For an NYPD officer, losing your shield is a major headache, leading to lots of annoying paperwork and a penalty that can cost up to 10 days’ pay. So it's an open secret that many officers keep their actual badge at a safe at home, and buy a fake "dupe" badge for everyday use. The Times has an interesting article on the practice, and gets a choice quote from former chief of department, Louis Anemone, who explains that many officers use dupes because they're afraid of losing their real badges at a bar: "You’re going to go get boxed on a Friday or Saturday night. You don’t want to say you lost your shield when you were out drinking, so you carry a dupe."
But losing the dupe can also be problematic, and an NYPD spokesman says approximately two dozen officers are disciplined each year for using duplicates, while only about a dozen are penalized for losing the real things. The use of fake badges violates department policy, and if someone turns in a lost dupe to the police, it can mean trouble for the officer who lost it. Still, the use of fake badges seems embedded in NYPD culture, and even former commissioner Bill Bratton carried a dupe, because he says the original gold and platinum Tiffany commissioner’s badge, first issued in 1901, "is a historical museum piece. It’s worth a small fortune. It’s not practical to carry it around."
Fake badges are easily bought on websites like this one (we have our hearts set on the Hawaii State Five-O Investigator for $110!) but there's a place in Chinatown currently popular with officers. Eliot Sash, an actor who made badges for the movies and television, said many of his best customers used to be NYPD officers. Sash was arrested several times for making and selling dupes, a felony, and quit the business after serving nearly four years in prison. He tells the Times, "I had friends in all the different precincts and they’d call me and I’d go down and meet them in the squad room. I’d just walk right in and they’d say, ‘There’s the badge man.’ Everyone knew me."