Su­per­in­ten­dent of state po­lice says troop­ers won’t cover nametags again

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - METRO - BY PA­TRICK WIL­SON

Vir­ginia State Po­lice took “ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion” af­ter some troop­ers vi­o­lated pol­icy by cov­er­ing their nametags with what ap­peared to be black tape dur­ing a pro-Con­fed­er­ate protest in Rich­mond.

“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 nametag 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,” wrote Col. W. Steven Fla­herty, the state po­lice su­per­in­ten­dent, in an Oct. 3 let­ter to the Vir­ginia ACLU.

A photo of a trooper with his nametag cov­ered dur­ing the Sept. 16 protest and coun­ter­protest gen­er­ated ques­tions on so­cial me­dia, where some peo­ple won­dered if troop­ers who con­cealed their names were vi­o­lat­ing state law or po­lice pol­icy. The state po­lice Twit­ter ac­count that day posted a tweet say­ing the ac­tion was per­mit­ted. Depart­ment

spokes­woman Corinne Geller later said some troop­ers had been “trolled” on their so­cial me­dia ac­counts, but she de­clined to of­fer any de­tails.

The ACLU sent a let­ter to Fla­herty rais­ing con­cerns.

“Pub­lic of­fi­cials per­form­ing their du­ties in pub­lic should be read­ily iden­ti­fi­able on sight by the mem­bers of the pub­lic they serve,” wrote ACLU Vir­ginia Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Claire Guthrie Gas­tañaga.

“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.”

In his re­ply, Fla­herty wrote, “Please be as­sured that I value your com­ments re­gard­ing this in­ci­dent and ap­pre­ci­ate you bring­ing this mat­ter to our at­ten­tion. I hope you find this in­for­ma­tion re­as­sur­ing, and thank you for this op­por­tu­nity to re­spond to your con­cerns.”

Vir­ginia ACLU spokesman Bill Far­rar said by email: “We ap­pre­ci­ate the su­per­in­ten­dent’s com­mit­ment to do the right thing by clar­i­fy­ing to all of­fi­cers that this ac­tiv­ity is pro­hib­ited.”

PA­TRICK WIL­SON/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

Some troop­ers hid their nametags dur­ing ral­lies on Mon­u­ment Av­enue in Rich­mond on Sept. 16.

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