CLEVELAND – Tom Meyer, The Investigator, conducted an undercover hidden-camera investigation that caught a neighborhood store selling merchandise that could transform anyone into a police officer -- a bogus police officer.
The investigation was part of an Action News exclusive report that produced results.
Action News hidden cameras found trays of authentic police badges for sale -- patrolman, detective, you name it. The worst part about it is that it's all perfectly legal.
An Action News employee walked out of the store on Pearl Road with a Cleveland Police patrolman's badge that he bought for $70 dollars and a Cuyahoga Sheriff deputy's badge that he purchased for $50.
The Action News employee bought patrolman's badge 838, which is the same badge that Cleveland patrolman Luis Rivera has.
"I think it's an outrage," Rivera said.
Rivera said he had no idea that a duplicate of his badge existed, and he is concerned now that he knows it does.
"If this got in the wrong hands, someone could commit a crime and make my life miserable among other things," Rivera said.
It's a good thing that Action News had the badges and not a crook because after testing the power of the badge, it was clear that crimes could be committed by using it.
Action News producer Dale Danczak flashed the badge to unsuspecting shoppers in a parking lot, and shopper after shopper agreed to accompany him to his car with no questions asked.
It was just as easy to win over a stranger's confidence when Danczak showed up unannounced at the front door of random people's homes. Within seconds, he got inside.
With security on everyone's minds following Sept. 11, The Investigator wanted to know why we could buy real police badges so easily, especially from a guy who Action News learned is a retired Cleveland cop.
Police brass reacted swiftly to the Action News report. They made it clear that they wanted something done about what they saw in the hidden-camera investigation into the sale of real police badges.
"Before 9-11 this would be troubling," Cleveland Police Deputy Chief Patrick Stephens said. "Since 9-11, it's more of a problem."
"In the past few years, there had been rapists arrested who were impersonating law enforcement," Cuyahoga County Sheriff Gerald McFaul said. "They had the badge, the uniform."
Right now, it's perfectly legal to sell police badges to anyone on the street. Once Action News showed police brass what the cameras had captured, they vowed to get a state law passed that would stop the activity.
"You flash that badge and you can pretty much tell anybody to do almost anything you want," Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Capt. Charles Corrao said.
The captain isn't lying. Danczak flashed the badge at a fast-food restaurant and got an automatic 50 percent discount.
In order to get a law passed, Cleveland Police and the county sheriff are joining forces to lobby lawmakers, but apparently not all cops are on board, including the ex-officer that sold Action News the badges.
"I can't believe any police officer or any retired police officer would in fact want these badges to get out in the street," Corrao said. "That's very hard to believe."
The retired officer, however, argued that he's not breaking any law. When asked if he was concerned that the badges could end up in the wrong hands, the ex-cop said, "Guns can too."