall give their badge numbers in a civil manner to any person who may request this information in relation to their official duties with this department.”
A Henrico County spokesman said that their officers are required to wear their name on their uniform and that only the chief of police can authorize any alteration.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, it was unknown whether state police superintendent, Col. Steven Flaherty authorized the alteration for the rally.
In response to the ACLU’s email, Flaherty responded, “The Department’s employees are governed by strict standards of conduct, which includes certain aspects of their uniform appearance, and intentionally covering of one’s name tag on the official uniform is not the Department’s policy. As such, we have taken appropriate action and instructed our supervisors to ensure this does not happen again.”
Flaherty passed on the weight of the responsibility to the instructors and supervisors dismissing that the fact the policy is nothing new.
Klansmen be proud to be what you are, in and out of uniform.