DETROIT -- Wayne County's Department of Homeland Security faces accusations that its official badges and identification cards are being used illegally to gain access and privileges, the second alleged abuse of badges in two years under county executive Robert Ficano.
In two instances since July, police and jail records show that a member of a county advisory board used a badge and ID to avoid a traffic ticket and to visit a suspect in jail.
Sheriff investigators and Wayne County Commissioner Alisha Bell are looking into possible abuses by civilian members of the county's 92-member homeland security advisory board. Ficano created the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate local response and safeguard against post-September 11 disasters.
The badge controversy hearkens back to February 2003, when sheriff's badges given to Ficano campaign contributors and other non-law enforcement county officials were being flashed to avoid tickets during traffic stops and other contacts with police .
According to records, the county paid for 15 homeland security badges that were distributed to 15 county executives.
The records showed five other badges were ordered and, police reports suggest, at least one wound up in the possession of a member of the advisory board."Only law enforcement people should have badges," said Bell, who chairs a committee on homeland security. "You don't want that bad badge getting into the wrong hands."
Wayne County Sheriff Warren C. Evans said he is very disturbed that homeland security badges are apparently floating around the community.
"We don't know who has these badges or how many have been issued," Evans said. "This is a huge security problem, and anyone who says it isn't is being ridiculous."
The controversy comes during what some consider a leadership crisis at the agency, which has lost three of its top four officials in the past month.
Other commissioners interviewed by The Detroit News said they knew nothing about the existence of homeland security badges or the advisory board that department director Anthony Shannon Jr. formed two years ago. The board consists of an array of businesspeople, vendors and some county police, fire and other emergency service officials.
Shannon told Bell that the board advised the department of "community concerns regarding homeland security issues, and provided meaningful discussions and presentations."
Flashing the Badge
The homeland security badges became an issue July 20, when a Wayne County Jail visitor asked for a private visit with a federal prisoner. The visitor produced a black leather case with a badge similar to that of a U.S. marshal. The badge was embossed with the words "Homeland Security Emergency Department." The flip-open case also had a county picture identification card authorized by Shannon.
When jail supervisor Lt. Robert Wood asked if the visitor was a cop, 24-year-old Wyandotte body shop owner Marwan Haidar, a member of the homeland security advisory board, responded "yes."
Jail officers took a picture of Haidar's identification and badge, and he was allowed a supervised visit, not the private visit he requested.
Eight days later, Taylor police said that Haidar flashed the same badge and identification to get out of a traffic ticket.
According to a Taylor incident report, Cpl. Dave Strominger observed a two-seat 2003 Mercedes Benz sports car avoiding a construction zone on Telegraph by cutting through a Burger King parking lot without stopping.
When Strominger pulled over the car and asked Haidar for his driver's license, registration and proof of insurance, Haidar pulled out a wallet with a law enforcement badge on the outside and retrieved his driver's license from the wallet.
Strominger asked Haidar where he worked and Haidar responded "homeland security," according to the report.