Fact Check

Live and Kern

Rumor: Photograph show a Kern County Sheriff's car with an unusual decal.

Published Aug 17, 2005


Claim:   Photograph shows a Kern County Sheriff's car with an unusual decal.


Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2003]

The Kern County, California, Sheriff's Department orders plain white patrol units and has the graphics applied locally. In this case: What they
ordered ... was not quite what they got.

This car was driven for 1 week before an officer noticed what the graphics company employee did on the passenger side of the car. The employee did this on his last day working for the graphics company before he retired.

Kern County Sheriff(Click to enlarge)


Origins:   This item is a tricky one to explicate. The picture displayed above is "False" in the sense that it has been manipulated: someone has added the "And take your doughnuts too!" legend with a photo editing program. But the picture is also "True" in the sense that at least two Kern County Sheriff's patrol cars did bear "We'll Kick Your Ass" decals back in 2003. Determining exactly who was responsible for the decals proved a bit difficult, though.

The Bakersfield Californian reported that Kern County Sheriff Mack Wimbish said he knew nothing about the "We'll Kick Your Ass" signs and thought the pictures were doctored photos. But Wimbish also told Bakersfield TV station KGET that "he didn't have anything to do with it but that when he saw the decals he found out who was

responsible and had them reprimanded." (If he'd reprimanded the person responsible for the stickers, then clearly he knew the pictures weren't "doctored photos.") Wimbish and Assistant Sheriff Mike Lafave maintained that the sergeant in charge of vehicles was the person responsible for the decals. The sergeant in charge of vehicles claimed he could not recall who told him to put the questionable decals on the cars (except that it was not Sheriff Wimbish), but then Assistant Sheriff Lafave said the sergeant had suddenly remembered that the commander in charge of vehicles told him to make up the stickers and place them on two patrol cars. The commander in charge of vehicles, Chris Davis, told KGET that "there never was a direct order to pull off this gag."

The best explanation seems to be that Sheriff Wimbish showed a magazine drawing of a similar joke to people in his department because he thought it funny (perhaps expressing that he found it a "good idea" or that he "liked it"), and his subordinates (reasonably or not) interpreted his statements as a request (or order) to place similar decals on Kern County patrol cars:

"Basically when a supervisor says I like this, we do it," said Cmdr. Davis. "Perhaps he didn't realize the power he has as sheriff with a few words."

[I]t may be that the sheriff and assistant sheriff are blaming a commander who speaking publicly at some risk says they are wrong.

"Something that started out as a cop joke in house, ends up hurting a lot," said Cmdr. Davis.

One thing is for sure, The sheriff admits this was his idea in a way, because he walked around the department showing off a magazine drawing of a similar gag and said he thought it was funny.

It may be another ill-fated example of a relatively new sheriff trying to win over his reluctant command staff, nearly all of whom supported Wimbish's challenger in the election.

Department insiders describe Wimbish as the odd man out, he may just be trying to fit in, with a little locker-room humor and cop-shop shenanigans.

Last updated:   30 September 2015


    KGET-TV [Bakersfield].   "The Sheriff's Department's 'Decal Controversy' Is Sticking Around."

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.