"The 911 badge is much more than just a piece of metal. It is a symbol of brotherhood." - HPAC Board Member, CSLEA Member, Detective Jared Burk, Napa State Hospital
Excitement is brewing among California State Lottery investigators who received their director's approval to change up their badges in September in honor of the unity among all first responders and in honor of the first responders who lost their lives in the 9-11 attacks in 2001.
Among many special features, the special badge depicts two World Trade Center towers, one that recognizes 343 New York City firefighters who died responding to the 9-11 attacks and the other that recognizes 71 law enforcement officers who also paid the ultimate price protecting others.
The badge was designed by Absolute Victory Insignia company owners San Diego Police Officer Ed LaValle and Steve Willard. The two started the program in 2011 in San Diego to unite first responders and raise money for the San Diego Police Department museum. The San Diego Police and Sheriff's Department were among the first to participate. The company owners' dream is to, each and every year, have first responders from coast to coast wear the badges during the entire month of September.
The idea is catching on and caught the attention of CSLEA Member, Lottery Investigator Doug Hoffman. "Each investigator must pay for the badge out of his or her own pocket," said Hoffman. "Out of 39 sworn personnel, 19 have already asked to have the badges. The badges are a hundred dollars. This is at no cost to the department."
Law enforcement officers at three state hospitals already participate in this unique movement to unite first responders nationwide. "I purchased the 9-11 badge two years ago," said HPAC Board Member, CSLEA Member, Detective Jared Burk, Napa State Hospital. "Many officers here purchased the badge along with other public safety officers within Napa County. Wearing the badge during the month of September means a lot to myself and the other members of the department."
LaValle is upfront about letting people know Absolute Victory Insignia, is not a non-profit organization, however it does donate some proceeds to 9-11 memorial funds, a travelling 9-11 museum and to participating law enforcement agencies' charities. "The proceeds keep us in the black," said LaValle.
Detective Burk described his desire to purchase and wear the badge each September, this way: "When you become a law enforcement officer, you join a family with hundreds of thousands of brothers and sisters. When an officer is shot or killed on one side of the country, it has a huge impact on the other side as well. This profession is truly a brotherhood like no other. Firefighters and EMT’s fall into this category as well. Those in our professions run toward danger, knowing we can be killed, while others run away. Who else runs into a burning building, or toward the sound of gunfire from an active shooter to save the lives of total strangers? Relying on one another is the only way we make it home to our families at the end of a shift. The 9-11 badge is much more than just a piece of metal. It is a symbol of that brotherhood. For one month, all participating agencies get to wear the same exact badge to show unity across the board. We show we are the same and stand by one another, regardless of our employing agency. The only differences on the badge are the agency identifier, rank, and individual badge number. "
LaValle points out that any first responder, including honorably retired, can purchase the badge but it must be approved and can only be worn if a department's Sheriff, Chief of Police, or Director approves it. He uses extreme caution in checking the identities of each first responder who submits an order and also offers a "first responder supporter" badge for those who are not first responders. Law enforcement officers interested in the badge should check with their departments before making the purchase.