Why Would Law Enforcement Wear Masks?

The photo above is from a raid in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Police officers dressed in black and wearing masks executed a search warrant at MedMar about noon, seizing computers, cash, boxes, plastic bags and other items.’

Setting aside all the other issues, why would law enforcement need to wear masks?  I have to say that if they showed up at a local homestead people might think they were robbers.  That seems not only dangerous for the accused but for the police as well.  This makes the action look like it was being carried out by a thuggish third world dictator instead of happening in a democracy.

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58 comments

  • And in Ann Arbor! Used to be the most liberal place in Michigan. I remember when the AnnArbor City council made nickle bags (3 fingers) of weed a $5.00 fine!

  • Law enforcement officers should never be allowed to wear masks, mainly because in a case of police brutality or other unlawful action, the victim(s) could be prevented from being able to identify the offending officer.

    A masked officer knows that their identity is concealed, so they may feel less inhibited about misbehaving — which could take the form of carrying out illegal searches, mistreating suspects, engaging in racial profiling, endangering the lives of bystanders, planting evidence or destroying or otherwise tampering with evidence, failing to follow the law and police regulations in various ways, or even just being more all-around obnoxious in dealing with the public.

    Of course it’s no accident that police in masks are so common in brutal dictatorships — where the lack of accountability and the fostering of greater brutality is “a feature, not a bug.”

    And As far as I’m concerned, anyone carrying a gun and a badge and acting with police authority should be willing to show their face. If you’re a cop, and you’re doing something so legally, ethically, or morally sketchy that you wouldn’t want your name and face identified with it, then you probably shouldn’t be doing the sketchy thing in the first place.

    There’s also something just plain creepy about having a whole bunch of armed people running around in masks.

    • i agree… but it’s badass…if i were a cop today, i would definitely mask up if it were permissible. we’re the last country that doesn’t have regular use of masked cops in some capacity…fun to watch millennials freak out and turn into sniveling cowards at the sight of authority!

  • Law enforcement officers should never be allowed to wear masks, mainly because in a case of police brutality or other unlawful action, the victim(s) could be prevented from being able to identify the offending officer.

    A masked officer knows that their identity is concealed, so they may feel less inhibited about misbehaving — which could take the form of carrying out illegal searches, mistreating suspects, engaging in racial profiling, endangering the lives of bystanders, planting evidence or destroying or otherwise tampering with evidence, failing to follow the law and police regulations in various ways, or even just being more all-around obnoxious in dealing with the public.

    Of course it’s no accident that police in masks are so common in brutal dictatorships — where the lack of accountability and the fostering of greater brutality is “a feature, not a bug.”

    And As far as I’m concerned, anyone carrying a gun and a badge and acting with police authority should be willing to show their face. If you’re a cop, and you’re doing something so legally, ethically, or morally sketchy that you wouldn’t want your name and face identified with it, then you probably shouldn’t be doing the sketchy thing in the first place.

    There’s also something just plain creepy about having a whole bunch of armed people running around in masks.

  • not to be rude but isnt it kind of obvious?

    most officers who cover their faces usually do some type of undercover work.

  • not to be rude but isnt it kind of obvious?

    most officers who cover their faces usually do some type of undercover work.

  • And do you remember the hash bash on the diag?

  • Yeah, What T said.

  • Yeah, What T said.

  • T is correct. If you are an undercover cop it serves no purpose to bust your cover.

  • T is correct. If you are an undercover cop it serves no purpose to bust your cover.

  • They wear masks to be especially intimidating.

  • They wear masks to be especially intimidating.

  • Sorry, but that’s a pretty weak excuse: Cops have been working undercover investigations for many decades, but it seems to me that cops-in-masks taking part-in police raids is a new thing, at least in this country. (Am I wrong about that?)

    Usually the way they would avoid having undercover officers “blow their cover” is to use different cops in the actual raid than you used in the undercover work.

    It’s not rocket science.

  • Sorry, but that’s a pretty weak excuse: Cops have been working undercover investigations for many decades, but it seems to me that cops-in-masks taking part-in police raids is a new thing, at least in this country. (Am I wrong about that?)

    Usually the way they would avoid having undercover officers “blow their cover” is to use different cops in the actual raid than you used in the undercover work.

    It’s not rocket science.

  • Maybe they were worried that Dick Cheney would out them and blow their cover. He does stuff like that. Remember CIA Agent Valarie Plame?

  • Maybe they were worried that Dick Cheney would out them and blow their cover. He does stuff like that. Remember CIA Agent Valarie Plame?

