Officers in Yorkshire’s biggest police force could be told to wear name badges while on duty so they can be identified more easily by members of the public.
West Yorkshire Police is considering a scheme for its more-than-4,000 officers which could see their name and rank printed on a velcro cloth badge.
The scheme already operates in a number of forces around the country, though officers in sensitive roles and those with unusual surnames are often exempted.
Currently, non-warranted West Yorkshire police staff wear identity cards showing their name and photograph while working in police buildings, but constables, sergeants and police community support officers are identifiable only by their collar numbers.
Details of the scheme emerged in minutes of a meeting of the force’s Chief Officer Team in May.
After being presented with options for badges to be worn by officers and staff, senior officers were asked to decide on their preferred option.
With the advent of social media bringing further engagement and transparency it’s only right that additional ways to make them more accessible to the public are explored.Mark Burns-Williamson
They asked for samples of a white magnetic badge for non-warranted staff and a velcro cloth badge for uniformed officers to be presented back at a later meeting.
The samples would be prepared and presented to a meeting of the Joint Negotiation and Consultative Committee, representing staff and management.
A spokeswoman for West Yorkshire Police said: “Warrant cards and police staff identity cards are currently worn by all staff working within police buildings which contain the surname and photograph of the person.
“There is currently no mandatory requirement for police staff to wear name badges. However, all police constables, sergeants and police community support officers have collar numbers on display so are currently identifiable.
“The force is currently consulting on the use of name badges which would help to ensure that all officers and staff are easily identifiable by name to members of the public.”
The force told The Yorkshire Post it was too soon to say how much the scheme would cost and whether a full name or just the first name would be displayed.
West Yorkshire Police is not the first force in the country to consider such a move. In 2010, Greater Manchester Police’s officers were told they must display magnetic badges which spell out their name and rank.
The policy, which did not cover police working undercover or those wearing riot gear, was part of a drive to improve the force’s image with the public.
The Metropolitan Police said some of its officers would wear name badges in response to criticism levelled after the G20 demonstrations in London in 2009.
Among Yorkshire’s police forces, North Yorkshire Police already have their officers wear name badges, but South Yorkshire Police do not and say they have no plans to do so.
Mike Stubbs, chairman of the North Yorkshire branch of the Police Federation, said “appropriate safeguards”, such as certain teams and officers being exempt from having to wear the badges, were put in place before they were introduced in his county.
He said: “We haven’t had anyone come to us and say the name badges were an issue.”
Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner said: “I welcome that West Yorkshire Police are looking at various ways of providing more identity visibility.
“With the advent of social media bringing further engagement and transparency it’s only right that additional ways to make them more accessible to the public are explored. Visible policing and communities having confidence in our police service are very important.”
Amanda Carter, a Leeds city councillor and Conservative group member of the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel, said: “I totally understand the need for transparency in policing along with enhanced community relations and I know that other forces such as Greater Manchester and North Yorkshire have introduced this.
“However, I would like to see a stronger focus on fighting crime. Total recorded crime is up by 18 per cent in West Yorkshire and detection rates are also low – these proposals are fine but fighting crime should be the force’s number one priority.”