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Lost shipment of badges worries sheriff's deputy

By Chris Conrad

For the Tidings

A local collector hopes a shipment of police badges he ordered has not ended up in the wrong hands after it disappeared from the Medford post office.

Jackson County sheriff's Detective Sgt. Colin Fagan is an avid badge collector who has amassed more than 150 of the silver and gold shields over the years.

He became concerned about his recent purchase of badges from a Springfield dealer when it was not delivered to his post office box in June.

"My theory is they were mis-delivered," Fagan said. "If that's the case, then I would like to ask the person who ended up with them to please return them as soon as possible."

The badges are from departments in Florence, Palm Springs, Calif., Modesto, Calif., and Paradise Valley, Ariz.

The Arizona badge was particularly close to his heart.

"I went to high school there," Fagan said.

It is against the law to own an official police badge unless you are using it for display purposes in a collection or for a dramatic presentation in a film or a play.

The post office scanned in the box containing the badges, leading Fagan to believe it was not stolen by postal workers.

"It was probably placed in an incorrect post office box and now the person just doesn't know what to do now that he has the badges," Fagan said.

Badge collectors are a tight-knit community made up mostly of current and former law enforcement officers. Badge sellers deal chiefly with people with whom they have developed a close relationship, as they wish to keep badges in as few hands as possible, Fagan said.

"The dealers know there is a potential for misuse within this hobby," Fagan said.

Many badge dealers host Web sites selling shields from across the country. A cursory glance at these sites shows that badges from small Midwestern towns can sell for up to $300.

Badges can tell the story of a department as well as a history book, Fagan said.

"Take a look at the Portland Police Bureau badge," he said. "It started out with a gun etched across it, and as sensibilities in the city changed in modern times the gun became an eagle."

Local agencies have not received reports of someone impersonating a police officer since the badges went missing. Impersonating a police officer is a felony in Oregon.

It is difficult to sell badges at local pawn shops or on eBay, as they raise red flags for these businesses. EBay often will cancel auctions for police badges, Fagan said.

Fagan is asking anyone who has received the badges to drop them off at the Medford post office in a box addressed to the postmaster, or call the Jackson County Sheriff's Department tip line at 774-8333.

The agency will pay a reward to information leading to the badges, Fagan said.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.