(WMC) - WMC Action News 5 investigators have learned real sheriff badges could be in the hands of imposters.
The badge threat was revealed in evidence documents from prominent businessman Mark Giannini's rape investigation.
According to officials, a DeSoto County Sheriff's Department badge and identification card were taken from the accused rapist.
WMC Action News 5 dug into how the items could be in the hands of someone who is not an officer and learned more badges could be out there. We learned it was common for previous administrations to give out the badges as novelty items.
"It was practiced before our administration took over in 2008 to issue badges and IDs to individuals who were not full time or reserve deputies," current chief deputy Macon Moore said.
Previous Sheriff James Riley was in office before current sheriff Bill Rasco.
Rasco's chief deputy says old badges and cards look real, except for an expiration date on the back.
"If you didn't know to look for that, you could pose as a law enforcement officer," Moore said.
Since Rasco took over in 2008, he's made it policy that badges and cards only go out to certified and reserve deputies.
"Why did they give them out the first time?" asked Antonio Barnes.
Former Sheriff Riley's family told WMC reporter Michael Clark by phone that he's older now and didn't have the facts to be able to make a comment.
It's still unclear how Giannini reportedly got the ID cards and badge.
"We don't allow anyone to order these but the department, and then we issue them out to certified officers or deputies," Moore said.
Nothing in court documents suggests Giannini was impersonating a police officer.
It's unclear how many other badges or IDs might be out there. If you're being pulled over and are unsure it's a legitimate officer, call dispatchers to confirm.