LA County Sheriff Lee Baca has told politicians in dozens of towns to turn in their badges. The badges, which look like those issued to deputies but read "City Official Los Angeles County" instead of "deputy sheriff," came under scrutiny after three small-town officials were busted on corruption charges and investigators released a photo of a woman in a nightclub wearing a councilman's badge and brandishing two handguns, the Los Angeles Times reports. The sheriff is recalling an estimated 200 badges.
The practice of giving official-looking law enforcement credentials to civilians has long been controversial, with critics saying the badges could easily be abused and appeared to be rewards for political contributions. A sheriff's department spokesman said the recall has nothing to do with the embarrassing photo, but is a response to a 2007 state attorney general ruling on the issuing of such badges. Asked why it had taken more than four years for the department to get around to acting on the ruling, the spokesman replied, "That's a good question." (Read more Lee Baca stories.)