Tricky times for collectors of Toronto
area police badges
By Roy Bassett
In the spring of 1957, several large
sacks filled with thousands of obsolete police badges were tossed
into Lake Ontario about a mile off shore.
The City of Toronto and 12 surrounding
towns, villages and townships had been amalgamated and a deputy
chief of the new Metropolitan Toronto Police Force ordered 5,000
police officers to surrender outdated hat badges, helmet badges
and wallet identification badges.
I mention this event because
the almost complete cleansing of outdated badges from the 13
police jurisdictions created an immediate obstacle for future
collectors in search of the perfect pre-1957 badge collection.
And I say almost because I'm
sure not all of the 5,000 officers abided by the order, so it
might still be possible to complete a set of 13 badges from the
old Toronto, York, Etobicoke, North York, East York, Scarborough,
Weston, Mimico, New Toronto, Leaside, Forest Hill, Swansea and
Long Branch police departments.
While I have never viewed a
complete collection of badges from those jurisdictions, I did
hear of a person who has the collection.
Novice collectors need to know
about the purge should they decide to focus their hunt on Toronto
and area badges.
It was the first time Toronto
police badges were changed in name since the permanent Toronto
force was established in 1835, but it wouldn't be the last.
deciding to collect Metro Toronto Police badges and patches issued
in 1957 should know they were only in use until 1997, when Metro
became the City of Toronto and the police force became Toronto
Police. New name, new ID.
That first force in 1835 consisted
of a High Constable, five full-time constables and a reserve
of 14 special constables. Two years later, they all got plain
While there were departmental
name changes during the next century - High Constable became
Chief Constable in 1858 and Chief Constable became Chief of Police
in 1957 - it is unlikely Toronto police badges changed much from
the 1800s to 1957.
So the true challenges for collectors
who enjoy the hunt are the 13 badges from the pre-Metro jurisdictions
and the Metro badges and patches in use from 1957 through 1997.
Barring Lake Ontario diving
expeditions, there is no doubt in my mind that collecting an
example of each of the 13 pre-1957 badges will take considerable
time and patience. But what an accomplishment that would be,
more than 50 years later.
But if you are still debating
where to start your personal police identification collection,
first choose badges or patches. Patches are insignias sewn on
the upper sleeve of the shirt or jacket of a police uniform that
identify the police department.
In 1957, only uniform Toronto
police officers wore the police patch. However, over the years
other members of the service wore patches indicating their specific
duties, such as parking control officers, cadets, station duty,
Collecting patches is quite
popular because of their availability. They are colourful and
make great displays. Most are reasonably priced, although older
and out of the way patches can be expensive, including those
worn by First Nations Police.
Police badges are usually worn on the hat, kept
in a wallet and in some instances, on the left breast. You will
find that in most police departments, officers are issued a badge
to be kept in a wallet and used for identification.
Most U.S police officers have
breast badges, also some in Quebec, but Metro Toronto Police
did not. Metro officers carried a wallet badge, similar to their
hat badge, and a warrant card with their name and rank on it.
If asked, uniform police officers
must show these two items. Officers in plain clothes must show
them without being asked. Members of the public should be aware
of what these genuine items look like.
Patches, or badges, there is
no need to restrict your collection to one city when there are
police forces around the world. Pick a country and then narrow
your choice to province or state.
For instance, should you choose
Ontario as your collecting area, obtain a list of all police
departments in the province.
You could start by writing to
each department requesting a patch as worn by their officers.
It is likely you will receive many replies.
You will soon learn that, like
Toronto, many companies/departments have changed their patches
over the years and some of the older ones will be more difficult
But the challenge will increase
your determination to obtain all patches from a certain department
and it will enhance the pleasure when you find each elusive item.
Unfortunately, you will not
be so successful should you ask for badges. They will have to
be purchased from other collectors or dealers.
As far as I know, it is not
an offence to possess a police badge. The offence of personate
a police officer is only when it is used fraudulently.
Should you accept the Toronto
police badge and patch challenge, you might start your quest
by visiting the police museum at Toronto Police headquarters
on College Street, where several badges and patches are on display.
You could also go a different
route and collect patches worn by firefighters, security officers,
casino security officers, oil companies and the list goes on.
If you have any questions about
collecting police memorabilia, send me an e-mail at email@example.com
Roy Bassett is a veteran of the British army (1950s) and
a retired Toronto policeman. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org