He had a badge, a uniform and even a gun. He also had solo use of a police cruiser for an entire day.
But the man was not a police officer and had no law enforcement training.
Channel 2 Action News uncovered that this happened in the small town of Grantville, GA — about 50 miles south of Atlanta.
We have done plenty of stories over the years on police impersonators. But in this case, it was the chief of police who handed over the keys to the police cruiser.
“I handed him the keys myself. Yes, sir,” Grantville Police Chief Steve Whitlock told Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray.
Whitlock told Gray he does not think he did anything wrong, and he would do it again.
“Can you see where there’d be confusion?” Gray asked.
“Yes, sir. I do. But I still see nothing wrong with it. He helps us on any kind of activities we need. So, I don’t think there’s a problem with it,” Whitlock said.
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The man at the center of the controversy is Grantville resident TJ Boyd. He is the police chaplain and a pastor. He is Whitlock’s pastor.
He’s also a convicted felon who served time for making and distributing meth.
Channel 2 Action News found out about the incident after a then-Grantville police officer saw Boyd blocking traffic and took pictures.
That officer has since quit working in Grantville, but we are hiding his identity because he fears retaliation.
“I saw TJ Boyd get out of the car. My, you know, my jaw dropped. I’m like, ‘Why is he in a police car?’” the former officer said. “You know, a citizen could have needed help and he wouldn’t be able to respond properly.”
Channel 2 Action News took the pictures to Georgia POST, the state office that certifies and disciplines police officers.
They had already launched their own investigation into the incident.
“Everything about this is concerning,” said Mike Ayers, director of Georgia POST.
“What did you think when you first saw that picture?” Gray asked.
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“Well, first of all, there’s no doubt it looks like a police officer. And, you know, my initial thought was this, this problem,” Ayers said.
But Whitlock told Channel 2 Action News he did not see a problem with handing a convicted felon with no police training the police cruiser.
The City of Grantville had contracted with a film production to provide two off-duty officers to work security, and they were an officer short.
Boyd is not a police officer. But he looked like one that day.
“The man knows that he’s not a police officer. At no time was anybody ever was told that he was a police officer,” Whitlock said.
“The problem is the public doesn’t know. He looks like a police officer there,” Gray countered.
Well, yeah, you’re right. Yes, sir,” Whitlock responded.
Whitlock said the gun Boyd was carrying was not police issued, but Boyd’s own firearm.
Just last year, Boyd received a pardon for his felony drug charge and had his right to carry a gun reinstated.
He received a letter of recommendation from his parishioner — Grantville Police Chief Steve Whitlock.
“The day that happened, I was not aware. It’s my fault that TJ had a gun on. I didn’t give him a gun. But he has a permit to carry a gun anywhere,” Whitlock said.
But while that pardon allows Boyd to carry a gun, it does not wipe away consequences of the conviction.
Georgia POST said that by Georgia law, Boyd cannot be a certified law enforcement officer with his criminal record.
“The position of law enforcement officer is a sacred trust that is imparted upon that officer, by the citizens of this state,” Ayers said.
Ayers told Gray this is a serious issue that could have had dangerous consequences.
“I think that this is one of those instances where, quite frankly, we got lucky nothing bad did happen,” Ayers said.
A POST investigator met with Whitlock and advised him that this was inappropriate, and that the situation was poorly handled.
“I believe that it’s been resolved at this point in time. For whatever reason, if we find that down the road that it hasn’t been, our conversation will be very different,” Ayers said.
POST said Whitlock pledged to them it would never happen again. But that is not what Whitlock told Gray.
Gray asked the same question several times, and each time got the same answer.
“Would you do something like this again?” Gray asked.
“Yes, sir. I would,” Whitlock responded.
Boyd would not respond to our requests for an interview.
It can be a felony or misdemeanor to impersonate an officer.
The GBI investigated this and declined to prosecute Boyd.