The Clayton County Sheriff’s fugitive squad usually hunts bad guys. Now they are hunting their own badges.
The deputies are searching for more than 100 sheriff’s badges on the streets and in the possession of people who aren’t legally allowed to carry them.
“We’ve only gotten one back,” said Lt. Brian Crisp, commander of the fugitive squad.
If the badges are not located, arrest warrants will be issued, Sheriff Kem Kimbrough said.
Former Sheriff Victor Hill distributed the badges and ID cards to campaign workers, pastors and some of his friends.
Kimbrough, who took over in January, found a list of 121 people with badges. But the list is incomplete.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained the list through an open records request.
“The list is only what we were able to find record of,” Crisp said. “We have no idea how many he gave out.”
Crisp is now trying to locate each of those people and get the badges back.
Some of the calls are easy – former employees or officers in other agencies, Crisp said.
But others aren’t so easy to find.
The list includes pastors, a barber, a Pep Boys employee and several state legislators.
Acupuncturist Samuel Lee said Hill gave him the badge in exchange for discounted acupuncture appointments at Seoul Oriental Herbs in Doraville.
“The badge was for driving,” Lee told the AJC on Thursday. “Victor Hill came here for acupuncture and I helped him.”
Tyrone Spears, president of an Atlanta consulting company, said he contributed to Hill’s campaign and got a badge. He said he gave the badge back when the new sheriff took office. Spears said he never worked for Hill, but declined to say why he had a badge.
“When he lost, that was it for me,” Spears said about Hill’s bid for re-election. “I don’t want to be associated with this.”
Catherine High, who works for Anytime Bonding in Jonesboro, said she had a badge so she could get into the jail, but she gave it back.
Former Applebee’s employee Charles Parker is on the list, but he said he got the honorary deputy badge during an awards ceremony. The badge, along with a plaque, hangs on Parker’s wall in honor of him pulling a deputy out of a burning car on Old Dixie Highway.
“Victor Hill gave me the badge because I saved a deputy's life,” Parker said. “I don’t use it or carry it around.”
Sheriff’s records show those badges are still outstanding.
“We’re trying to get them back, but our attempts have been unsuccessful,” Crisp said.
And then there are the badges that aren’t on the list.
Last month, Georgia State Troopers arrested Pastor Anthony McMichael after he flashed a sheriff’s badge in an attempt to get out of a speeding ticket in Douglas County.
McMichael, a pastor of Mount Nebo Baptist Church in Jonesboro and Atlanta, was charged with impersonating an officer. His case is still pending, a Douglas County court clerk said Thursday.
Sheriff’s deputies said they called McMichael several months ago and asked him about the badge. He told them he didn’t have one, Kimbrough said.
McMichael refused to answer questions about the badge. “It was the vindictive spirit of Clayton County to go after any association with Victor Hill,” McMichael told the AJC last month.
“We need to get these back because they can be used like what Mr. McMichaels did to misrepresent himself,” Crisp said.
The sheriff’s department has since issued new redesigned badges to current deputies. The new badges are a seven-point star and have employee numbers on them, Kimbrough said. The old badges have six points.
The distributed badges are part of an ongoing investigation into Hill, Kimbrough said. Hill is also the subject on an investigation into missing weapons and other sheriff's equipment.
Anyone convicted of impersonating an officer faces 1-5 years in prison and a fine up to $1,000 if convicted.
Hill could not be reached for comment.
He no longer lives in his Riverdale home, which has been foreclosed on. He left no forwarding address, Kimbrough said.
Attorney Shonterria Renek Martin, who is handling Hill’s bankruptcy proceedings, did not return phone calls.
Hill lost a bid for a second term last year to Kimbrough.
** See the complete list of those who have phony badges