NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. — For years, Massachusetts law has required that every city and town issue identification cards to its full-time police officers, who are required to carry the card and produce it upon request.
But among the 351 cities and towns, there existed a problem.
"What the general public didn't realize is that we didn't have any uniformity in our ID’s," said Chief Joseph Rebello of the Kingston Police Department.
This resulted in unnecessary confusion. It is not unheard of for people to commit crimes while posing as police officers. Security personnel guarding courthouses and other protected buildings, for example, have no way of validating the ID’s of officers carrying firearms. Most old ID’s lacked security features, making them easy to counterfeit
All that will soon change, thanks to a new ID card design unveiled today at the Northborough police station by the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association and the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs.
"We wanted to address the vulnerability and fix it before we informed the public," said Deputy Chief Bill Brooks of the Wellesley Police Department. Departments across the state actually began issuing new cards this past summer.
The new card is now being carried by 13,000 of the 16,000 municipal police officers in the state. MBTA officers also carry the card. State police, however, have not yet made a decision.
"Eventually, every department will have it," Brooks said. "In the future, these cards will be a mandate."
The cards contain numerous features that will make them both easily recognizable by the general public and extremely difficult to forge. At the top of the card, the word "POLICE" visibly stands out above the officer’s picture, name, rank and department information.
The background of the card also features a Kinegram—an "optical variable device" that is also featured on driver’s licenses. As the card is rotated, its colors and images change.
"Everybody in Massachusetts is familiar [with it] because they can just look at their own license," Brooks said. In fact, the same vendor that designs Massachusetts licenses—MorphoTrust USA Inc., from Billerica—also manufactures these cards.
It wasn't necessarily easy to convince police departments to make the switch. Northborough Police Chief Mark Leahy said that some departments had been using the same ID design for the last forty years, as a point of pride. But, eventually, the benefits won them over.
"This is a better system and a cheaper system," Brooks said, adding that Federal Homeland Security money has paid for the first round of the program, which has so far cost about $320,000. New or replacement cards will only cost officers $9.50, thanks to the central production system of MorphoTrust USA Inc.
To the best of his knowledge, Leahy said that Massachusetts was the first state in the country to attempt such a system.
"Its a wonderful thing for police work in general, but it’s great for the public," Leahy said. "I think you’re going to see other states follow suit."
For more information about the new ID cards, visit www.masspoliceid.com.