Photograph by Al Seib / Los Angeles Times
I let it pass when we first ran this photo a few weeks ago, but I couldn’t help noticing something unusual about Al Seib’s picture of Jay Leno delivering doughnuts to striking writers walking the picket line. But here it is again today.
Why, Leno is wearing a badge. It looks awfully authentic, too. I managed to get a detail shot from my colleague Robert St. John on the photo desk:
Notice that the badge says: "Special Agent" and "Division of Criminal Investigation."
A little online sleuthing finds that it is apparently a badge from the state of Wyoming. A real one.
Hm. I somehow suspect it’s unwise for a civilian to tool around Los Angeles wearing an actual law enforcement badge even if he is Jay Leno (did I mention he has a great car collection?).
Jay, please turn in the badge or at least put it away somewhere safe.
Real or realistic badges are trouble in the hands of persons without police powers. The DOJ recently made clear to its line prosecutors that while many of them may possess very real-looking souvenir AUSA badges (ordered from a California company) bearing their presidential commission numbers, they are forbidden under DOJ rules to “carry” these badges. The badges are supposed to sit on the shelf at home or in a glass block. If federal prosecutors aren’t trusted with them, why should Jay be trusted with one?
The other problem with these badges is they can be lost or stolen, and then misused by criminals. Over the years a favorite technique of some criminals (why, Caryl Chessman comes to mind) is to impersonate a policeman to get access to or compliance from the victim. Even sworn officers sometimes do lose their badges. We don’t need more of them floating around out there to be lost.
I worked as a sworn Police Officer in a large Orange County PD from the early 1970s to the mid ’80s. Part of the time I worked undercover vice, busting massage parlors. Those of us who worked that particular detail, had some official looking private flat badges made up that said, instead of Patrolman, said City Brothel Inspector. They were just stay-at-home momentos, nothing more. I still have mine with my Police ID in a frame, proudly hanging on the wall in my study/computer room along with an old pair of my handcuffs.
Book ’em Dano, Yer pal Bubba