Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen yesterday told the state Highway Patrol to stop issuing “honorary captain” photo ID cards and badges that had been going to political insiders, campaign donors and celebrities. Bredesen told Safety Commissioner Fred Phillips to look for ways to honor people other than by giving them official-looking police ID cards and badges, said the governor’s spokeswoman, Lydia Lenker. The change follows a story in The Tennessean on Sunday about the IDs that are nearly identical to those carried by state troopers.
Sunday’s story highlighted two cases in which badge holders tried to flash the honorary credentials to get out of traffic tickets. Both were ticketed, but some legal experts said that honoring people with official-looking credentials invited abuse. The newspaper reported that 360 people had been issued honorary captainships dating from 2002. Nineteen current or former Bredesen staffers or appointees were among the group, as were three relatives of Deputy Gov. Dave Cooley and a dozen elected officials in Washington County, where Phillips was once sheriff.