Bob Cole and the thirty police badges: Chips Mackellar

When Bob Cole was Commissioner of the Royal Papua and New Guinea Constabulary, it was customary for kiaps passing through Port Moresby on posting or on leave, to drop in and pay their respects. So on the occasion of my six-month long service leave en route on a round-the-world holiday, I called in to say hello. Bob wanted to know the purpose of the round-the-world tour. I said nothing special I would just look at this and that, and make like an ordinary tourist. 

“That’s not good enough, Chips,” Bob Cole said, “every important endeavour like a world tour should have a purpose. If you have no particular purpose in mind, then I will give you one. Come back and see me at this time tomorrow and I will give you thirty police badges. Wherever you go in the world and whenever you have the opportunity, call into the local police station and exchange a badge. When you return to PNG, bring me thirty badges from different police forces around the world, and I will put them in the Police Museum here.”

It seemed like a good idea, and I agreed. “And not only that,”  Bob added, “but you will find that there is a brotherhood amongst policemen throughout the world, and the contacts you make when exchanging badges could be useful for other purposes, like making friends in a foreign country and all that.” And he was right.

I did the tourist bit in Hawaii. That is, I watched the hula dances, I walked down Waikiki Beach, I looked at Diamond Head, I had a drink at the Royal Hawaiian, and I saw the tourist advertisements for a US Navy conducted tour of Pearl Harbor. This is a must for all visitors to Hawaii. So I tried for that. Alas, all booked out six weeks in advance. Ah well, I thought, I might as well try and exchange one of Bob’s police badges. So I walked into Police Headquarters in Honolulu, and asked one of the officers behind the counter if I could exchange a badge, and I presented him with a RP&NGC badge. The officer looked at it, and called the Sergeant, and the Sergeant said  “Wait while I ask the Loootenant,” and the Lieutenant referred the badge to the Captain, and the Captain went off somewhere while I waited, and when the Captain came back he said “The Chief wants to meet you.” So the Captain took me up in the lift to the top floor of the Honolulu Police Headquarters building and ushered me into the office of the Chief of Police.

“Noo Guinea eh?” said the Chief as he examined the badge, and he proceeded to tell me that his uncles and his cousin had all fought in the New Guinea campaigns, and we talked about General Macarthur and so on, and he told one of his subordinates to give me a Honolulu Police badge, and the exchange was made. And just as I was leaving the Chief asked me if there was anything they could do for me while I was in Hawaii, and I said I would have liked to have seen Pearl Harbor but the tours are booked out. “Fix it with the Navy,” the Chief said to the Captain who had accompanied me. Outside the Chief’s office the Captain asked me which hotel I was staying in, then proceeded to make a few phone calls. Then he told me to stand on the pavement outside the front door of my hotel at 8.30 the following morning. And so the arrangement was made, although I was not exactly certain what to expect.

Next morning just before 8.30, I stood at the kerbside in front of the hotel trying not to look like a dumb tourist, and a vehicle stopped beside me. It was a US Navy Shore Patrol jeep, stripped for action, no roof, no windscreen, containing two Navy Shore Patrolmen, white gaiters, side arms, white gob caps, and red on black SP arm bands, just like you see in the movies. I almost could not believe what I was seeing.

“Are you Officer Mackellar from Noo Guinea?”  said one of the Navy Shore Patrolmen in the jeep, sitting nearest to me. “Yes,” I said. “Climb aboard, Buddy,” he said, “we are taking you to Pearl Harbour.” So I climbed into the back of the Navy jeep, and when we arrived at Pearl Harbour, a Navy launch was waiting, and from it out in the harbour I saw the unbelievable might of the US Seventh Fleet, its Aircraft Carriers, cruisers, frigates, destroyers, supply ships, tenders, escorts, submarines, dockyards, and so on, and of course the Arizona Memorial. The Memorial spans the USS Arizona but does not touch it, and from this Memorial I gazed down with awe and amazement at the mighty battleship in the waters below me, still there, resting on the bottom with the ghosts of its 1,102 sailors still on board. They have been there since 7 December 1941, which, according to President Rooseveldt, is a date which shall live in infamy. It was the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the event which brought the US into the Second World War. Drowned when the USS Arizona sank, its crew is still on board. They have remained there undisturbed, all these years.

