What Was That Badge Herschel Walker Flashed in His Debate?

Savannah, Georgia – Republican candidate Herschelle Walker in the decisive Georgia Senate race received a headache – and a reprimand from a debate moderator – when she donned her honorary sheriff’s badge Friday while arguing about her Democratic rival, Senator Raphael Warnock. .

In a moment that was bounced online, Walker, a football legend backed by former President Donald Trump, was responding to Warnock’s allegations that he had misrepresented himself as a law enforcement officer and had already been charged with violence. threatened to commit acts.

But Walker’s presentation of an honorary badge, not uncommon for celebrities, attracted a new examination of his credentials and the vaguely defined relationships that have emerged between law enforcement and celebrities.

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The moment came after Warnock vindicated Walker’s professional history, claiming that Walker “has a problem with the truth”.

Warnock quoted Walker’s past controversies saying, “There is one thing I didn’t do: I never pretended to be a cop and I never threatened a shooting with the police.” At the time, Walker showed his badge in response, saying he had “worked with several police officers”.

According to his campaign spokesperson, Will Kelly, he received the badge in recognition of the community service work he has done with the Cobb County Sheriff’s Department. Walker also has an honorary pin from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department in eastern Georgia, which includes his hometown of Wrightsville. Representatives from the sheriff’s departments in both counties were not available for comment.

WSAV host Tina Tyes-Shaw, one of the debate moderators, scolded Walker after wearing the badge and asked him to put it away. She said she was “well aware” of the rules of the debate against the use of props on stage.

“It’s not a prop,” Walker replied. “It is the truth.” However, the badge she presented on the debate stage was not an authentic badge worn by trained sheriffs, but an honorary badge often awarded to celebrities from sports or entertainment. (It appears that Walker and the moderator added different meanings to the idea of ​​a prop. He explicitly stated that objects used for demonstrations were not allowed; he did not refer to the validity of the badge.)

It is not uncommon for athletes to be recognized by law enforcement. In 2021, Cobb County named Atlanta Hawks legend Dominic Wilkins Special Assistant.

When Wilkins was sworn in, a sheriff’s spokesman told the Cobb County Courier that Wilkins didn’t have the same authority as a regular deputy sheriff to carry guns and arrest people. He described his role as a liaison and companion to him.

In 2021, the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, Georgia, located approximately 30 miles southeast of Atlanta, appointed Shaquille O’Neill, NBA Hall of Famer, director of community relations. .

Neil Warren, who was Cobb County sheriff when he named Walker an honorary deputy sheriff, supported his Senate candidacy in July.

In a statement at the time, Warren said Walker “has partnered with the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office for over 15 years” and “facilitated leadership training, advocated mental health, encouraged countless officers and we are always been there to help out. ” whenever it was necessary. “

But many others express considerable doubts about the honorary recognition granted by the police.

“The Georgia Sheriff was seriously handing out these badges like candy on a plate of candy,” said J. Tom Morgan, former Democratic attorney-elect for DeKalb County, Georgia, in an interview Saturday. “This badge gives you no law enforcement powers. He doesn’t have the power to write a ticket.

Morgan, who is now a professor at Western Carolina University, said the badges were so widely misused that the Georgia Sheriff’s Association downplayed the practice of excluding them.

“What if someone speeds up and pulls out one of these badges,” he said. “And people have been accused of impersonating a police officer.”

Georgia Sheriffs Association Executive Director J. Terry Norris said in an email Saturday that honorary titles are not governed by state law and are offered at the discretion of law enforcement.

“There is no arresting authority attached to honorary credentials,” Norris said.

Walker has already gone too far with his law enforcement work. In 2019, he told soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state that he was an FBI agent, which was not true. He also repeatedly claimed in campaign speeches that he was a member of law enforcement, but he did not.

In Georgia, the sheriff’s role is an elected partisan office, and there may be awards for donors and recipients of the badge of honor.

According to the National Sheriff’s Association, there are no formal guidelines that dictate the use and appearance of honor badges and what separates them from actual badges.

“It should be clear that the trophy is a badge of honor for the case,” National Sheriffs Association spokesman Pat Royal said in an email Saturday. Royal made it clear that he was referring to the badge of honor in general, not Walker’s.

Walker’s performance during the debate sparked a flurry of online memes and widespread ridicule.

“In all honesty to Herschel Walker,” George Takei, an actor known for his role on “Star Trek,” tweeted Friday night, “Sometimes I go to Star Trek conventions to get through security. I pull out my badge. Starfleet.

Erik Erikson, a conservative commentator, defended Walker.

“He was made an honorary deputy sheriff in Cobb County, Georgia, and he spent 15 years helping that department and discussing how to deal with mental health problems,” Erickson tweeted Friday night. “But I know facts don’t matter on Twitter.”

The image of Walker waving his badge during the debate brought the badge to the mind of another celebrity: Elvis Presley. During a meeting with President Richard Nixon in 1970, Presley requested a badge from the Federal Narcotics Agency. Presley’s widow, Priscilla Presley, discussed the appeal of badges in her memoir, “Elvis and Me”.

Presley wrote: “The Insignia of Hell represented a kind of supreme power to him.”

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