St. Louis police spent $1,987 each on top badges

Sunday, December 21, 2008 | 7:28 p.m. CST; updated 8:56 p.m. CST, Sunday, December 21, 2008

ST. LOUIS — The city’s police department spent $1,987 each on gold-filled badges for the new chief and other top officers.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Sunday that the figure is about 100 times the price of a patrolman’s badge and more than others spend. But it’s a lot less than the $5,900 each the city spent on two solid-gold badges for Chief Daniel Isom’s predecessor, Joe Mokwa.

Rank-and-file St. Louis officers wear badges bought for $19.75 each.

The latest badges were a nearly $10,000 line item in a unanimous vote on Wednesday by the Board of Police Commissioners to approve December purchases. The department bought the ornate badges for the chief, two assistant chiefs and two lieutenant colonels.

The vote came just hours before the department admitted that it had wrongly kept up to $6 million seized in the arrest of suspects. Neither the badges nor the seized money came up for public discussion.

Board approval of the badges was a formality because the department’s supply division already had made the no-bid purchase a month ago, according to department records.

At a news conference Saturday, after the Post-Dispatch had reported the purchase on its Web site, Isom called the badge expenditures “outrageous” and said such spending wouldn’t happen anymore. He also said the badges were ordered before a purchase order had been issued by the police board.

“There are historical practices in this department that are broken. The people of St. Louis are counting on me to fix them, and as I find them, I will.”

Erica Van Ross, a spokeswoman for the department, said it needed the new badges because St. Louis officers had been allowed to keep them when they retire. She said Isom has now changed the policy so retiring officers could take home a replica, if they paid for it.

The jeweler that made the badges, Stange Co., of Maryland Heights, is perhaps best-known for making insignias for clients ranging from Third World monarchs to a religious order in Jerusalem that traces its roots to the First Crusade. The company’s relationship with St. Louis police goes back 30 years.

Other law enforcement agencies don’t spend as much on badges for their top officers.

In Kansas City, Police Chief James Corwin’s badge cost $48.75.

“We get a lot of compliments on it,” Kansas City police spokesman Darin Snapp said. “No one has ever asked for an upgrade.”

The Missouri State Highway Patrol’s uniforms don’t include badges. Insignias bearing troop and badge numbers cost $3.15 per collar.

In Belvedere, Calif. — the richest city of at least 1,000 residents in the United States — Police Chief Mark Campbell’s badge cost $20, about 212 times what his officers’ badges cost.

“My badge is more ornate,” he explained.

Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton wears a badge that costs $61, according to that department’s supplier.



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