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 ...