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Of Tags and Badges

A few Task Force members have vanity tags on their personal vehicles. Not all of them have an as obvious meaning as, say, this guy's. I wanted to know the significance of the number on one of their license plates and considered the possibility that it may be badge-related. This prompted me to get the badge numbers of all of the JADE officers. Since I'm all about finding out as much as possible about these guys, I can't believe I didn't think of doing this sooner.

I'm aware that police departments have caller ID. I didn't want to cause alarm with the local ones by asking for a string of badges all coincidentally belonging to members of the JADE Task Force. I also didn't think it wise to have my phone number keep showing up by calling several times during one shift. I opted for a sort of rotation.

I called the Albemarle County Police Department and City of Charlottesville Police Department as many times as necessary so as not to raise any red flags. I had no trouble with either department. I only needed to call the University of Virginia and Virginia State Police once each. Neither department was cooperative.

The lady who answered at VSP reminded me of an annoying five year old. No matter what I said, her response was "Why?" Ultimately she gave me a number but claimed she didn't know if it was correct or if it even belonged to the officer I named.

The woman who answered at UVA was just a delightful ball of pleasantness.

"I'm looking for the badge number of one of your detectives." I gave his name. She repeated his name as a question. I said "Yes." She asked me if I minded holding while she looked it up. I said I wouldn't mind. She came back on the line and gave me a two-digit number. I repeated the two digits as a question. She said "Yes." I thanked her, she wished me a good day, I wished her the same, and we hung up.

26 minutes later my cell phone rang. I didn't recognize the number on my caller ID but immediately noticed it started with 531 -- a common beginning for area law enforcement. I let it go to voice mail; the caller didn't leave a message. I waited 13 minutes and called it back. I got sent to voice mail. The recording didn't afford me a name but it did give me a familiar pager number. It belongs to the UVA detective. Apparently because I dared to ask for a public record, the see you next tuesday I'd spoken with supplied him with my private phone number.

A few days later a source provided me with a police document that also conveniently had all their badge numbers listed (although, admittedly, had I not already gotten them I probably wouldn't have known off-hand that's what they were). From the memo I learned that the number I'd been given for Detective UVA was a digit short.

I think probably UVA's Police Department believes it was acting in the best interest of its officer. However because of their paranoia and subsequent confrontational aggressive response, I wound up with more desirable information than I'd asked for.

Oh and, by the way, the tag that started this whole episode? Turns out it's not a badge number after all.