A party can find a policeman’s badge number by calling or visiting the police station or sheriff’s office in the county in which the officer works. She can also contact the headquarters of the officer’s agency. She should provide as much detail as possible about the officer, including the officer’s name, physical description and the area where he encountered the officer. The party should identify the officer by any other official numbers, such as the number on the officer’s patrol car, the patrol car’s license plate number or the number on the ticket the officer wrote.
Finding a Badge Number Online
Some cities have a website with a list of all the badge numbers of sworn officers. A party interested in seeing whether his city has such a list should do a web search with the keywords of the name of the city and the term badge number. Badge numbers can be very different, even within the same department. Older numbers may have fewer digits than more recent numbers.
Some Officers Don’t Wear Badges
Not all officers are required to wear a badge. Police departments have discretion as to whether an officer must wear a badge. In Massachusetts, a uniformed police officer is not required to wear a badge that identifies her by name. An officer who wears a badge lacking a name must wear a badge that identifies her by number. In California, a uniformed peace officer must wear a badge that displays her name or badge number.
A plainclothes officer, also called an undercover officer, may carry a fake badge or wear no badge, and drive an unmarked police car. A party with a complaint about an officer who is not wearing a badge should contact the police department and describe the officer. Sometimes a plainclothes officer wears a disguise. The party may need to provide very specific information to aid with identification, like the name of the street the officer was on and the time he was there.
There May Be Department-Specific Rules
Some police departments have city-specific rules as to identification information like badge numbers. This is because the city has passed a local ordinance requiring officers to provide certain identifying information. New York City is such a municipality.
The Right to Know Act, which took effect in October 2018, requires New York City Police Department officers to identify themselves at the beginning of certain interactions with civilians. Officers must provide their name, rank, command and badge or shield number to a civilian at the beginning of certain interactions.
The law also requires officers to have business cards that contain this information. Officers are required to offer the card under certain circumstances when a civilian asks, such as during a frisk or at a sobriety checkpoint. A party can make a complaint about an officer even if she does not have the officer’s badge number. She should provide as much information about the officer as possible to the agency for which the officer works.
What About CSO Badge Numbers?
A Community Service Officer (CSO) is a special type of officer who assists uniformed police officers. A CSO has limited law enforcement duties, such as issuing parking citations. A CSO for a university’s police department may be a university student.
A CSO may wear a photo ID badge or a badge that says Community Service or Community Service Officer. The badge may have no number. A party who wants to make a complaint about a CSO should provide his description to the police department for which the CSO works.
- Massachusetts Laws Section 98c: Badges; Identification by Name or Number
- California Penal Code Section 830.10
- NYC, What Is the Right to Know Act? FAQs
- San Jose Police Department: Badge and Patch History
- California State University Long Beach: Community Service Officers
- San Jose Police Department: Community Service Officer Program
- Colorado Springs Police Department: Community Service Officer
- Vallejo Police Department Officer Badge List
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.