  • For the record, my last comment was a reply to “T,” “Twistedsteel,” and Dave, not Suzy.

  • For the record, my last comment was a reply to “T,” “Twistedsteel,” and Dave, not Suzy.

  • when working deep under cover, it is safest to have the officers who infilitrated whatever group or dispensary they are raiding. safer in the sense that this officer knows the ins and outs of where they will be raiding.

    my father is/was a police officer who worked with DEA for sometime(i dont condone any of it 😉
    but its the truth none the less. he is the one who has told me about officers on swat and things of that nature who also are working big undercover cases on the side.

    so when swat is called to do a raid or something of that nature,, the cops wearing masks are most likely working undercover cases on the side and really dont have a choice of not participating when something special is needed like swat. which is usually who conduct these raids.

  • when working deep under cover, it is safest to have the officers who infilitrated whatever group or dispensary they are raiding. safer in the sense that this officer knows the ins and outs of where they will be raiding.

    my father is/was a police officer who worked with DEA for sometime(i dont condone any of it 😉
    but its the truth none the less. he is the one who has told me about officers on swat and things of that nature who also are working big undercover cases on the side.

    so when swat is called to do a raid or something of that nature,, the cops wearing masks are most likely working undercover cases on the side and really dont have a choice of not participating when something special is needed like swat. which is usually who conduct these raids.

  • All cops in Mexico wear face coverings. They’re afraid of the cartels getting them.

  • All cops in Mexico wear face coverings. They’re afraid of the cartels getting them.

  • There are a number of circumstances when law enforcement officers wear masks when arresting drug dealers or organized crime… For that matter, there are many instances where law enforcement have been targeted by the aforementioned. The issue of self protection is obvious.

    The job of the police is dangerous enough as is.There is absolutely no point in exposing them to every possible form of retribution just because they are police.

    .

  • There are a number of circumstances when law enforcement officers wear masks when arresting drug dealers or organized crime… For that matter, there are many instances where law enforcement have been targeted by the aforementioned. The issue of self protection is obvious.

    The job of the police is dangerous enough as is.There is absolutely no point in exposing them to every possible form of retribution just because they are police.

    .

  • Well, T, for the sake of argument, let’s say that “protecting their cover” is in fact the reason given for the cops in the above video to be wearing masks. So my question is, if one of them does something illegal and/or abusive during the course of the raid, while wearing a mask, and someone witnesses or even photographs or films their illegal activity, how is the witness and the criminal justice system supposed to identify which cop is under the mask? Do you acknowledge the lack-of-accountability problem that is inherent in having masked police?

  • Well, T, for the sake of argument, let’s say that “protecting their cover” is in fact the reason given for the cops in the above video to be wearing masks. So my question is, if one of them does something illegal and/or abusive during the course of the raid, while wearing a mask, and someone witnesses or even photographs or films their illegal activity, how is the witness and the criminal justice system supposed to identify which cop is under the mask? Do you acknowledge the lack-of-accountability problem that is inherent in having masked police?

  • i definitely get what you are saying, but usually there is some sort of identifying thing on an officer. its supposed to be their badge. and badge number,.

    for arguments sake, lets say that this is captured in the video or pictures of abuse, then the cop in question can be brough to justice.

    that being said i have also seen cops straigh up refuse to give out any sort of information that wouold identify them such as a badge number or anythinglike that.

    so i def. get what you are saying, but like i was saying chances are these people are just protecting there cover.

  • i definitely get what you are saying, but usually there is some sort of identifying thing on an officer. its supposed to be their badge. and badge number,.

    for arguments sake, lets say that this is captured in the video or pictures of abuse, then the cop in question can be brough to justice.

    that being said i have also seen cops straigh up refuse to give out any sort of information that wouold identify them such as a badge number or anythinglike that.

    so i def. get what you are saying, but like i was saying chances are these people are just protecting there cover.

  • As far as the scenario of having someone deep undercover in organized crime, and then using them to raid the very same organized crime operation, while hoping that wearing a mask will be enough to prevent them from being recognized by those they’ve been spending so much time with while undercover, well, that seems pretty risky to me.

    The mask may easily be enough to prevent a positive I.D. that would stand up in court (which is why there would be the accountability problem in the case of police misconduct by that masked officer), but they’d still be running the risk that someone in the organized crime operation would manage to recognize the officer from some combination of their voice, mannerisms, stature, body shape, gait, etc. A mobster bent on revenge isn’t necessarily going to worry about whether they have a 100% reliable I.D. before they target the person who they believe is a undercover cop.

