Tuesday, December 30, 2008

An Old Twist on "Stinkin' Badges"

When the Texas Rangers were first organized in the 1823, badges were not issued. Instead, Warrants of Authority -- impressive paper documents that officers kept folded in their pockets -- were issued to officers but not to enlisted men. This practice continued, in one form or another, until 1935 when badges and credentials were specified for all Texas Rangers.

Prior to 1935, individual Rangers had badges made from Mexican coins. Some were probably made by jewelers, others may have been made by gunsmiths or metalworkers. It is often reported that Rangers themselves cut them out of coins around campfires, but this is an unlikely legend.

Knowing that Mexican coins were being converted into badges of authority in Texas may have contributed to the attitude in Mexico about "stinkin' badges," so famously portrayed in the movies. Think you know which movie? Check our earlier blog entry here.

These first badges were used as a means of identifying Rangers in the midst of feuds and disputes that might involve several law enforcement agencies, or even where "hired guns" might be found. Photographs taken in the 1870s through the 1920s show
that there was a great variety of badges.

The earliest authenticated Texas Ranger Badge dates back to 1889 or so. The badge shown in the accompanying photo is from the period 1910 to 1925, and is believed to be a "stock" design sold to law enforcement agents through catalogs. The basic design is a durable design, still being used today by a large number of law enforcement agencies including the Texas Rangers. The Badge Company of New Jersey offers more than 20 variations of this design.

Note, there is a vast number of "reproduction" Texas Ranger badges being offered for sale today. It's not only a lasting design, it's a popular one, too. But at The Badge Company of New Jersey we do not deal in reproductions, nor do we sell to collectors.

You can learn more about the Texas Rangers, their badges, and even the origin of the nickname "The Lone Star State" at http://www.texasranger.org/history/HistoricBadges.htm

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The tombstone was inscribed, "I Had the Right-of-Way"

It’s one week until Christmas and there is plenty of traffic, on the streets, on the sidewalks, and in the crosswalks. Who wins in a confrontation between a pedestrian and a car? That’s easy – the car.

In New Jersey there is a law that says that all motorists must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Similar laws are on the books in other states and cities. But police will tell you that the compliance with this law is disappointingly low, which is part of why, during 2008, a program called "Cops in the Crosswalks" was undertaken.

Blow through a crosswalk that has a pedestrian in it, and you may discover that the pedestrian is an undercover cop who will arrange for you to receive a summons. The easiest way to avoid such a citation is to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Stopping for pedestrians has another benefit for motorists: By stopping for pedestrians you are far less likely to hit one.

Still, when car and pedestrian meet, the pedestrian always gets the short end of the stick, often fatally. So it amazes us when we see pedestrians blithely walk in front of approaching cars, confident that those cars are being driven by alert, law-abiding motorists. Are these pedestrians nuts?

For all they know, the approaching car is being driven by someone who is drunk, texting, or just plain inattentive. The law may say that the motorist must stop, but the laws of physics say that if the motorist does not stop, the pedestrian loses. Every time. The pedestrian weighs 100 or 200 pounds and is made of flesh and bone. The car weighs 3000 or 5000 pounds and is made of steel.

When walking, do not cross in front of approaching traffic until you KNOW that the traffic is going to stop. Better yet, do not cross in front of approaching traffic until the traffic HAS stopped.

When driving, yield to pedestrians.

Slow down and enjoy the Holiday season.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Long Branch Fun Coordinator

Taking some time to visit with Sue Marlow at The Badge Company display during the recent New Jersey League of Municipalities conference in Atlantic City was Barry Stein, the Assistant Director for Industrial and Economic Development for the City of Long Branch. But Mr Stein has a second title with the city: Special Events Coordinator. It might be the city's best job.

Because Long Branch is an oceanfront town, it plays host to a wide array of outdoor concerts, festivals, and events. Mr Stein's job is to oversee everything from classic car "Cruise Nights" to a summer-long Blues & Jazz Festival. We were not familiar with the details of the job, but Mr Stein clearly enjoys it. He smiles broadly as he relates facts about shows and concerts.

Actually, the entire contingent from Long Branch was smiling widely during the NJLM conference. From Purchasing Agent Carol Mellaci to Community & Economic Development Director Jacob Jones, the representatives from Long Branch were enthusiastically promoting their city.

