New York Post
February 2, 2005

FAKES UNDER FIRE

By SUSAN EDELMAN

Calling the sale of police patches, badges and other uniform items "scary," Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum yesterday called for stiffer penalties for those who sell items that could be used to impersonate a cop.

"It is frightening that anyone can walk in to a store or go online and buy a complete, authentic-looking police uniform," Gotbaum said.

PBA President Pat Lynch joined Gotbaum in urging a crackdown on the sale of NYPD insignia and other ID.

"Immediate steps must be taken to ensure that uniform patches and police shields are available only to sworn members of the NYPD," Lynch said.

Gotbaum and Lynch cited a Sunday Post article that detailed how anyone could put together a copycat NYPD uniform with apparel and gear bought from police-supply stores, and patches and NYPD badges from online merchants and sellers on eBay.

The NYPD — which logged 326 cases of police impersonation in 2004 — has launched a probe, and is terminating an auxiliary cop who sold such items to a Post reporter.

Henry Lin, 36, an auxiliary sergeant with the 111th Precinct in Bayside, Queens, ran a Web site featuring flashing lights, sexy models, and "Henry's Police Patch and Badge Collection."

The site displayed an array of NYPD badges of various ranks, including lieutenant, detective, chief of detectives and assistant commissioner.

Lin sold a duplicate NYPD officer's badge for $100, a hat insignia of the city's coat of arms for $80, and brass collar pins from the 111th Precinct for $10 to a Post reporter posing as someone who wanted them as gifts.

Lin offered to sell other NYPD badges, with the assurance they would not be used to impersonate a cop or for any crime: "Everybody could be in big trouble if this got into the wrong hands," he said.

The NYPD suspended Lin Sunday, pending moves to fire him, said Inspector Michael Coan. "Auxiliary officers are not allowed to sell their own or anyone else's badge," he said.

Lin has since yanked his glitzy Web site, but insists he did nothing wrong. He has posted a federal law that permits the sale of official badges, ID cards and insignia only if intended as mementos, for a collection or exhibit, "for decorative purposes," for a TV show, play or movie, or "for any other recreational purpose."

A New York state law bars the sale of a police uniform, whole or in part, to anyone without police ID.

But Gotbaum complained that violation is only a misdemeanor, and said she will call on state legislators to toughen the penalties.

Gotbaum is also asking the City Council to increase fines and penalties for impersonating a police officer.