The badge – it's the ultimate symbol of police authority. And former Chief Willie Lovett's decision to give badges to two civilians is raising questions among Savannahians.
"There's authority that goes with that badge," said Rolfe Glover, chairman of the Mayor's public safety task force. "Was that authority used? Did they try to, essentially, act as a police officer?"
Lovett's badge gifts came to light this week after an attorney for former Tybee police officer Stacy Talbert sent a letter to Tybee and to the city of Savannah claiming she'd been fired after pulling over Lovett's friend, car dealer Jay Kaminsky, and arresting him for driving under the influence.
Tybee denies that's why Talbert was fired.
A camera attached to Talbert's uniform during Kaminsky's arrest shows the car dealer flashing a Savannah-Chatham Metro Police badge right after being pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence.
A WTOC reporter went to Lovett's home Monday to find out where Kaminsky got the badge. Lovett said the badge was marked "civilian advisor" and that he'd given it to Kaminsky for serving as Lovett's Jewish cultural advisor.
Asked if he'd given out any other badges, Lovett said he had, to another car dealer, also for serving as his Jewish cultural advisor.
Glover said that in his years on the public safety task force, he never met Kaminsky.
Georgia has no law against law enforcement officers giving out badges to civilians.
But according to Ken Vance, Executive Director, Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, when civilians try to use that badge, say to get out of a traffic stop, they can be arrested.
"Really, what you're doing is you're impersonating a law enforcement officer," Vance said.
WTOC tried to get a look at those badges, but Kaminsky died last year, and his family said they didn't know he had a police badge. The car dealer who got the second badge was out of the country Monday.
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