Officers don't have to identify themselves

What legal responsibility, if any, do officers of the Jackson County Sheriff's Department have to identify themselves when pulling somebody over for a traffic violation? I was recently stopped by a deputy who never identified who they were or the agency they were a part of. I'm guessing it was a Jackson County sheriff's deputy due to the green car and I had to specifically look at the deputy's uniform for a name tag.

— J.Q.P. Medford

Legal responsibility? There is none. However, in the traffic stop training one of the suggested methods of making driver contact is to say, "Hello, I'm officer so and so from such and such police department and I've stopped you today for this violation. Could I see your license, registration and proof of insurance?" Do I always do this? No, often other things dictate the start of a contact, such as the driver starting the conversation or being irate about being pulled over, or myriad other reasons. My requirement to identify myself is covered under O.R.S. 810.400. It says any police officer attempting to enforce the traffic laws of this state shall be in uniform or conspicuously display an official identification card (or badge) showing the officer's lawful authority.

Most police departments' uniforms have the officer's name and agency conspicuously showing, either by patch or nameplate, as well as the car being marked with the department's name. In my case I'm in uniform, with a badge displayed, but I drive an unmarked car, so drivers would need to refer to my name tag and patches to identify me lacking any verbal clues. Now, if I didn't give my name or agency to start with and someone asks, I'm perfectly willing to give it to them.

There's nothing to hide about those facts, and if they need the spelling it's always found on the bottom of the citation along with my ID number. For the most part I don't run across drivers who care what my name is or what agency I'm with, they're more worried about if they getting a ticket and whether they are being treated courteously.

Dace Cochran, a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, writes a weekly Q&A column on police issues for the Mail Tribune. Have a question for him? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or e-mail

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