Five Years after State Recall, L.A. Sheriff Asks Politicians to Turn in Badges

Thursday, July 12, 2012
Photo released by U.S. Attorney's office of woman wearing the Sheriff's Department badge of Cudahy Councilman Osvaldo Conde.

It wasn’t the picture of a woman brandishing two guns and wearing Cudahy City Councilman Osvaldo Conde’s honorary badge that spurred Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca to ask 200 politicians to please turn in their honorary badges, according to a department spokesman.

It was a five-year-old plea by then-Attorney General Jerry Brown that did the trick, although there was no explanation what caused the delay.

It probably didn’t help that Conde is one of three Cudahy officials arrested in June as part of a federal investigation of city government corruption. Conde, Mayor David M. Silva and former head of code enforcement Angel Perales are accused of accepting $17,000 in bribes from a marijuana dispensary owner in exchange for facilitating the shop’s opening.

Silva resigned. The charges are part of a larger 146-page criminal complaint that includes allegations of election fraud and is accompanied by 130 pages of wiretap transcripts. The dispensary owner was acting as an informant for the FBI. At one point in the transcripts, Perales is quoted talking about a “crooked deputy” and says, “Money makes the monkey dance.”

In 2007, Brown’s Department of Justice issued an opinion that police chiefs and sheriff’s might be violating the law by issuing honorary badges to non-law enforcement individuals. State law, the opinion said, explicitly prohibits anyone from giving a badge "that would deceive an ordinary reasonable person into believing that it is authorized for use by a peace officer" to anyone except a sworn peace officer.

The warning was prompted by stories in the Los Angeles Times 15 months earlier that Riverside County Sheriff Bob Doyle and San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos had issued badges. L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, who is still running the department, was cited as having handed out dozens of official looking identification cards to political supporters.   

A number of people with the honorary badges have been arrested over the years for flashing them during encounters with law enforcement and to obtain special treatment at airports and other venues.

Four years ago, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens recalled the badges of more than 400 people in a volunteer program. Hutchens was concerned about claims that former Sheriff Michael Carona, now  serving a 5½-year sentence for witness tampering, had issued the badges to political allies and business associates.

Carona’s personal martial arts instructor was arrested after allegedly flashing his badge and his gun at a group of golfers he thought were playing too slowly. Raymond Kiu Jin Yi was convicted of making criminal threats and sentenced to 180 days in jail.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

LA Sheriff Wants Politicians to Return Badges (Associated Press)

L.A. County Sheriff Recalls 200 Badges Given to Local Politicians (by Robert Faturechi and Jeff Gottlieb, Los Angeles Times)

Brown Curbs Badges Given to Public (by Stuart Pfeifer, Los Angeles Times)

Cudahy Allegations Depict Gritty Underbelly of Gateway Cities (Frank C. Girardot and Brian Charles, San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Dubious Mike Carona Pal Loses Golf Course Temper Tantrum Appeal (by R. Scott Moxley, OC Weekly)

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