The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which has faced criticism for handing out official-looking credentials to civilians with no law enforcement duties, is recalling an estimated 200 badges the department gave to local politicians, reports the Los Angeles Times. Sheriff Lee Baca’s decision to recall the badges comes two weeks after the FBI arrested three city officials in Cudahy on bribery charges. In support of the charges, the U.S. attorney’s office released a photo of a smiling young woman in a Cudahy nightclub, brandishing two handguns and wearing a councilman’s badge on her chest.
Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said the timing was a coincidence and that a 2007 state attorney general’s warning prompted the call to return the badges. Asked why it took more than four years to take action on the attorney general’s legal opinion, Whitmore replied, “That’s a good question.” The Cudahy photo is the latest in a series of incidents in which official-looking credentials given to civilians by law enforcement agencies have come under scrutiny. Critics have long said badges and identification cards appeared to be rewards for political contributions and had the potential for abuse.
See also, TCR’s May 28, 2012 report on this phenomenon, “Badge of (Dis)Honor,” by Graham Kates.