Thursday, July 7, 2011


The following appeared in the Niagara Falls Review. A very sensible idea indeed!

EDITORIAL: Name tags for officers promote accountability


Posted 15 hours ago

With great power comes great responsibility.

That's why Canada Border Service Agency officers should be expected to wear name tags, despite their union's claim it might put their safety at risk.

The union that represents Canada's customs and immigration officers is bristling at the government agency's requirement officers wear badges that identify them by name. Right now, members of the public can identify them only by a badge number.

Border officers' role has changed over the past decade. Once upon a time, their main function was collecting taxes.

Gradually, and especially since 9-11, Canada's border officers have been given more law-enforcement authority. They have the power to arrest. They carry guns now. There's no good reason for the public not to know the name of the official they're dealing with.

It's not much of a stretch to suggest anyone empowered to arrest an individual or authorized to carry lethal weapons should have their name visible for the public to see.

Their American counterparts wear name tags. Canadian Forces personnel wear name tags on their uniforms. Cops in some police forces do as well. It's curious that some Niagara Parks Police and some OPP officers wear name tags, but Niagara Regional Police don't. They all should.

Look around.

At Walmart and Tim Hortons, cashiers wear name tags because it makes them more accountable. They're more likely to be polite and professional if they know a customer could identify them by name and report them if they're not.

Certainly, we should be sympathetic to the union's concerns. The CBSA officers' union says if its members are required to wear name tags, it would be easier for bad guys to intimidate them. They've received death threats from some of the people they've ticked off in the course of doing their jobs.

Naturally when they do their jobs, border officers might occasionally have to step on someone's toes
But the idea of holding out on accountability now to protect someone against something that might happen in the future is not acceptable in a free society.
If the criminal element is bent on intimidating an officer, they'll find a way to do it -- name tag or not.
There are other ways of safeguarding the personal security of these officers in ways that don't erode public accountability.
Upholding Canada's laws is a vital public service. The power vested in officers should not be abused. A simple name tag would go a long way toward ensuring their powers are balanced by the public's ability to know who's behind the badge.

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