So that is how I saw Pearl Harbor, that is, by exchanging a police badge for Bob Cole. It was also how I was given a conducted tour of New Scotland Yard, how I observed police dogs being trained by the Essex Constabulary, and how I met other police in other countries; and it also how I discovered the nearest US equivalent to kiaps. They are the United States National Park Rangers, responsible for the district administration of large tracts of the American wilderness, including isolated pockets of Native Americans living within the National Parks. And as I was exchanging a badge at a National Park Ranger Station, the ranger asked casually where I was stationed in PNG.

“Esa’ala,” I said, thinking it would mean nothing to him. “Esa’ala,” he repeated, then asked “is that somewhere near Dobu Island?” I was so astonished I replied “Yes. Three miles away. But how did you know?”

“We have to know our Anthropology too.” he said, and he remembered reading Sorcerers of Dobu by R.F. Fortune. And there in the American wilderness I found myself discussing cargo cults, Malinowski, and the Trobriand Island yam harvests with the National Park Rangers. It was an amazing experience.

And as I began to collect Bob Cole’s police badges, I found that I had accumulated more than thirty in exchange for the original thirty RP&NGC badges which Bob had given me. The reason for this was that some police forces have more than one badge. For example, some have one badge for general duties, a different badge for the traffic police, a different badge for the water police, a different badge for the mounted police, and so on. So in exchange for one RP&NGC badge, I was often given in exchange more than one badge from the same police force. So I decided that I would keep the excess badges for my own collection, and when I returned to Port Moresby, I went to see Bob Cole, and in good faith I gave him thirty police badges from different police forces from around the world. But I did not tell him that I had other police badges which I was keeping for myself, and one of these badges which I kept has a special significance for me.

When I visited Taos in New Mexico, it was a picture postcard of the Old West, with beautiful buildings, all appearing as though they had all been made from adobe, all the colour of desert gold, wide streets, with men wearing big hats and cowboy boots and so on. And as I walked past the Sheriff’s Office, I remembered to exchange a badge. 

o I approached a Deputy Sheriff at the counter, and offered a RP&NGC badge for exchange. “I’ll have to ask the Sheriff.” He said, and took my badge to an inside office. He came back without my badge, and said “The Sheriff wants to meet you.” By this time several other Deputies had gathered around, and we all trouped into the Sheriff’s office.

“Yawl want to trade badges?” the Sheriff asked without introduction.

“Yes, Sheriff,” I said, and I explained the mission which Bob Cole had given me. “Just trade badges?” the Sheriff asked again, “Hell. I can do better than that. Raise your right hand!”

So I raised my right hand, not knowing what was to follow.

“Yawl swear to uphold the Constituuuuution of the United States and the Laws of the State of Noooooo Mexico?” asked the Sheriff. Since I had no reason not to uphold them I said “Yes, Sheriff.”

“Then by the powers conferred upon me by the laws of the State of Nooooo Mexico,” continued the Sheriff, “I hereby appoint you Depidy Sheriff of Taos County. Here’s your badge, Depidy,” and he handed me a Deputy Sheriff’s badge.  All the other deputies filed past me shaking my hand and congratulating me.

“Congratulations, Deputy.”

“Congratulations, Deputy.”

“Congratulations, Deputy,”  they all said, and then we adjourned to an outer office where we all sat down and drank coffee and yarned as though we had known each other for years.  

But I have to confess that that badge never made it into the Police Museum in Port Moresby. It now has pride of place in my trophy display cabinet, along with my family heirlooms and other family collectables. Although I did receive this Deputy Sheriff’s badge in exchange for a RP&NGC badge, I was faithful to the assignment Bob Cole had given me, in that I did return to him thirty other police badges. That is, I gave him thirty badges in exchange for thirty badges, but not this one. 

So that is how Bob Cole was able to present to the Police Museum in Port Moresby thirty police badges from different police forces from around the world, and that is how I became Deputy Sheriff of Taos County.         


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