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New law requires federal agents display identification during protests, riots

Police in Portland, Oregon respond to protests. (Dave Killen/The Oregonian/TNS)
January 05, 2021

A new law requires federal agents to wear visible identification of themselves while responding to a “civil disturbance” in support of the federal government.

Under the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 6395), federal personnel will also be required to wear visible identification of the government entity employing them.

“Whenever a member of the armed forces (including the National Guard) or Federal law enforcement personnel provide support to Federal authorities to respond to a civil disturbance, each individual employed in the capacity of providing such support shall visibly display … the individual’s name or other individual identifier that is unique to that individual and the name of the armed force, Federal entity, or other organization by which such individual is employed,” the bill stated.

The bill excluded undercover operations and individuals who do not wear a uniform or similar distinguishing clothing or equipment from following the self-identification rule.

The American Civil Liberties Union praised the new law, calling it “good news.”

“Requiring such identification should be a no-brainer in a democracy,” said Kate Oh, Policy Counsel with the ACLU National Political Advocacy Department. “When government employees are interacting with members of the public and exercising government authority, such as the power to arrest people, the public should have the right to know who the employees are and which agency employs them.”

The new rule comes in the wake of a year defined by widespread civil unrest, unprecedented attacks on law enforcement and calls to defund the police nationwide.

By July 2020, roughly 40 law enforcement officers were doxxed during protests in Portland. The Department of Homeland Security called those posting officers’ personal information — including addresses and phone numbers — “radicals.”

In mid-June, the city’s former police chief Jami Resch allowed officers to cover their names with tape, emphasizing the importance of keeping officers and their families safe.  

The number of law enforcement officers shot in the line of duty reached an all-time high last year, according to new statistics shared by the National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).

At least 283 police officers had sustained injuries from gunfire while in the line of duty by mid-December 2020. Of those officers who were shot, 44 died as a result of their gunshot wounds.

The Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA), a professional organization of police leaders in the largest cities throughout the United States and Canada, released a report in October detailing the civil unrest that spread through MCCA members cities from May 25 to July 31, leading to 2,037 injured officers.

“Attacks on law enforcement officers continue at a disturbing pace,” an Instagram post from the FOP stated. “Violence against our officers MUST be condemned by all … Enough Is Enough.”