With reporting by Kyle Roerink
When Mitt Romney was a college freshman, he told fellow residents of his Stanford University dormitory that he sometimes disguised himself as a police officer – a crime in many states, including Michigan and California, where he then lived. And he had the uniform on display as proof.
So recalls Robin Madden, who had also just arrived as a freshman, the startling incident began when Romney called him and two or three other residents into his room, saying, “Come up, I want to show you something.” When they entered Romney’s room, “and laid out on his bed was a Michigan State Trooper’s uniform.”
Madden, a native Texan who graduated from Stanford in 1970 and went on to become a successful television producer and writer, has never forgotten that strange moment, which he has recounted to friends over the years as he observed his former classmate’s political ascent. The National Memo learned of the incident from a longtime Madden friend to whom he had mentioned it years ago.
Said Madden in a recent interview, “He told us that he had gotten the uniform from his father,” George Romney, then the Governor of Michigan, whose security detail was staffed by uniformed troopers. “He told us that he was using it to pull over drivers on the road. He also had a red flashing light that he would attach to the top of his white Rambler.”
In Madden’s recollection, confirmed by his wife Susan, who also attended Stanford during those years, “we thought it was all pretty weird. We all thought, ‘Wow, that’s pretty creepy.’ And after that, we didn’t have much interaction with him,” although both Madden and Romney were prep school boys living in the same dorm, called Rinconada.
Other eyewitnesses have previously recalled Romney’s alleged use of a police or trooper uniform in pranks during his high school years at the exclusive Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Phillip Maxwell, a prep school buddy, told the New Republic in 2008 that Romney had pulled over students from a girls school next door to Cranbrook while wearing a police uniform as a prank. Other former classmates described Mitt as a “happy-go-lucky guy known less for his achievements and more for his pranks.”
In The Real Romney, a biography published by Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman this year, another former friend recalled how Romney had “put a siren on top of his car and chased two of his friends who were driving around with their dates.” The two friends were in on the scheme, but the girls were not. There was beer in the car trunk, according to a prearranged plan. Mitt told his two counterparts to get out of their vehicle and into his car. Then they drove off, leaving the girls behind.
“It was a terrible thing to do,” said one of his accomplices, a Cranbrook classmate named Graham McDonald.
To some observers, Romney’s alleged masquerading as a cop to intimidate innocent drivers shows a character defect that is also revealed by other bullying incidents during his youth. When those incidents were disclosed in the Washington Post earlier this year, Romney issued an apology of sorts, stating that he had done “stupid” things and was sorry if he had harmed anyone.
While he may have believed that his cop antics were harmless, Romney may well have been breaking the law merely by donning a police uniform, committing a crime if he pretended to be a cop and a felony if he did so more than once. In both California and Michigan, any person convicted of fraudulently impersonating a police officer may be sentenced to up to one year in prison. (The National Memo has collected some other examples of police impersonators.)
The Romney campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Following his sophomore year at Stanford, young Mitt left and never went back. For more than two years he served as a Mormon missionary in France — thus avoiding the obligation to wear a very different uniform in Vietnam.