Tuesday, March 13, 2012

We Don' Need No Steenkin' Badges

As a PI, I used to carry a badge, for two reasons: If I was asking questions, IDing myself as a private eye with a nice badge and photo ID card helped show folks I was, if not any kind of LEO, at least a working investigator who had reason to be asking questions. Didn't mean you had to answer them, but at least I had legitimate legal leave to be standing there.

The second was to keep from getting shot. More than a few times, I was in places working on a case that instantly made me a suspicious character. A pair of officers who might roll up on me parked where cars usually were not parked as long as I'd been there, especially in the dark, might be inclined to think me dangerous. A badge didn't buy me a free pass, but it did buy hesitation–maybe we should talk to this guy before we shoot him? That was worth the cost.

Yeah, most of the time I got the "Oh, look, it's a member of the Mickey Mouse Club!" kind of response to my company op ID and badge, but that was okay. I wasn't loitering, I was working, and hey, cops watched Rockford Files and Mannix and tended cut me some slack.

Anybody can carry a badge, and a lot of governmental agencies issue them to folks other than LEOs. DA's, medical investigators, sometimes parole officers, firemen, spouses of firemen or police, big campaign donors who get to be honorary deputies, plus there are all the private ops, including bounty hunters, concealed handgun licensees, who sometimes wear or carry a badge. 

If you are walking into the local Safeway and packing a gat and the wind blows your jacket askew, revealing your heater, you can book it that if somebody sees that they will be reaching for a cell phone pronto. Man with a gun! 

Do not want to be on the wrong end of that call.

But if there is a badge parked on the belt next to the gun? Maybe they jump to the conclusion that you are some kind of LEO and have a right to be carrying that piece. Real police won't automatically make that jump, they'll check it out, but if there is a badge flashing in the sunshine, maybe their trigger fingers aren't quite as twitchy. I wouldn't bet my ass on that, and I'd be moving really slow to produce my license, no sudden moves, but every little bit helps.

Um. The point of all this is that there's a new badge from Smith & Warren, which can be had in black, a distinct advantage for somebody in tactical gear, maybe SWAT, so that the badge doesn't gleam in the sunshine. I just think it looks cool myself. 

Ooh, pretty ... 


Old Bull Lee said...

I've been under the impression from writers like Ayoob, etc. that badges for things like CCW are kind of asking for trouble, marking you as a copy wanna-be as opposed to a regular non-threatening citizen.

I've often wondered if anyone carries CCW badges and what kind of experiences they had with them.

Steve Perry said...

There is certainly some of that going around, the cop wanna-be, and having a shield is apt to get somebody flashing it in trouble. If I were stopped and asked for my carry license, I certainly wouldn't wave a badge at the LEO.

Or anybody else, for that. When I was doing PI work, I seldom used my badge, mostly because I didn't want anybody to know who I was or why I was there.

Truth is, I am a regular, non-threatening citizen. If he pulls me over and runs my name, chances are my status as to CC is gonna pop up. He asks, I'll tell him; if he's not planning on searching me, I won't. No point in making him nervous.

"Good evening, sir, can I see your driver's license and registration?"

And as I reach for my wallet, I say, "Sure. Oh, by the way, I have a gun in my pocket ..."

Maybe not. What he doesn't know doesn't hurt either of us.

He intends to pat me down, I'll mention the piece and where it is, and the license and is where it is ...

If I'd shot it out with somebody trying to kill me and there were four or five cars full of nervous police officers screeching to a halt where I was? Both hands would be in the air; maybe a badge in one might make them hold up on cooking off a few rounds in my direction. Yeah, it could be fake, and certainly they will check, but I was once braced by four CHP officers at the scene of a shooting where one of their own had recently been killed and when the sunshine caught my PI badge, I saw them visibly relax.

Relaxed is good.

And that accidental flash of a heater, as opposed to brandishing, is a case where I think the shield would be useful. Lot of folks see a short-haired guy with a gun on his belt and a badge next to it will jump to the assumption that he has a right to be carrying concealed, and maybe not get on the cell to call it in.

Jim said...

With regard to advising LE that you deal with if you're armed... If there's ANY chance that they'll see the gun, do so. From my point of view as a cop -- if you're keeping your hands in view, and warn me "I've got a CCW & I'm carrying; my gun is..." things go a lot smoother than if I happen to get a glimpse of it without that warning. Bad guys don't tell us they're armed until it's rather unmistakable -- like shots fired. Good guys keep their hands in view and let us know what's up... Of course, that is just my opinion...

Anonymous said...

PI badge and CCW badges are for want-to-bes, period.

At the fed academy we are trained to ignore badges. You will get taken down with or without a "badge" if you fail to do what you are told while packing a gun.

In not a few state PIs are not allowed to carry badges, period.

Get real guys, ANYONE can buy a badge on e-bay and they are no more ID then a baseball cap and CCW and PI badges are flased and used by folks with insecurity issues.

Steve Perry said...

Did you not read any of the post or follow-up comments? Because nothing you had to say changes any of those. I was a PI for years, I know what having a badge did for me when I was braced by LEO's, so, not to put too fine a point on it, you don't know what you are talking about.