His badge was stolen more than 30 years ago. It turned up 4,500 miles away in Latvia.
Bill Golden last saw his Glenview Police Department "Patrolman" badge more than 30 years ago when it was affixed to his winter uniform coat as he searched the car of a drunken driver.
In June this year he saw it again, but this time it was being offered for sale on eBay for $250 by someone living 4,500 miles away in Latvia. He knew it was his because it was also stamped with his "148" badge number.
"So I wrote to the guy saying he has my stolen badge and I wanted it back, but he wouldn't reply to me," Golden said.
Then, he did what everyone would do if they saw their stolen property for sale elsewhere. Well, maybe not everyone.
"I called a guy in the FBI that I know, but they said the case was too small and too old," he explained.
Golden -- who now runs Five-0 Driving School in Arlington Heights -- refused to buy the badge, on principle.
"It's stolen property," he said. "No matter what, I'm not buying my own stolen badge back."
And he didn't want anyone else to buy it, either.
"I wanted to buy it for him and surprise him with it, but he told me he wasn't going to buy it because it was stolen," said Golden's wife, Kari. "So then I couldn't buy it for him because it would essentially be the same thing as him buying it."
Golden eventually contacted eBay to have the sale shut down. The online auction site obliged. He thought that would be the end of it. But it wasn't.
Like many former police officers, Golden is a bit of a cop memorabilia hobbyist. He restored and owns an old Glenview police squad car. But he says many of his retired law enforcement buddies are far more into the collectible scene than he is.
In fact, it was one of those memorabilia-hunting pals who initially alerted Golden that his badge was for sale among some 1,700 other badges that are offered on the site on any given day.
"I met him when we both worked undercover," Golden explained.
While Golden had no luck getting in contact with the Latvian seller, his friend did.
"It's a couple weeks ago on my 60th birthday," Golden said. "I'm sitting in a McDonald's thinking that we're going to meet this guy to look over his Corvette that's for sale, but then he pulls out this plastic bag and there's all these really nice handwritten notes and Latvian tourism materials, and buried inside is my badge. I know he bought it, but he won't say it."
Golden now has all three badges he wore during his 30-year career in Glenview. The "Patrolman" badge was his first. When he lost it in 1987 after six years on the job, he had to buy a new one for $75 that carried the gender-neutral "Patrol Officer" title the department had adopted. Later, the department issued all officers new badges that read, "Police Officer."
"I started crying when he showed it to me. It was so sweet," Kari Golden said. "This was his first badge, and he has three sons that he can now give to each one of them."
The only remaining part of the mystery is how the badge wound up in Latvia.
"No idea," Golden said.
Golden, a longtime Mount Prospect resident before moving to Mundelein, remembers hearing a metallic "clinking" sound when he was searching the driver's seat area in the car of the guy he pulled over on suspicion of drunken driving. He ignored the sound, thinking it was something already inside the car. It was hours after the man had been bailed out that he realized his badge wasn't on his coat anymore.
He and another officer went to the man's house and asked him for the badge back. Golden said the man refused, so he had a judge quickly sign off on a search warrant for the car, but the badge wasn't inside. The man refused to let the officers inside his house or talk to him without a lawyer.
"Long story short, I wrote it off that the thing was gone," Golden said. "But you bet I made sure that this guy was prosecuted to the fullest for what I originally charged him with. And he got arrested a bunch of times over the years, and my fellow officers all knew who he was and (he) was never in line for a break."
Golden said he could have been suspended for losing the badge, but wasn't. He also didn't receive much guff from his co-workers about it. Not like the time a few years later when he lost another badge.
"I got a real ribbing from them when I dumped it in the sewer," Golden recalled. "I was getting out of the car and the seat belt snagged on my badge, and it just popped off my shirt, out the window and down a sewer."
A Glenview public works crew was dispatched to hunt for the badge in the sewer and quickly located it, Golden said. But that didn't stop others from teasing him about it.
"You can just imagine what a bunch of cops were saying about a badge in the sewer," he said.