Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw instructed members of the department on Wednesday not to obstruct their badge numbers with mourning crepe being worn to honor recently deceased officers, including slain Sgt. James O’Connor IV.
The directive was sent to all Police Department employees by email after concerns were raised on social media and in an online petition. It came after some officers responding to the protests over the death of George Floyd could be seen with their crepe — a black band stretched across the badge — spread over their badge numbers instead of sitting higher.
Several Twitter users posted streams of photos showing a variety of officers covering their badge numbers. And a petition calling for an end to the practice had recorded more than 1,000 signatures by Thursday afternoon.
The issue was raised by several people participating in protests over police brutality and the death of Floyd when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck. One video posted on Twitter on Wednesday showed a commander instructing officers in Fishtown to reposition their crepes and show the badge numbers, drawing applause from the crowd.
Outlaw said at a news conference Thursday that the department did not have a policy on where the mourning crepe should be worn. But in her email to the department, she said, “While wearing mourning crepes, the officer’s badge number needs to remain visible at all times."
Marni Snyder, a defense lawyer representing some of those arrested this week, said a badge number is a key method for members of the public to be able to identify officers they interact with.
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She also said the information is crucial for attorneys who represent clients arrested on the street, because police paperwork is often compiled by one officer, but photos of the scene often show several officers not mentioned in official documents. Seeing the badge numbers can help attorneys identify other officers who may have witnessed the alleged crime who could be worth interviewing or calling as witnesses, Snyder said.
After police took aggressive actions during the unrest earlier this week — including deploying tear gas in West Philadephia on Sunday, and using gas and pepper spray on demonstrators who had gathered Monday on the Vine Street Expressway — officers on Thursday took a much more restrained approach as protests continued in Center City, hanging back from those who were marching and chanting, and avoiding tactics that had seemed to spark tension.
Staff writer Oona Goodin-Smith contributed to this article.