The mystery of badge number one

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During a recent interview with some Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers, their badge numbers caught my eye.

That was extremely, extremely bizarro. Scary even.

As someone who once scored zero on a university calculus test — hence the career choice — I continue to fear numbers. To me, digits are scarier than amateur dentistry.

But looking at the officers’ badges, I couldn’t help but wonder who wore #1.

Const. Suzanne FitzGerald, the force’s media relations officer, put me in touch with Insp. John House, a long-serving officer and RNC historical society member.

Turns out there’s no active number one.

The current badges and numbers, House explained, were issued in the early ’8Os. He doesn’t think #1 was given out.

In the decades prior to that, perhaps as far back as the 1950s, officers wore numbered breast badges.

Those shields were recycled and reused until the current badges were introduced.

“The one I had was been issued at least two times previously that I’m aware of,” House says.

Before breast badges were introduced, officers sported numbers on their collars.

‘Some of those numbers were (greater) than the (shields) in the’50s, which leads me to believe they had a numbering system that went out of use,” House says.

“So when you start thinking about who wore number one, I’m not sure if it’s possible to figure out that out.”

House doesn’t think the first Constabulary officer was assigned a number.

He believes the member was Thomas Foley, a head constable brought over by the colonial government from the Royal Irish Constabulary in 1871 to reorganize the existing police service.

That reorganization led to the modern-day Constabulary, and Foley’s rank was inspector.

However, House points out there is some legitimate debate about whether Foley should be considered officer number one.

“A lot of people would disagree probably and argue the first constable was before that,” he says, noting it can be argued the force dates to 1729 when the first constables were appointed in Newfoundland.

The historical society continues researching the answers to these and other questions, House says.

Want answers to a question that’s odd, intriguing or useless, email Follow Steve on Twitter at bartlett_steve.

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