What’s the Difference Between the Police and the Mob

What’s the difference between the police and the mob? The mob doesn’t try to justify their actions as being for your own good. The Los Angeles Police Department have recovered a stolen Rembrandt sketch and are now refusing to return it to its proper owner:

Police investigators in Los Angeles are refusing to return a stolen Rembrandt sketch to its owners unless they prove they own it and that it is a Rembrandt.


According the Los Angeles Times, the piece’s authenticity is in question.

The authorities also say San Francisco gallery The Linearis Institute has yet to provide proof of ownership.

Let’s look at the two issues the police are citing; the proof of ownership being in question and the authenticity of the piece. First of all there is no need for the The Linearis Institute to provide proof of ownership because there are no other reports of the piece being stolen. An item can only be considered stolen if somebody is claiming it as such. For instance the police should not be able to retain one of my 10 year-old computers simply because I no longer possess the receipt as nobody is claiming that the computer was stolen from them. Proof that the piece was at the gallery (provided by security cameras) should be more than sufficient to release the sketch back to the hands of the institute.

Now let us look at the other issue the police are citing, the question of the piece’s authenticity. When the fuck did the police get into the business of determining the authenticity of artistic pieces? It’s not their job to judge whether or not a piece of art is authentic, their only job lies in recovering reported stolen property and returning it to its owner. If somebody is questioning the authenticity of an artistic piece they can hire an expert on the subject to evaluate and determine the piece’s authenticity. Unless I missed a memo somewhere the scope of such a task is well outside of the police’s job.

Considering these two facts why would the police be making it difficult for the institute to reclaim the sketch? Take a guess:

It is the latest development in a widely-reported case that began when the sketch, valued at $250,000 (£154,152), was reported stolen from a Californian hotel on 13 August.

Any property the police have recovered that hasn’t been reclaimed by the owner are sold at police auctions. The Los Angeles Police Department are likely retaining the sketch so they can sell it at an auction and get the $250,000 for it. At least when the mob steals from you they don’t try to justify the theft in a wrapping of bullshit.

2 thoughts on “What’s the Difference Between the Police and the Mob”

  1. Chris,

    You are completely wrong. It is a criminal offence to sell an object which isn’t what you say it is. That is what we call fraud. It is the responsibility of the gallery to ensure its authenticity. They are the ones who have to call in the expert. They have to provide the paper work to prove it is what it is. The institute doesn’t seem to have any paper work, and are not able to say anything about its history or where it appeared from.

    If it were real it would almost certainly have a long well documented past. If they can’t say this, why do they insist on saying its a Rembrandt? They are not the experts and have not notified or sought help from them. The experts are on record saying they have never heard of this piece before. Strange, since if it were real, the gallery would be keen to get the experts interest and the buzz and hype that would go with discovering a missing drawing.

    No, instead they sell it in a hotel lobby, out the way of too much interest. No one who could tell what it really is would see it tucked away there, and some poor sucker would get stung for $250,000.

    That’s why the police are hanging on to it!!

    Then, if they were to sell it in a police sale, as a fake it’s worth 1,000th of its price, yours for $250. . .. . . Still think the police are in it for the money????

    1. I must disagree with you on this. First I would say that the primary responsibility to verifying authenticity of an item is the buyer. The phrase “buyer beware” relates well to this type of situation. On top of that there has to be some accusation of fraud before the police enter a situation but in this case the police are making that accusation even though they have no interest in the piece (but there is a high likelihood of conflict of interest in their case).

      But I believe the important thing to note here is that the piece in question wasn’t up for auction:

      “The Judgment” was not one of the pieces being auctioned the night it was stolen, although the institute would potentially sell the drawing, he said.

      As the item wasn’t for sale there isn’t much ground to claim fraud was taking place. If the institute decided to tell the piece at a later date any art hound willing to pay $250,000 for a picture is going to demand proof of authenticity. At this point it is the responsibility of the institute to provide such documentation or lose the sale.

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