Speed Reads

We Don't need no stinking badges

Federal police with no badges or name plates are patrolling Washington, D.C. Some are prison riot guards.

A veritable alphabet soup of federal law enforcement has been deployed in Washington, D.C., amid large peaceful protests against racial injustice and police brutality and adjacent acts of vandalism — FBI, DEA, DHS, ICE, CBP, TSA, plus the Secret Service, U.S. Marshals, U.S. Park Police, National Guard, Military Police, and active-duty troops. But "Washington residents have also been confronted with a number of other heavily armed law enforcement officers who share an unexpected characteristic: Neither their affiliation nor their personal identities are discernible," The Washington Post reports.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed to NBC on Wednesday evening that it has sent prison riot police to Washington at Attorney General William Barr's request, and "they do not carry badges and are not wearing BOP-specific clothing as they are serving a broader mission." Law enforcement veterans are leery.

"The idea that the federal government is putting law enforcement personnel on the line without appropriate designation of agency, name, etc. — that's a direct contradiction of the oversight that they've been providing for many years to local police and demanding in all of their various monitorships and accreditation," former New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton told the Post. "If those officers engage in any type of misbehavior during the time that they are there representing the federal government, how are you to identify them?"

Along with accountability concerns, not having identifiable uniforms might prompt dangerous confrontations between different branches of federal police or with protesters. "You can have this weird thing where you have these militia group guys just dressed up in their gear, which they like to do anyway, show up and just start pushing protesters around," explained former FBI agent Clint Watts. "And if you're a protester, you don't know if you have to respond to this person."