Presione aquí para leer en español.
On Tuesday, November 20, 2012, the Lynwood City Council voted on the design of a soon to be issued identification badge for councilmembers. The badges are to be used as a form of identification by councilmembers during a disaster situation, such as a massive earthquake.
The councilmembers agreed that the need to identify themselves as elected officials during a disaster was important. However, not all were particularly pleased with the kind of badge that was chosen.
“My concern is that that the badge from afar looks like law enforcement [’s],” said councilmember Aide Castro, who voted against the design and declined a badge. “I am not opposed to identification.”
Castro also added that she trusted that the members of the current council would not abuse the use of these badges. Nevertheless, she worried about how it could be misused by future elected officials.
Councilmember Maria Teresa Santillan-Beas shared the same concerns as Castro, and also expressed her disapproval.
“I think this is the wrong decision,” said Santillan-Beas, who voted against the design and also declined the offer for a badge. “If you flash this at anyone it looks like a real badge.”
The approved metallic badges are embedded on a wallet. They feature a Lynwood city coin along with the title of the respective councilmember on top, such as Mayor.
The cost of each badge is estimated to fall at around $125.
This led both Santillan-Beas and Castro, at different instances, to suggest that perhaps a type of identification, such as a less expensive official identification card, was more appropriate.
However, the members of the Lynwood City Council who did support the issuing of an identification badge stood by their position, insisting that they were different from those that are carried by law enforcement, and that any misuse would not go unpunished.
“Anyone who misuses the badge will be punished, simple,” said Mayor Pro Tem Sal Alatorre, during the council’s November 6 meeting, which also discussed the issue.
Last Tuesday, during the November 20 meeting, Alatorre was one of three councilmembers who voted in favor of the design, and one of the two who asked for a badge.
Lynwood’s Mayor Pro Tem stressed that elected officials needed proper identification because of potential emergencies.
“[Councilmembers] get calls all the time and it could be in the middle of the night, there might be something [that councilmembers] need to go [to], especially the mayor,” warned Alatorre, in a brief interview with Patch after the November 6 meeting. “How are [councilmembers] going to identify themselves? With a little business card? It doesn’t cut it.””
Lynwood Mayor Jim Morton also voted in favor of the design, and also asked to be given a badge. He also cited other cities that allegedly also issue such forms of identification to councilmembers to back his stance.
“It’s just for an emergency situation,” said Mayor Morton during the council meeting of November 6. “Councilmen in Los Angeles, Downey and Cerritos, they all have council badges.”
Patch was not able to reach the cities of Los Angeles and Downey to confirm the usage of such badges by their respective councilmembers.
A spokesperson for the city of Cerritos did return Patch's call, and said that the city does not give badges to their councilmembers. Further adding, that officials from the city of Cerritos do not discard the possibility of considering to do so at some point in the future.
Lynwood councilmember, Ramon Rodriguez, was the third person that voted in favor of the badge, but declined the offer to receive one himself.
“[Councilmembers] are public servants, and they are providing a service for the community, there is nothing wrong with them having a badge, it sort of like a reward” said Rodriguez to Patch just after this past Tuesday’s meeting. “As for me those things do not interest me, but I do respect their opinions.”
The potential misuse of these non-law enforcement badges has been a topic of discussion in both Los Angeles County and the state.
I Sheriff’s Department (LASD) issued badges that were granted to city officials for identity purposes in case of an emergency.
The decision came two weeks after the U.S attorney’s office released a picture of a woman holding two handguns in a nightclub, while allegedly wearing the badge of a councilman from the city of Cudahy.
The photograph was found because of an enquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which resulted in the arrest of 3 Cudahy officials, who were charged with bribery.
In South Gate, the misuse of such badges during the Albert Robles scandal led to their removal, according to South Gate councilmember, Henry Gonzalez.
"We do not give them out anymore," said Gonzalez in a telephone interview. "Albert's administration started abusing the privilege."
However, the LASD stated that the Cudahy incident did not lead to the recall, but that it was an opinion in 2007 from the current governor, but then state Attorney General, Jerry Brown, which prompted the decision.
This is legal reality that was referenced by the Lynwood City Attorney, Fred Galante.
“There are two attorney general opinions that caution folks, whether they be councilmembers or any non sworn peace officer, from securing badges,” said Galante, during the most recent meeting. “If they really do look like a sheriff’s or police badge the issuance of those could create legal problems.”
Keep up with South Gate - Lynwood Patch Latino by subscribing to breaking news alerts, liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Have an event or announcement you'd like to publicize? Submit them for free.