BERKELEY (CBS SF) – It is a piece of Berkeley history that most thought they would never get a chance to see in person.
The 14-karat gold, diamond-studded badge wore in the early 1900s by legendary Berkeley police chief August Vollmer.
The badge was uncovered among the items contained in a $5 discount box at a Texas estate sale.
“They (the Texas couple who bought the box) called up the police department and said we think we have something that belongs to you,” said Willard Oliver who is the curator of a Vollmer exhibit at the Berkeley Historical Society.
Once the couple got home from the sale and dig into the box, they knew they had found something precious. The badge contained Vollmer’s name and the year he was sworn into office.
Vollmer had quite a career and is regarded as one of the fathers of local law enforcement.
“Berkeley is a progressive city and he was a progressive police chief,” said Steve Finacom, the former president of the historical society. “A century ago, he was the first chief to hire a female officer in 1917.”
He also integrated his department and took plenty of heat for it.
“When some of his white officers said they would resign if they had to work with a black officer, he said he would gladly accept their resignation,” Finacom said.
The badge will now be a centerpiece of the display honoring the chief.
As for the Texas couple, they did not want any money for returning the badge. They say they are happy to have it back where it belongs.