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Flashback: History of tradition, importance of law enforcement badges

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SEATTLE METROPOLITAN POLICE MUSEUM — It’s a tremendous moment of pride when an officer earns his or her badge and it’s pinned on their chest for the first time.

The tradition is steeped in history.

Seattle Police Officer Jim Ritter has more in ‘Flashback.’

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"Perhaps the most prominent part of a law enforcement officer`s identity is the badge. Badges have been worn by U.S. police agencies since the beginning and are primarily an American tradition. Most foreign countries to this day still don`t allow their officers to wear badges on the outside of their uniform."

"Police badges come in all different shapes and sizes and some were and still are hand engraved and made of gold and silver."

"In the early days policemen ordered their badge from traveling salesmen or law enforcement catalogs because uniform stores did not exist in the era."

"Considered by some as a form of police jewelry, badges vary in style depending on the region they`re worn and often have customized features specific to the jurisdiction`s they represent. Some badge styles are simple, some others are complex and some have not changed since their inception. A great example of this is the San Francisco Police Star. This is sterling silver and has not changed in over 100 years. Another great example of customized badges is the New Orleans police badge. The star in the middle represents the city of New Orleans surrounded by the Mississippi River. In another example from the Kittitas County Sheriff`s Office, this badge has semi-custom features including a custom center seal with an arrowhead design depicting Central Washington University, cattle grazing in the valley and the Cascade Mountains."

"Whichever law enforcement agency these badges represent they all symbolize the authority, pride and dedication of the men and women who risk their lives every day to protect us."

"And that`s the way it was. I`m Officer Jim Ritter and this is `Flashback.`"

If you have questions about law enforcement history, email Ofc. Ritter at

To find out more about the museum, go to

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