    The mask could end up providing a false sense of security with the undercover officer believing they haven’t been recognized and not realizing that their cover has in fact been blown, which could have disasterous consequences for them somewhere down the line.

    Obviously I’m not a cop, so I don’t know all the ins and outs of their policies for why and how they use masked officers, but from a common-sense (layman’s) point of viewm, it seems to me like it would be far safer to just use different officers in the raid than they use for the undercover work.

    • running the risk that someone in the organized crime operation would manage to recognize the officer from some combination of their voice, mannerisms, stature, body shape, gait, etc.

      Those photos remind me of the Lone Ranger. I always thought it funny that that little mask can hide his identity.

      • There’s nothing funny about their very dangerous job, especially when a single mother is forced to raise the family alone, after a cartel or gang ID’s the officer and kills him or her. As you know, times are changing and violence is sadly rampant in todays society. Police are assinated by gangs now and wearing a mask was cheap protection for the Lone Ranger. I know, Tonto didn’t wear a mask.

        Why not stand up for those that protect you?

        • Why not stand up for those that protect you?

          I don’t know what makes you think I’m not standing up for them. I’m saying that I think the police officers in this case might be placing themselves in unnecessary danger because their disguises aren’t very good. I think they’d run less risk for their lives and families if they gave another officer the information that they gained while they were undercover, and let him/her use it during the bust. I don’t see that it’s important enough for them to be there in person when there is a risk of their cover being blown by a someone recognizing them from their many other traits and features. Like Tra mentioned, skin, hair, voice, body shape, posture, gait, gestures, body language, etc. I was agreeing with that point.

          I think it’s funny that the producers of the Lone Ranger shows expected the viewers to play along with the theme that he’s unrecognizable because of that little mask when everything else about him is on full display. But in real life I don’t think it’s funny, I think it’s dangerous that the police in cases like this expect criminals not to be able to recognize them just because they wear a mask and sunglasses. Of course they’re better than the Lone Ranger’s but from the photos it doesn’t look to me like it’d be that hard to put two and two together. If a person knew them previously I don’t think it’s so unlikely that they’d recognize them –despite the masks.

  • As far as the scenario of having someone deep undercover in organized crime, and then using them to raid the very same organized crime operation, while hoping that wearing a mask will be enough to prevent them from being recognized by those they’ve been spending so much time with while undercover, well, that seems pretty risky to me.

    The mask may easily be enough to prevent a positive I.D. that would stand up in court (which is why there would be the accountability problem in the case of police misconduct by that masked officer), but they’d still be running the risk that someone in the organized crime operation would manage to recognize the officer from some combination of their voice, mannerisms, stature, body shape, gait, etc. A mobster bent on revenge isn’t necessarily going to worry about whether they have a 100% reliable I.D. before they target the person who they believe is a undercover cop.

    The mask could end up providing a false sense of security with the undercover officer believing they haven’t been recognized and not realizing that their cover has in fact been blown, which could have disasterous consequences for them somewhere down the line.

    Obviously I’m not a cop, so I don’t know all the ins and outs of their policies for why and how they use masked officers, but from a common-sense (layman’s) point of viewm, it seems to me like it would be far safer to just use different officers in the raid than they use for the undercover work.

    • running the risk that someone in the organized crime operation would manage to recognize the officer from some combination of their voice, mannerisms, stature, body shape, gait, etc.

      Those photos remind me of the Lone Ranger. I always thought it funny that that little mask can hide his identity.

      • There’s nothing funny about their very dangerous job, especially when a single mother is forced to raise the family alone, after a cartel or gang ID’s the officer and kills him or her. As you know, times are changing and violence is sadly rampant in todays society. Police are assinated by gangs now and wearing a mask was cheap protection for the Lone Ranger. I know, Tonto didn’t wear a mask.

        Why not stand up for those that protect you?

        • Why not stand up for those that protect you?

          I don’t know what makes you think I’m not standing up for them. I’m saying that I think the police officers in this case might be placing themselves in unnecessary danger because their disguises aren’t very good. I think they’d run less risk for their lives and families if they gave another officer the information that they gained while they were undercover, and let him/her use it during the bust. I don’t see that it’s important enough for them to be there in person when there is a risk of their cover being blown by a someone recognizing them from their many other traits and features. Like Tra mentioned, skin, hair, voice, body shape, posture, gait, gestures, body language, etc. I was agreeing with that point.

