Roughly 20% of the American population aged 16 and older has some form of contact with the police. This includes contact initiated by residents as well as contact initiated by officers. During these interactions, police often ask for some form of identification and now many of them can provide a form of identification in return.
Do police officers have business cards? President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing report recommends police officers carry business cards to be distributed during every encounter with members of the community. The cards contain contact information including the officer’s name, rank, command, and shield number.
One of the goals of the task force was to rebuild a trusting relationship between officers on the street and the people they are sworn to protect and serve. The task force, enacted by the president, came in the aftermath of the escalation in Ferguson, Missouri. The heartland became center stage when enraged citizens turned to violent protests and were met with a militarized police department.
Civil Unrest Erupts in Missouri
On August 9, 2014, just before noon, a call went out of stealing in progress at the Ferguson Market with a description of a suspect. An officer in the area happened upon two men walking in the middle of the street and ordered them to get out of the road. When they didn’t comply, the officer confronted the men at which time one of them reached into the officers SUV and a struggle for the officer’s weapon ensued.
Two shots are fired from inside the vehicle causing injury to the hand of the attacker who happened to be the suspect from the earlier call. He and his friend begin to flee on foot at which point the officer exited his vehicle in pursuit. According to the officer, one of the fleeing suspects turned back around and ran at the officer. At this point, the officer, being outweighed by at least 80 pounds, fired in self-defense striking the suspect at least 6 times, the final shot being fatal. All of this happened in a matter of 90 seconds from start to finish.
The community responded to the actions of the officer with protests and violence that sparked a national debate about the relationship between law enforcement and the black community. The initial wave of protests, rioting, and looting continued for 16 days and reignited on November 24th for nine days when the grand jury chose not to indict the officer of any wrongdoing. The Department of Justice did determine, however, that the actions of the police towards the community following the shooting were not conducive to maintaining civil order and that changes needed to be made regarding policing policies.
President’s Task Force
On December 18, 2014, President Obama signed an executive order that created the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. It came in response to the civil unrest occurring in Ferguson, Missouri, and the subsequent deterioration of the relationship between the Ferguson Police Department and the citizens of the community.
On December 18th, the task force was initiated to determine what policing policies are most effective for reducing crime while creating a trusting relationship. The eleven-member committee included former Philadelphia police commissioner Charles H Ramsey and Professor Laurie Robinson from George Mason University, an expert on criminology, law, and society.
Recommendations made by the committee included collecting more information about police shootings and the public’s attitude toward law enforcement officers. Under the section of Building Trust and Legitimacy, the report suggests officers have business cards that they can give to citizens during any encounter. The information on the cards would allow citizens to:
- Remain in contact with the responding officer in the event that new information becomes available, ask any follow-up questions that may surface, or get closure on a case.
- Commend an officer for doing a great job thus building rapport with the police department.
- File a complaint against officers for wrongdoing to ensure police are following procedure without prejudice.
By requesting police officers to identify themselves via business cards, it creates transparency of procedure and motive. In other words, police officers would seem less intimidating and more professional by presenting a contact card to keep lines of communication open with the public.
Pros and Cons of the Card Policy
Those who support the business card policy believe it will deter police officers from treating people unfairly. Officers who willingly identify themselves during an encounter conveys a level of trust. Whereas officers who refuse or are reluctant to identify themselves give the impression of ill intent leading to mistrust.
The business card policy will give people the power to report police behaviors that occurred during interactions with the public. It gives the citizens of the community the power to keep officers accountable. The policy also welcomes input from the community to help improve policing policies and procedures and creates a check and balance system between the police department and the citizens it serves.
On the other hand, a number of police officers have expressed their concern with the business card policy. Some feel these cards are going to be an expensive burden on already maxed-out budgets. Others are worried that this new policy is opening the door to a flood of frivolous complaints that would waste time and taxpayer’s money. Time better spent on policing the streets and solving crimes.
Business Cards Have Been Around
Police departments have been using business cards for decades. Most times officers would leave their card with victims of crimes. It was a handy place to jot down the case number for those involved to have for follow-up calls. Cards were often helpful to have on hand for those irate arrestees demanding a cop’s name and badge number.
Personalized business cards were usually reserved for sergeants and above. Patrol officers received generic cards with a place to write in their names. This was often because of how expensive the specially designed cards with fancy foil details cost back then. For example, a box of 500 cards was roughly $75 in the mid-1980s.
Some police departments only supplied business cards for executive-level employees leaving street cops to purchase their own if they chose to do so. A number of departments already had a form available to supply pertinent information when needed, making business cards for street cops redundant and unnecessary.
Now with so many more options available for printing business cards, officers can have professional cards made anytime. Websites like policebusinesscards.com provide templates of cards that can be personalized for many US city police departments as well as state troopers. The website offers cards for multiple government agencies like the DEA and Homeland Security.
Another option offered by online printing sites is trading card templates. These are great for officers who work with kids and a friendly way to engage with children. The cards feature a full-color photo, information about the officer, and a positive message. One site offers the option of a corporate sponsorship that serves as an advertisement for a local business.
Do police officers know every law? Find out here: https://civilservicehq.com/do-police-officers-need-to-know-all-the-laws/
New York City’s Right to Know Act
Enacted on October 19, 2018, New York City’s Right to Know Act incorporated the business card policy suggested by the Task Force report. Police officers are now obligated to identify themselves at the beginning of most interactions. The new law requires police officers to carry business cards containing their name, rank, command, and shield number.
The law specifies that citizens have the right to ask for an officer’s business card at any time during an encounter. Otherwise, the officer is only expected to distribute a business card during frisks, searches of person or property, sobriety checkpoints, and similar circumstances. The cards contain information on where citizens can make a commendation or complaint about the officer and how to obtain body-cam footage if there is any.
The second component of New York City’s Right to Know Act pertains to searches conducted by officers. Police officers are now required to explain that a person has the right to say no when asked for consent to search. The officer must make it clear to the person that a search will not be conducted if consent is not given. This only applies to requests for searching without a warrant.
How many full-time police officers are there in the United States?
Cities in the United States have an average of 3.5 police officers per 1000 persons. There is not a national standard set for determining how many officers precincts need per capita. This is because the population numbers do not indicate how much demand is put on the law officers of a particular jurisdiction.
What factors influence how many police officers are employed by each police department?
While population numbers play a small role, there are several other factors that are taken into account. The amount of work-load should be the top factor precincts consider but oftentimes, politics and budget restrictions supersede the obvious. Another circumstance that comes into play is staffing restrictions set years ago that no longer fill the cities needs.
To learn how to best prepare and study for your police exam click here.
For more information about the civil service be sure to check out our free guide here: https://civilservicehq.com/
Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun and I’m so grateful that you’re here.
Civil servants are some of the hardest working, most generous people I know. I have been passionate about all types of civil service career paths for years now and enjoy sharing everything I continue to learn about them.
Civil Service HQ strives to be the ultimate resource for learning everything about a career within the civil service.
Our mission is to empower you with information to help you decide which civil servant career path is best for you and to provide you with the tools needed to increase your chance of success in that career path.