Officers will wear an identifying number instead of their names per a police department policy change, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told CNN affiliate WKBW.
The policy went into effect last week to protect officers from threat incidents, Brown said Thursday. CNN has reached out to the Buffalo Police Department for more information.
The debate over police name tags has popped up across the country amid recent demonstrations after police-involved deaths like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, when protestors encountered law enforcement agents with no identification.
Mayor Brown told WKBW there was a concern over police officers’ personally identifying information being published online in a malicious manner, known as “doxing.”
“What we have seen is some of these doxing incidents are occurring from people that are not in this city, are not in this county, are not in this region, but people in different parts of the country, maybe internationally, that see a name on a uniform and then go to work on the computer. That is inappropriate,” Mayor Brown told the affiliate. “I think it’s something that should be illegal, but I also think every police officer that works as a police officer should be identified.”
Doxing has become a growing concern among police departments who say their members are victims of the threats.
Regardless, some police transparency advocates maintain that officers must be easily identifiable to the public.
The Buffalo Police Advisory Board, an independent group of citizens formed to encourage reforms within the city’s law enforcement agency, condemned the policy in a statement to CNN.
“The policy change regarding badges fails to live up to the standards of transparency and accountability to the public that the BPAB continuously calls for. This policy risks further eroding at community trust and safety. Relatedly, the decision was made solely by the executive branch without consultation to our board, which is comprised of members of the public, researches best practices for policing reform, and meets regularly with the public at-large for insights on the impact of policing and perspectives on reform,” the statement said.
In recent months, several cities have said they are looking into claims their police officers covered up their badge numbers.
The Rochester Police Department, located about 75 miles east of Buffalo, is allowing its officers to cover their names on their badges during protests at their own discretion, according to a department spokeswoman Jackie Schuman. The move was characterized by the department as a way to protect officer safety.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said covering up a badge number or name is “absolutely inappropriate.”
“The whole notion of why there is badge number and a name to begin with, was, many years ago, determined to help create trust (from the public),” the mayor said at a daily news conference in June.
CNN’s Taylor Romine contributed to this report.