          I think it’s funny that the producers of the Lone Ranger shows expected the viewers to play along with the theme that he’s unrecognizable because of that little mask when everything else about him is on full display. But in real life I don’t think it’s funny, I think it’s dangerous that the police in cases like this expect criminals not to be able to recognize them just because they wear a mask and sunglasses. Of course they’re better than the Lone Ranger’s but from the photos it doesn’t look to me like it’d be that hard to put two and two together. If a person knew them previously I don’t think it’s so unlikely that they’d recognize them –despite the masks.

  • T,

    Glad you recognize the problem. As far as the badge number, you have to be pretty close-up to see it, assuming they are even wearing it in a visible place, which doesn’t usually seem to be the case in this kind of raid scenario.

    On the other hand, if the badge number was visible, then I suspect that any self-respecting organized crime operation would be able to find out who that masked mystery officer was, which could, again, prove disasterous for that officer later.

  • T,

    Glad you recognize the problem. As far as the badge number, you have to be pretty close-up to see it, assuming they are even wearing it in a visible place, which doesn’t usually seem to be the case in this kind of raid scenario.

    On the other hand, if the badge number was visible, then I suspect that any self-respecting organized crime operation would be able to find out who that masked mystery officer was, which could, again, prove disasterous for that officer later.

  • I thought it was to prevent retribution.
    However I agree that there should be a way to identify officers for the sake of accountability.

  • I thought it was to prevent retribution.
    However I agree that there should be a way to identify officers for the sake of accountability.

  • Seems like some folks here could care less about protecting the law enforcement officers that put their lives on the line for them each and everyday. Next time you folks need serious help I suggest you call a hippie or try and put yourself in the position of the police. It’s all about common sense, not political ideology.

  • Seems like some folks here could care less about protecting the law enforcement officers that put their lives on the line for them each and everyday. Next time you folks need serious help I suggest you call a hippie or try and put yourself in the position of the police. It’s all about common sense, not political ideology.

  • Seems like some folks here could care less about protecting the law enforcement officers

    I’m all for protecting law enforcement officers, but not by having them wear masks.

    It’s all about common sense

    Let’s hear your common sense ideas for how a citizen who witnesses abusive / illegal behavior by a masked police officer is supposed to identify that officer in court.

  • Seems like some folks here could care less about protecting the law enforcement officers

    I’m all for protecting law enforcement officers, but not by having them wear masks.

    It’s all about common sense

    Let’s hear your common sense ideas for how a citizen who witnesses abusive / illegal behavior by a masked police officer is supposed to identify that officer in court.

  • Has there ever been or is there an epidemic of masked police officers abusing Americans? No.

    Police wear a mask ,with a two way valve, when administering life saving CPR.

    When, what type , under what circumstances and what color of masks would you authorize?

  • Has there ever been or is there an epidemic of masked police officers abusing Americans? No.

    Police wear a mask ,with a two way valve, when administering life saving CPR.

    When, what type , under what circumstances and what color of masks would you authorize?

  • Has there ever been or is there an epidemic of masked police officers abusing Americans? No

    Well you’re right, of course. I’d like it to stay that way. So if there are a few rare circumstances when they need to use a mask, and there’s some way to hold them accountable, then I wouldn’t be too concerned about that. For example if there’s only one officer wearing a mask during a raid, then in the (admittedly unlikely) event that they commit some form of police misconduct during the raid, it would be easy enough to figure out, after the fact, who that person was.

    What would concern me a lot more would be if there were a number of masked officers all on the same raid together, because then accountability would be problematic, to say the least.

    So yes, you’re right, there doesn’t appear to be any “epidemic” of abusive behavior by masked police officers…and I’d like it to stay that way.

  • Has there ever been or is there an epidemic of masked police officers abusing Americans? No

    Well you’re right, of course. I’d like it to stay that way. So if there are a few rare circumstances when they need to use a mask, and there’s some way to hold them accountable, then I wouldn’t be too concerned about that. For example if there’s only one officer wearing a mask during a raid, then in the (admittedly unlikely) event that they commit some form of police misconduct during the raid, it would be easy enough to figure out, after the fact, who that person was.

    What would concern me a lot more would be if there were a number of masked officers all on the same raid together, because then accountability would be problematic, to say the least.

    So yes, you’re right, there doesn’t appear to be any “epidemic” of abusive behavior by masked police officers…and I’d like it to stay that way.

  • Our tax dolors at work; O’ sooo hurray.

  • Our tax dolors at work; O’ sooo hurray.

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