P1 Humor Corner: Confessions of a police patch collector


If you’re interested in starting a hobby related to police work, consider patch collecting. It’s a hobby that will keep you out of trouble, and take you and your family on vacations looking for elusive patches from far-away places.

There are a number of ways to start patch collecting, but be warned — it takes stealth, a degree of cunning and finding a lieutenant to be your unwitting fall guy...

First, you'll need to work in the station house on midnights. This will enable you to enter the supply cabinet and take most of the department’s new patches.

After successfully removing them, be sure to leave a voucher — in your lieutenant ’s name — saying they were taken for new uniforms.

Next, you'll need to get some department stationery and compose a patch collector letter, which you can send to all the agencies listed in your department’s teletype book.

When sending out this letter, be sure to do so in a department envelope that is stamped by the department postage machine. This makes it official.

What if your chief questions you about the excessive amount of postage on the machine? That's easy. Deny all knowledge.  

But casually mention you did spot the lieutenant sending out copies of his resumes to dozens of other agencies seeking a new chief of police.

And that he told you, “It’s too expensive for me to pay all those postal rates! I’m not making chief money you know!”

And that you couldn’t believe the lieutenant even mailed his resume to your own mayor’s office — the office that's only a short walk down the hallway.

In your patch-trading form letter, tell the chief of the department you're writing to that you are a collector and would like to trade a patch from your department with him. At the bottom of the letter include your home address and telephone number. This way if he decides to check, you’ll be sure to answer the phone.

In order to avoid being caught with the patches that your lieutenant “appropriated," you have to devise methods of not being caught with the contraband while attempting to trade it. An excellent method is to have friends who travel. They can always carry your patches with them and trade them for you.

You get a new patch, while your lieutenant is still being blamed for stealing patches and by this point is also being interrogated by postal inspectors on suspicion of mail fraud.

When you travel to meet another collector, your wife will be very happy. She will see you taking patches with you. She will think you are “finally getting rid of all that junk.”

Sadly, for her at least, the truth will emerge after she talks with the other “patch widows,” and she will discover that you’ve merely exchanged your “junk” for another person’s “crap.”

At some point, she will probably become cranky and ask, “Why are you collecting patches when all you ever tell me is how much you hate police work?”

If this question should arise, tell her you’re doing it for the same nostalgic reason she saved her wedding gown. This should give you plenty of time to sit on the couch all night and see what’s available for trading.

As your collecting career progresses, at some point someone will send you an ugly, beat up, and possibly even ripped patch. Don’t become upset by this unkind act for it does serve a purpose. Every time you get a “junker” such as this, put it in a shoe box and save it.

Sooner or later, you will have a box full of these patches that nobody wants.

Remember that lieutenant? Well, when he goes away on vacation, and you’re in the station house on a midnight, stick three or four of them into his locker through the vent holes. Put the rest of them in his desk drawers, on the floor around his desk, and some right on top of his blotter pad.

In the morning, when the chief walks in, point to the lieutenant’s desk and say, “Good morning chief, I hate to bring this matter to your attention, but I think I found out what happened to all your patches.”

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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