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Flashing their badge: LPD adorns digs with big shield

Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Call it a badge of honor. And magnitude.

Like an aluminum-coated beacon to public safety, a massive police badge -- thought by officials to be the largest on the planet -- now adorns the unfinished Lawrenceville police headquarters near downtown.

The detail-rich fixture is a replica of badges worn by Lawrenceville officers since 1997, replete with a circle of filigree and a visage of Gwinnett's Historic Courthouse. Though it clocks in at 7 feet tall and 5 feet wide, the core of high-density foam makes the badge a surprisingly light 200 pounds.

Workers "pinned" it to the curved fascia of the 300 Jackson St. headquarters Tuesday morning, a crescent of Gwinnett dignitaries looking on. The roughly $10,000 accoutrement joins other finishing touches in a bid package as part of the project's $8 million budget, paid from special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST, coffers.

The three-story, 70,000-square-foot facility -- which dwarfs the department's current digs, a circa-1950 Ford dealership -- is scheduled to open in June.

"It's going to be a great piece on the front of our beautiful building," Lawrenceville police Chief Randy Johnson told spectators.

The big badge is built to last.

Covered in a high-density urethane and "more paint than my automobile," the badge exceeds Walt Disney World's sign criteria threefold, said its Buford-based manufacturer, Shannon Henry, of Henry Graphics Inc. The company built the neon-lit tomahawk at the Gwinnett Braves' Coolray Field, and most recently removed the Westin sign from Atlanta's iconic, tornado-battered hotel.

Department spokesman Capt. Greg Vaughn, who designed the current brass worn by officers, praised the marquee badge as an exact match.

"That thing is exactly what we wanted," Vaughn said. "The detail is unbelievable."

The department's anticipation to relocate is all but palpable.

Lawrenceville police vacated the basement of the former Lawrenceville City Hall building in 1990, moving a staff of 25 officers into the now-cramped South Clayton Street locale. Staff numbers have ballooned to more than 70 sworn officers and 18 civilian employees who share the space.

The first two floors of the new headquarters are designed to meet department needs the next five to 10 years. The third is a shell for future expansion.