Note from Tennessee governor: no more honorary badges

| 8/10/2005

If Elvis is still alive, he’s out of luck – his chances of being a part of the Tennessee Highway Patrol have disappeared.

On Monday, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen told the patrol to stop issuing “honorary captain” photo ID cards and badges to supporters. The honorary badges had been given to politicans, campaign donors and celebrities for more than 30 years, the Tennessean reported.

The official-looking badges – which bear a striking resemblance real state troopers’ insignia – came under fire this week after an expose in the Tennessean on Sunday, Aug. 7.

The newspaper reported that 360 people had received the badges since 2002, 19 of whom are current or past staffers for the governor. Two badgeholders in the program – which had no eligibility criteria, application process or background checks – were found to have criminal records.

“I had no notion how extensive it was and how far it went back,” Bredesen told the Tennessean.

Many believe the program was a secretive way for high-profile citizens to stay out of trouble with the law.

“It’s the message that it sends to citizens that there’s a different set of rules,” David Raybin, attorney for the Nashville Fraternal Order of Police, told The Associated Press. “There’s some who get get-out-of-jail-free card.”