"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me," they used to say on the late Andy Griffith's eponymous 1960s TV show. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, whose folksy straight-man earnestness reminds us a bit of Griffith's Sheriff Andy Taylor, has actually been fooled three times when it comes to the issuance of official-looking badges or ID cards to non-department personnel.
So here's a review: In 1999, Baca set up a special reserve program intended to allow celebrities and other notables to receive a badge and a gun in the name of boosting community relations. It flopped after one of its participants, Zacky Farms scion Scott Zacky, was discovered to have a past criminal charge of brandishing a weapon. Baca suspended the program, but the idea, unfortunately, didn't go away.
Next, a scandal erupted in 2006 over Baca's "Homeland Security Support Unit," a group of campaign donors and volunteers who were issued department photo IDs and official name tags. These too were revoked shortly after the Board of Supervisors ordered an investigation. It didn't end there; when problems with official-looking badges arose in other jurisdictions, then-Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown issued a ruling that handing out such emblems could violate state law by helping civilians pose as peace officers.