06/14/2013

Keith BettingerMusings of a Retired Cop
with Keith Bettinger

Paid in full: My most treasured police patch

It is not the type of patch over which most collectors would make a fuss, so one might wonder what is so special about this patch

It was spring 2002. I was sitting at my desk when I should have been cleaning the house. We were thinking of moving. I packed away almost all my police memorabilia. This included all but one of my law enforcement uniform patches. There is one patch, in a frame, all by itself. It sat on my desk, because it is special to me.

It’s not a fancy emblem. It is just black and gold. All it has on it is the name of the community, the word “POLICE” and a gold star embroidered at the bottom. It is not a new patch. In fact, it is rather battered and worn. It is not the type of patch over which most collectors would make a fuss, so one might wonder what is so special about this patch. 

I will tell you why it is special — it has a history and a story all its own.

Telephone Rang
In January 1991, my assignment was working investigations in my precinct’s plainclothes unit. One afternoon, I was sitting at my desk, shuffling through my cases. The telephone rang. It was a police officer, from the Midwest, calling to speak specifically to me. He had read one of my articles about living through the effects of Post Shooting Trauma. 

He said he found it informative. Now he needed more information on the subject.

His brother — also a police officer — had been in a shooting. The officer was not only concerned about his brother's personal safety, but also his physical and emotional wellbeing. 

He asked if I had any more information on Post Shooting Trauma. He wanted to know what to do for his brother. He also wanted to know if I would speak to his brother, if his brother needed to talk to someone.

I told him that I had written a few more articles on Post Shooting Trauma, and I would be more than happy to send him copies. We discussed the symptoms of Post Shooting Trauma. What to look for and what to do to help his brother, if any problems arose. I told him I would be more than happy to speak to his brother, and was available anytime. 

I also told him I had a friend who was a police officer and a peer support person who lived near the officer and his brother. This friend would be a resource if they needed immediate help.

The officer thanked me and wanted to know what he could do to repay me. I told him I appreciated his finding my research helpful and that was enough. I did add that I was a patch collector, and said if he could send me a couple patches from his area it would be appreciated.

Awhile later, I heard from the officer. His brother was working his way through the shooting aftermath and the struggles that came with it. He thanked me for my help and told me he would keep me informed of his brother's progress. He also said he was working on obtaining some patches for my collection. 

Then we lost touch.

Years later, I was using an online service and while in one of the law enforcement areas, I found the name and email address of the officer who contacted me. I sent a quick note. 

I asked how his brother was, and included a little dig, “By the way, where are those patches?” 

I received an email note telling me his brother was doing well and the patches would be coming soon.

Envelope Arrived
A few days later, a large envelope arrived. I opened it, and found it was full of patches. Inside were patches from his department, his former department, and patches from neighboring departments. There also was a patch from the department his brother had transferred to since the shooting. His brother had become a high ranking supervisor in the new department. 

The last patch I took out was the old beaten up one. 

It had a note on it. It read:

“I know this doesn't look like much, but this patch was on the uniform my brother was wearing the day of his shooting. When he left the department he kept that shirt. He took one patch off and kept it for himself. I took the other one for you. It belongs to you. Without your help I don't know if my brother would be here today. Your help made a difference. If there is anything I can do for you, give me a call. If you want some other patches, just let me know.”

I sat down and wrote a note. I wanted to let the officer know, he didn’t owe me a thing. I was paid in full.

About the author

Keith Bettinger is a retired Suffolk County (N.Y.) Police Officer. He’s been writing for law enforcement publications for more than 25 years and has received 18 awards for his articles, stories, poems, and books. He has a Master’s Degree in Human Relations with a major in Clinical Counseling. During his career he received the department’s Bravery Medal, Silver Shield Award, Meritorious Police Service Award, Special Service Award, Professionalization Award, Department Recognition Award, five Headquarters commendations and six Precinct commendations. He also was a field training officer and an instructor on Post Shooting Trauma and Critical Incidents.

Keith has written two books, Fighting Crime With “Some” Day and Lenny, and End of Watch. He has also contributed stories to the following anthologies: Cop Tales 2000, Charity, True Blue, To Protect and Serve, and Dad’s Bow Tie. He also shares with Jack Miller, the screenplay Master Cheat. Keith lives in Las Vegas with his wife Lynn.

Contact Keith Bettinger

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