I Relish The Downfall of People Who Say "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?"

Law Practice, WTF?

Mike at Crime and Federalism has a cautionary tale about why it's dangerous to issue prosecutors shiny badges: sometimes they try to flash them like they see on TV. To get into the courthouse? To be let past the tape at the crime scene? To get into jail to interview that witness? Nope, in a drunken attempt to steal a hot dog:

William Michael Olson, 36, was arrested on misdemeanor charges of public intoxication and theft of services, Athens-Clarke police said.

Olson was released from jail after posting a $500 bond, then resigned during a meeting with Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney Ken Mauldin.

….

A vendor told the officer that Olson ate a hot dog and walked away without paying, but before he left the prosecutor put his hands on the vendor’s chest two times, according to police.

When the officer caught up with Olson, the prosecutor said he didn’t know anything about a hot dog, though he had ketchup and mustard on his shirt, police said.

The officer noted Olson’s speech was slurred and his eyes bloodshot.

The officer told Olson he would arrest him if he didn’t pay for the hot dog, at which time the prosecutor pulled out his wallet and flashed his assistant district attorney badge and cautioned the officer, police said.

He “told me I needed to be careful” and asked if “I was sure that I wanted to do this,” the officer wrote in a report.

You're probably thinking this story is a bizarre outlier. But the day I started my training as a federal prosecutor (the same day O.J. Simpson was acquitted, in fact), we were specifically and repeatedly told that flashing your credentials improperly would get you a sixty-day unpaid vacation automatically. That's because both the DAs and the feds had such a problem with it — dopes flashing their badges (a few AUSAs had them) or creds in bar disputes, to traffic officers, in yard-raking arguments with neighbors, and in shouting matches about returning merchandise at department stores.

To which I thought, holy shit, you'd have to be drunk or one of God's own morons to think that was a good idea. Especially the one about flashing federal prosecutor credentials to local cops. In Los Angeles — where after the federal Rodney King case and the Rampart investigation, feds are not beloved of locals — that's like saying "hey, I'd really like to 'bump my head' on the way into the back of your cruiser, please."

Being a government lawyer definitely poses a risk of getting an entitlement complex. But where do people get the sense that it's a good idea to waive government credentials around to get out of trouble?

I mean, unless you're a cop.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

4 Comments

3 Comments

  1. brian tannebaum  •  Feb 25, 2009 @7:35 pm

    badge flashing is chronic. What's the point of the badge anyway? I've never seen a prosecutor have to show one in court?

  2. Ken  •  Feb 25, 2009 @7:36 pm

    Well, it was handy it getting past courthouse security.

    That's about it.

  3. SKP  •  Mar 2, 2009 @1:15 pm

    When I was a prosecutor in Orange County, CA, my boss wouldn't even issue badges to his prosecutors for that very reason. Moreoever, even hinting that you were a prosecutor for the purposes of, say, getting out of a speeding ticket was grounds for termination. Not to say that some didn't do it anyway, but the problem starts at the top. If the boss doesn't take a strong stand against the misuse of badges, the privilege is going to be abused.

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