ATLANTA - Georgia lost nine law enforcement officers in the line of duty last year and state lawmakers want to show their support for those who wear the badge with a new specialty license plate.
The "Back the Badge" plate is the brainchild of Sumter County resident Aaron Cosby. The farmer said he wanted to get a license plate supporting police officers after police officers Jody Smith and Nicholas Smarr were shot and killed in Americus in December.
When Cosby could not find a specialty plate that fit the bill, he decided to create one instead.
"You can get a tag for just about anything from agriculture [...] to spay and neuter tags, but there's nothing to support law enforcement," Cosby said.
Cosby reached out to the Department of Revenue and state Senator Greg Kirk, R - Americus, to help move the idea forward.
"It's just great when the average citizen says, 'Hey, I see a problem. I want to do something about it. I want to help out,' and they go this far with it," said Sen. Kirk, who filed legislation to create the new license plate.
Kirk presented his bill to the House Motor Vehicles Committee Tuesday, which approved it. Now, the bill must go before the full House of Representatives for a vote before it can become law.
Under Senate Bill 169, the proceeds from the plate would go to the Peace Officers' Annuity and Benefit Fund. The POAB is a state-supervised fund that pays retirement and death benefits to law enforcement all over Georgia. Currently, it is funded primarily through a small percentage of traffic fines.
The POAB paid benefits to both Smith and Smarr's families after their deaths.
Cosby said he did not pursue the license plate to gain attention, but instead to make sure Georgians like him could show their support for officers. He believes many people will buy the plates as soon as they are available.
"There's a pretty good percentage of the state that's aware of it and waiting on it," said Cosby.