The next time you are contemplating a trip "down the shore," consider Long Branch as your destination. You will find plenty of information on the city's web site, http://www.visitlongbranch.com/, and if you are not already aware of it, New Jersey's Atlantic beaches are among the nicest beaches anywhere. Oh, and while you're there, take a glance at the badges on their public safety personnel.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Goodbye to Ray's

Ray's Sport Shop is closing. You might think that we're happy about this, since Ray's has been a competitor of ours in the law enforcement market, but we're not. Ray's has always been what we call "a worthy competitor," a business based on good products and good customer service.

The proof is in the longevity of the business: Ray's was founded by Ray Lueddeke more than 60 years ago. Ray's Sport Shop was already more than 25 years old when The Badge Company of New Jersey was launched in 1974.

More remarkable than the longevity of the business, however, is the longevity of the owner. Ray's Sport Shop is closing because Ray Lueddeke is now over 90 years old. "I've gotta slow down" he said.

Ray's location on Route 22 in North Plainfield is known to generations of New Jersey drivers, whether or not they shopped there.

While we will be happy to assist Ray's loyal customers with their needs for badges and other public safety products, we cannot begin to fill the gap in all the other markets Ray served. Think of an independent, family-run neighborhood gun or uniform shop blended with Dick's or Cabela's, and you begin to get a greater understanding of the depth and breadth of Ray's Sport Shop.

We can only wish that Ray enjoys a long and happy retirement. He's earned it!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Forgotten Holiday

This week, across America families will gather and enjoy the traditional Thanksgiving feast of Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and the rest. With its roots in harvest festivals conducted by the earliest European settlers in North America, our modern Thanksgiving is a uniquely American tradition.

But as traditions go, Thanksgiving has in recent years become the major holiday that retailers have decided to ignore. Retailing now moves from the pumpkins and goblins of Halloween directly to the reindeer and sleighs of Christmas. There appears to be no room for turkeys and Pilgrims.

As recently as the 1970s, the decorations and marketing themes seen in stores would be Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas. The Christmas season had a quasi-official kickoff day, the day still often referred to as Black Friday. When the stores all opened on the Friday after Thanksgiving, their bright Christmas decorations would suddenly be in place.

Black Friday, by the way, is called that not because of some dire event such as the Black Tuesday associated with the 1929 stock market crash. Nor does there appear to be any substance to the theory that the day is so named because the day after Thanksgiving is so busy for retailers that it "puts them in the black." We first heard the term during our college years when a fellow student had a part-time job at Macy's, and she considered the term to be rooted in the dread the store employees had for the day.

Many of the police departments served by The Badge Company must make special preparations for the crush of traffic that occurs on this day.

But now the Christmas decorations appear well before Thanksgiving, with the result that two things have been lost: Any retail celebration of Thanksgiving, and any excitement connected to the start of the Christmas season.

We do not know whether there are marketing experts who, after studying the buying habits of consumers, have determined that flattening Thanksgiving with the steamroller of Christmas marketing truly results in greater holiday sales. But we doubt that it makes that much of a difference. Yes, consumers are greatly influenced by advertising and marketing, but does the presence of lighted trees in the stores and Karen Carpenter singing Merry Christmas, Baby on the Muzak in early November really cause people to spend more than they otherwise would over the course of the season?

All we know is that we miss the Thanksgiving decorations, and we miss the colorful start to the Christmas season that used to take place on Black Friday. And we are becoming fearful for Halloween, as it may be next. We have seen some Christmas decorations appearing in October.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Governor

On Wednesday, during the 93rd annual conference of the New Jersey League of Municipalities in Atlantic City, an older gentleman stepped around the corner and stopped in front of the Badge Company's display. I'm Brendan Byrne, he said.

We've heard of you, we replied. You've been in the news from time to time.

We recognized him even before he introduced himself, but we were struck by the moment: It was not a surprise to see Byrne attending this conference, but it was a surprise to see him simply touring the exhibits without fanfare. The former governor was alone. We were surprised by how he could so easily walk the aisles and stop to talk. We would have expected Byrne to be unable to avoid interruptions and unable to shake hangers-on.

This is not to say that Byrne is no longer relevant. He was at the conference to participate on a panel of former New Jersey governors, a panel which discussed the performance of the current governor, Jon Corzine. The panel was comprised in a manner that gave Byrne some distinction, as he was the only member of the group to be elected and re-elected. Fellow Democrat Jim Florio sat alongside Bryne, but Florio served only one term after failing to win re-election. The Republicans were represented by John O. Bennett and Donald DiFrancesco, both of whom served as governor but neither of whom was elected to the position. Whether by design or by happenstance, no other former governors, not Republicans Tom Kean and Christie Whitman, nor Democrat Richard Codey, were on the panel. It is not likely that Jim McGreevey was considered for participation.

