DENVER -- Buying police badges that look legitimate is not a difficult task. All it takes is a few clicks online. But is it legal?
There’s no question impersonating a peace officer is illegal. But when it comes to buying, selling or possessing a real or replica badge -- you may or may not be breaking the law.
“You can order fake badges,” said Jefferson County Sheriff’s spokesperson Mike Taplin.
For $20, the Problem Solvers found an ICE Special Agent badge on the app Wish. For $18, someone could pretend to be a Chicago police sergeant by ordering that specific badge on the Chinese app.
Wish is just one of many places where badges are sold. Denver police challenge coins were found on the app, but the Problem Solvers could not find a DPD badge.
“It’s not illegal to say you’re a cop,” Taplin explained. “It’s not illegal to dress like a cop, but … once you take an overt action in doing something while pretending to be a cop -- that’s when it becomes impersonating a peace officer.”
Denver police say it is legal under state law to own badges in Colorado as long as the badge wasn’t stolen at some point. State troopers agree, but they warn what’s done with a badge could get someone in big trouble. Impersonating an officer is a felony in Colorado.
Laws on possessing badges vary per state.
Nationwide, there is a federal law, 18 U.S.C. 716, prohibiting people from owning badges displaying the current designs of federal law enforcement agencies like the ATF, FBI or Denver Mint Police.
Collectors have legitimate reasons for wanting a variety of badges. Production and theater companies may use them as props.
If you suspect you’re targeted by a police impostor, police recommend calling 911 to verify.