July 12, 2012

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sheriff Lee Baca is recalling about 200 official-looking badges that were given to politicians for use during disasters.

The move in Los Angeles County came two weeks after federal authorities arrested three officials of the small suburb of Cudahy on bribery charges.

Prosecutors handling the case released a photo of a woman in a nightclub holding two handguns and wearing a badge given to a councilman.

Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department, said there’s no connection between the photo and the decision to recall the badges, which he said was made in January but didn’t begin until recently.

“Why it began now, that’s a good question,” he said.

The move was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

The six-pointed stars look like badges worn by deputies but are emblazoned with “City Official Los Angeles County.” More than 80 have been returned during the past week, Whitmore said.

The Sheriff’s Department said the badges were provided to public officials so they could easily access a command post during an emergency or disaster.

In 2007, then-Attorney General Jerry Brown said honorary badges given to citizens violates state law if the badges “would deceive an ordinary reasonable person into believing that it is authorized, for use by a peace officer.”

Brown also noted that the badges don’t give recipients the powers of a peace officer.

Other California law enforcement agencies have pulled badges in the past.

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 had issued the badges to political allies and business associates.

Carona is serving a 5½-year sentence for witness tampering.

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