We spoke briefly with Byrne, answering his questions and telling him how we are regular readers of the column in the Star-Ledger where he and Kean debate current topics. He then thanked us and moved on. A surprisingly low-key encounter with a man whose influence on New Jersey was significant and lasting.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Flying Fuzz

Lawrence C. Michaels was a career law enforcement officer in southeastern Pennsylvania, who rose through the ranks to become Chief of his department, and who later was elected and re-elected to the position of County Sheriff. But he led a double life. Away from the job, Larry Michaels was a championship-winning race car driver who was given the nickname, The Flying Fuzz.

Now, we're not talking about NASCAR or Indy. But we are talking about the same race cars driven by the likes of Mario Andretti and Ray Evernham early in their careers. The cars are known as TQ Midgets, and from the 1960s into the 1990s Larry Michaels was one of the top dogs in what was then a very competitive form of racing.

The number of individual race victories recorded by Michaels is not documented, but he did earn the season-long series championship in the mid-1970s, driving a car that he built and maintained himself. In fact, as modern racing began to move away from home-built cars to manufactured ones, Michaels chose to continue to do it his way. That was the challenge he preferred.

Unfortunately, when the night of the championship awards banquet arrived in the year that Michaels won his championship, he was unable to attend due to a multiple homicide in his jurisdiction. Racing was his passion, and he rarely missed a scheduled event, but the job came first. Many of the speedways at which Michaels raced and won are now gone, victims of rising real estate values. Pine Brook Speedway in New Jersey. Freeport Municipal Stadium and Islip Speedway in New York. Dorney Park Speedway in Pennsylvania. Riverside Park Speedway in Massachusetts.

Sadly, Michaels is gone, too. It was our pleasure and privilege to count Larry Michaels as a friend for 30 years. He was respected, admired, and loved in both the law enforcement and racing communities. At his passing, a long line of mourners extended around the funeral home and along the street as cops and racers alike came to pay their respects to The Flying Fuzz.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What Do YOU Call It?

Individual police officers may have their own names for it, but growing up in New Jersey, we only knew two names for the night before Halloween: “Cabbage Night” and “Mischief Night.” In adulthood we learned that there are many, many more names, most of them tied to geographic regions, and that the practice of using this night for acts of minor vandalism extends back at least to the 19th century in the United Kingdom.

“Goosey Night” is a name used in the northeast, and “Devil’s Night” is heard in Michigan. “Tick-Tack Night” is used only around the Trenton, New Jersey, area – and in Yorkshire, England. In fact, the UK appears to be where the whole thing started. Beggar's Night, Doorbell Night, there are many more.

As an adolescent years ago, one October 30 we were enjoying a tour of the neighborhood with some friends – purely as an academic study, of course – when a patrol car rolled up and an officer jumped out to demand to know what we were doing. “Nothing” was probably the reply, but the cans of Silly String in our hands indicated otherwise.

Silly String was a brand-new product at the time, and the officer had never seen it previously. We demonstrated it to the him, and he took it back to the patrol car to show it to his partner. The two officers had as much fun with it as we did, shooting the Silly String around and laughing. Remarkably, they did not confiscate it, they gave it back to us. They must have concluded that we could have doing things much worse than decorating neighbors’ yards with Silly String.

In recent years there have been devastating October 30 fires in cities such as Camden and Detroit, so a little toilet paper in the trees or Silly String on the porch seems almost quaint. Like the name “Cabbage Night.”

What if she had refused to watch Titanic?

Many cops will tell you that one of the most volatile and risky situations is that of domestic violence. Now, on the face of it an argument between spouses or lovers may not seem to rank up there with armed robbery on the danger scale, but the fact is that these situations often play out in very close quarters, usually with emotionally-charged participants, and sometimes with armed combatants. For these reasons police officers approach domestic situations with great care. They never know what they will encounter.

And so it was when police in a New Jersey community responded to a domestic call in the summer of 2008. The police approached with caution.

At the scene, a woman told the officers that when she refused to watch the movie Gladiator, her boyfriend threatened and assaulted her. When the woman tried to leave, the man pushed her onto a bed and forced her...

... to watch more of the film.

She continued to allege that he stood in the doorway, prevented her from leaving, smashed two free weights together in front of her, screamed at her, threatened to kill her, and spat in her face.
Police charged the man with simple assault, criminal restraint, and terroristic threats.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Visit us at NJLM Conference Nov. 18-20 in Atlantic City, NJ

Come meet The Badge Company of New Jersey in Atlantic City during the 93rd annual conference of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, taking place in the Atlantic City Convention Center on November 18-19-20. We'll be exhibiting in booth 240 on the show floor, where we'll have sample of our products on hand, plus catalogs and brochures covering not only our products but also the products of our manufacturing partners.

