GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has long contended that he's a good-humored practical jokester who is only misunderstood as stiff and over-programmed.
As a high school student, Romney's mischievous disposition was frequently on display. Classmates told the Washington Post in a piece published last month that this sometimes led him into unpleasant territory, such as the time he and a group of friends pinned down a screaming boy -- who was presumed to be gay -- and gave him a "hack job" haircut with a pair of scissors.
In another questionable display of his inner prankster, it now appears that Romney was also reportedly fascinated with police uniforms, which he sometimes put on to carry out elaborate practical jokes.
According to a report from National Memo, Romney was open about this practice, telling fellow students at Stanford University, where he studied for two years, that he "sometimes disguised himself as a police officer."
According to classmate Robin Madden, Romney once brought a group of classmates up to his dorm room where he showed them his Michigan State Trooper’s uniform.
From the National Memo report:
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.
Madden's account of a young Romney who excitedly spoke of his habit of impersonating a police officer, which is illegal in many states, has been corroborated in the past by other acquaintances from the GOP presidential candidate's youth.
A magistrate at Cranbrook, Romney's boarding school, recounted a famous prank in which Romney dressed up in full uniform and a badge, and placed a police light on top of his vehicle in order to pull over a car full of friends on a double date.
The story has also been told in the book The Real Romney as well as by fellow students of the future Massachusetts governor.
Graham McDonald, a friend of Romney's at the time who'd helped him plan the joke, explained the high jinks in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer:
As planned, Romney pulled their car over, demanded the vehicle registration, and asked for the keys to the trunk - where he "found" the bottle of bourbon McDonald had taken from his dad and planted as part of the ruse.
"He told me and my friend to get out with him, and that he was taking us in," McDonald remembered. The idea was to spook the girls.
One of the young women involved told the Washington Post that she was "terrified" at the time, but that they'd all shared in the laugh after they realized what was really happening.
While the treatment of such behavior has no doubt become more severe in the period between Romney's antics and the present, National Memo points out that impersonating a police officer is a crime -- and a fairly serious one at that -- in the states of California, where Stanford is located, and Michigan, where Cranbrook is located. While some may be concerned about the legal implications of the decades-old acts, the episodes appear more indicative of a Romney who, from a young age, displayed a comfort with power and privilege that his peers have suggested he used to act out in his quest for social acceptance.