I’d seen John’s badge clipped to his belt for so long I considered it part of his uniform. That is until the day I asked if I could get a closer look at the iconic Badge Number One. He unclipped the oval-shaped metal shield, handed it to me, and told me the story. Like many good stories, it began with a document (he later provided) titled “Tentative List: Police Investigators.” On it, were the names and rankings of three-hundred and fifty candidates who passed the examination for Police Investigator. The list was signed by Vernon L. Hoy, the Commanding Officer of the Personnel and Training Bureau.
I asked. “You took an exam for position of Police Investigator?”
“Yes,” he said. “I scored second highest. Another cadet, Burt Cain and I both scored a 93 out of 100. I missed the top score by half a point. So, he got Badge Number One.”
“How did you end up with it”? I asked.
“Not long after he got the badge, he quit,” St. John said, “So, I got the honor and the badge.”
Later, when St. John gave me the list of names – seven-page long on yellowed paper, the last name scored an 80 – I marveled. The test scores were released on April 26, 1971.
The badge reads “Investigator, Los Angeles Police.” It’s silver, with an engraving of city hall encircled with writing, “City of Los Angeles, Founded 1781.” At the very bottom, in a big, black letter, is the number “1”.
“Pretty impressive,” I said, handing it back. “What’s really impressive is you beat three-hundred and forty-nine cadets for this honor.”
“Thanks,” he said, clipping the badge to his belt. “It’s been an honor wearing it all these years.”