In a strongly worded letter dated Thursday, Mississippi Department of Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell took filmmakers head-on over their use of Highway Patrol uniforms in a movie that is currently filming.
It started with a June 28 post on Facebook that showed three actors dressed as Mississippi Highway Patrol Troopers. Their uniforms fit badly and they appear to be comical characters. On the sleeves of their uniforms is the official insignia of the MHP.
Troopers and other law enforcement agencies were livid, many posting their anger to social media. The post and the photos eventually made it to Tindell’s desk.
In the notice to cease and desist letter obtained by Darkhorse Press, sent from Tindell to Mike Steven Leahy or Whittier, California and other executives of Paradise Highway LLC, Tindell explained the offense.
“…The MHP has a long and storied history of excellence in law enforcement,” he wrote. “The women and men of the Highway Patrol take great pride in that history and in their membership in this elite organization. That pride is reflected not only in the faithful performance of their duties, but in their attention to every detail in their physical presentation to the public.
“The photographs shared on social media give rise to significant concerns that your production may jeopardize or otherwise tarnish the hard-earned reputation and image of the MHP. Specifically, those in the photographs who are wearing uniforms obviously meant to imitate those of the MHP do not appear to be wearing the uniforms correctly or otherwise properly presenting as trained MHP Troopers.”
We have reached out to Leahy for comment and will update when we have a response.
MHP had their cadet graduation on Wednesday, graduating 45 new Troopers who were dressed to the nines and in top physical condition. The contrast is stark between the new troopers and the photos posted of the movie set.
Tindell went on to bring up the fact that Troopers earn their positions through hard work, blood, sweat and tears.
“That uniform may not mean much to you, but it means a hell of a lot to us,” Tindell wrote. “DPS will not risk jeopardizing the reputation of our Patrol or the morale of our Troopers for the sake of the silver screen.”
Mississippi law states that it is illegal for anyone who is not authorized to impersonate a Trooper or otherwise use the insignia or uniform in any way to impersonate a Trooper. Anyone who does this, Tindell points out, can be charged with a misdemeanor and fined $100.
“To my knowledge, neither your production company, nor the men and women dressed as Troopers in the circulating photographs, have obtained authorization to wear or use the insignia or uniform of the MHP. As such, it is respectfully requested that such wearing and usage immediately cease and desist,” Tindell wrote.
Tindell ended the letter with a gentle reminder that a good relationship with the Department of Public Safety can be a positive thing, and offered to help by providing real Troopers if need be.
“We would like to continue working with you to complete your film, including continued use of our weigh stations and other facilities,” Tindell wrote. “However, in order for that to occur, it is imperative that we resolve the matter referenced above.”
Tindell asked the recipients of the letter to call him at their convenience.
This is a developing story.