Charges filed after officer stops to help driver from Clarkston, finds bogus badge

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

An Oakland County driver is facing charges after a Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer who helped him learned he allegedly impersonated a policeman, state officials announced Tuesday.

The officer, Brandon Hartleben, was patrolling near Spencer and Eight Mile in Washtenaw County's Northfield Township around 6 a.m. Sept. 21 when he spotted a vehicle off the roadway, about 6 feet down an embankment, with a flat tire and side damage, representatives said in a statement.

Hartleben stopped to help the driver, identified as George Michael Galbraith of Clarkston. The 63-year-old was holding a badge in a wallet out of his window and claimed to work for the Waterford Township Police Department, according to the release.

The officer noticed the driver's badge was fake and checked with the township he claimed to work for.

After convincing Galbraith to hand over the wallet, Hartleben noticed the badge, which had "Crime Prevention Officer" on it, appeared to be bogus. He confirmed with Waterford Township the driver was "neither employed by the township nor involved in any current hiring processes," the DNR said.

In his car, Hartleben also found a belt with a single handcuff case; a loaded Smith and Wesson M&P .40-caliber pistol in a holster; a shotgun and 380 handgun, the department reported. Galbraith also wore a coat with a zip-on attachment that read "POLICE."

"Luckily, this man was taken into custody without incident," said First Lt. Todd Szyska of the DNR's Law Enforcement Division, District 9, who supervises Hartleben. "Falsely representing yourself as a peace officer is an egregious breach of public trust, and we are glad this man is off the road."

Galbraith was arraigned Friday through 14A District Court in Ann Arbor on a four-count felony warrant and a one-year misdemeanor charge including:

  • Carrying a concealed weapon
  • Firearm possession by felon
  • Ammunition possession by felon
  • Possession of dangerous weapon (billy club)
  • Falsely representing oneself as a peace officer

For each felony, he faces up to five years in prison and a fine of not more than $2,500, state officials said. The misdemeanor charge of impersonating a peace officer carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a fine of $1,000.

A probable cause conference is scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 7, records show.