Sgt. Manuel Montero carefully lays shiny bits of cop paraphernalia on a table in the basement of the Oak Bay Police Department. The cap badges, shoulder titles and collar dogs date from the start of the department in 1906 through to today.
Montero has a similar collection at home, 100 years of regimental cap badges representing the regiment he served with in the Canadian Forces.
“For me to understand my organization, you have to dig deep into its history,” he says.
More than just a place of work, it’s a part of who he is.
His Oak Bay police collection starts where the department did and runs right through to the latest uniform changes in the department when it marked a century in 2006.
This collection however, has a bit of a hole in it – the Mount Baker badge doubles up representing two eras between the 1920s and the ’50s and Montero has only one. He does however, have access to the press likely used to create the cap badge, discovered earlier this year tucked away at the station on Monterey Avenue.
Montero hopes to fill that gap and others, building off a brief history written in 2006 by Sgt. Dan McLean, who died on Nov. 5, 2013 at 62 after a brief bout with cancer.
Aside from shiny uniform bits, the collection includes the bright blue uniform of Staff Sgt. Garth Fowler who retired in 1996 and is the last man to have held that title. There’s also a couple of shadow box-framed badges found in the back of a closet – a mystery in itself.
Then there are the accoutrements of Insp. Charles Bates, the final member of the department to hold that rank. His badge is at the Oak Bay Archives, while his cap and whistle are at the Monterey Avenue police station. The hat still holds a piece of paper outlining the rights and obligations as an officer would have read to an individual. A handful of the policeman’s notebooks may hold the most real peek into the past.
Montero has yet to open one, wanting to use care, but is excited to read and learn more about the “crime of the day” from that era.
It would be a key element with his ultimate goal – to one day write a history book on the Oak Bay Police Department. In the meantime, plans for renovation of the downstairs room for potential community use include a display area for the historic items.
There are however, a couple of gaps – such as that second Mount Baker cap badge – he hopes to fill with the help of the public.
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