At this event we'll be showcasing much, much more than police badges. In addition to our law enforcement products we offer a broad range of products applicable to municipal needs. When you pinned that plastic beach badge on your bathing suit this past summer, it may have come from The Badge Company of New Jersey. That ID holder carried by the DPW worker may have come from The Badge Company of New Jersey. That safety vest worn by the school crossing guard may have come from The Badge Company of New Jersey. That blue light in the volunteer firefighter's vehicle may have come from The Badge Company of New Jersey.

So come check us out! Complete conference and exhibit information is available on the NJLM web site, http://www.njslom.org/ .

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Giving new meaning to "Cop Car"

Carbon Motors Corporation is a newly-created entity that is designing a purpose-built police car, not a modified regular production car. Where we are presently accustomed to seeing the Ford Crown Victoria, the Dodge Magnum, or the Chevy Impala, Carbon Motors wants us to see the Carbon Motors E7.

On the surface the vehicle does not look dramatically different from current police cars, but it incorporates a number of innovative features and notably, a diesel engine. If your immediate reaction is to think that diesels are slow, perhaps you need to be reminded that in recent years diesel-powered race cars have won the 24 Hours of Lemans endurance race. The Ford Crown Victoria is a older design, and both the Dodge Magnum and the Chevy Impala have their limitations in police use.

SUVs have been used by many departments, but these vehicles also have their limitations. Carbon Motors has made a big promotional effort and has a dramatic web site, but it remains to be seen whether the company will be able to bring their vehicle to a police agency near you. You can see the prototype E7 at http://www.carbonmotors.com/

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Who Let The Dogs In?

Puppies Behind Bars is a remarkable program taking place at a seven correctional facilities throughout the region, including the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women right here in The Badge Company's hometown.

If you travel Interstate Route 78 in New Jersey, you've seen the Edna Mahan facility, located alongside the eastbound lanes of the highway in bucolic Hunterdon County, just west of Exit 15. We are pleased to have been serving the facility's badge and insignia needs for more than 20 years.

Puppies Behind Bars trains inmates to raise puppies to become service dogs for the disabled
and explosive detection canines for law enforcement. In addition, the organization's Dog Tags program specifically focuses on providing service dogs to wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

If you are not familiar with the terms, Service Dogs are responsible for aiding handicapped people with everyday routines such as getting dressed, turning on lights, and so on. Explosive Detection Canines are responsible for seeking out explosives and alerting their handlers when they have recognized an explosive scent.

You can see some demonstrations of these skills in the Puppies Behind Bars Story video that is available on the organization's web site, http://www.puppiesbehindbars.com. On the web site you can learn a great deal more about the entire program. We recommend that you take the time to check it out.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Who Fired That Shot?

One of the most popular radio shows over the past two decades has been “Car Talk,” the highly unusual automotive help-line program conducted on National Public Radio by two unlikely broadcast personalities, the brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi, also known as Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers.

An outgrowth of the radio show has been a syndicated newspaper column which, like the radio show, ostensibly offers automotive advice. But, some questions simply give rise to more questions:

“Ellen” wrote, I have a ‘93 Honda Civic Del Sol with 127,000 miles. Last week a 40-caliber bullet came through the door and hit me in the chest. I suffered no injuries. Is it worth fixing the bullet hole?

The Tappet Brothers’ answer was, Fix it? Are you nuts, Ellen? A bullet hits you in the chest and bounces off? You walk away unharmed? That car gave its own sheet metal to save your life. How could you even think of fixing it?

But we can’t help but wonder, where did that bullet come from? Ellen provided no details on whether she was driving in the countryside or in an urban environment. Both Ellen and the Tappet Brothers appear to consider this bullet in the same manner that you might consider an errant pebble or an unfortunate windshield bug. Y’know, just an everyday thing...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

We Don't Need No Stink'n Badges

Many people like to make the joke about "Stinkin' Badges." Even the late Pat Morales, founder of The Badge Company of New Jersey, enjoyed quoting this famous movie line. But, thanks to the immense success of Mel Brook's 1974 film, Blazing Saddles, it seems that most people think the line originated there.

No, Brooks was satirizing the 1948 classic, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. This Oscar-winning film by director John Huston stars Humphrey Bogart and is often mentioned among the best films Hollywood has produced. Bogart's character, when confronted by Mexican bandits who claim to be law enforcement Federales, elicits the famous line by asking the bandits to show their badges. Take a look here.

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