On Friday, the Screen Actors Guild announced it was advising its membership against purchasing or carrying police costumes in the New York City area — even for acting jobs that require the use of such costumes.
The new guidance from SAG came, it said, as the result of what the guild called “an apparent shift in city policy that puts professional actors at risk of arrest if found to be carrying police costumes.”
Since April, two SAG members have been arrested by police for carrying police uniforms. One member was detained and released; the other is awaiting trial.
With three “Law & Order” skeins shooting in Gotham, each with a rotating retinue of some 20-odd “cops” per episode, it’s easy to see how such a sartorial shift could be alarming to hundreds of working Gotham thesps.
The NYPD, for its part, insists nothing has changed: It said it still issues letters signed by the police commissioner that explicitly permit guild members to purchase police uniforms for use in TV and films.
“I think these guys have jumped the gun on this,” said Detective Walter Burnes, a spokesman for the NYPD’s deputy commissioner of public information, Chief Michael Collins, adding, “There has been no change in department policy regarding police uniforms.”
Explained Burnes: “In New York City, you can only purchase a uniform if you’re a police officer, or you can if you take your SAG card and get a letter from the police department. Not everybody who applies gets approved. I think what happened was that some actor probably was denied a letter.”
SAG’s spokesman Seth Oster insisted Burnes is misinformed. The issue, he says, isn’t who’s allowed to buy a uniform; it’s whether actors are allowed to carry one.
“Look, we know this is happening,” Oster said. “All we’re asking for here is clarity. We don’t have a problem with this if terrorism means times have changed and this isn’t being allowed anymore. But if it isn’t, we need to advise our members. Both of the members arrested had letters from the police commissioner.”
The guild said it plans to hold a meeting Wednesday led by SAG New York prexy Paul Christie for “affected members” to discuss the “apparent change.”