NISSWA, Minn. — Every time Capt. Joe Meyer with the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office drove past a rural Nisswa road it triggered the memory of the day he lost his first law enforcement badge, etched with his name.
He thought it was gone forever, and it was for roughly 30 years.
The badge was missing until Thursday, Aug. 8, when two Nisswa brothers — Rex Larson, 13, and Zeke Larson, 11 — found the badge in a ditch off Garden View Road in rural Nisswa.
Zeke Larson and his older brother were riding their bicycles when they turned off the road to go into the ditch to ride on a grassy gravel path next to a cornfield.
“I saw something shiny and it looked like a police badge,” Zeke said, in a phone interview Monday, Aug. 12. “I stopped and picked it up. It was buried a little bit.”
The boys brought the police badge back home to show their parents, Josh and Wendy Larson. Josh Larson said he saw the badge, read the name on it and he knew Joe Meyer. Larson called one of the family’s neighbors, who is a deputy, to tell him the news. The deputy, in turn, called Meyer.
“I knew exactly where they found it,” Meyer said when I heard the news, as he had only lost one badge in his entire law enforcement career.
Meyer started with the sheriff’s office as a patrol deputy and then was assigned to the drug task force. He moved into investigations and was promoted to sergeant of investigations. In 2013, he became a lieutenant and this year he became captain under newly elected Sheriff Scott Goddard.
Meyer said he lost the badge in his first two years at the sheriff’s office. He said the sheriff’s office wouldn’t create a badge with the deputy’s name on it until they completed probation and were “an established deputy.”
“That badge is special because it was the first one issued to me with my name on it,” Meyer said. “It was a milestone that I made it into the department, … And to lose it really sucked at the time.”
Meyer said it was a winter day when he lost the badge in the snow. He was responding to a vehicle in the ditch and somehow lost the badge helping the motorist and hooking up the vehicle to the towing truck.
“I went back to the spot several times to try to find my badge,” Meyer said, who lives a few miles from the spot. “I was afraid I was going to be in trouble. At the time I only told my partner Jim Peterson.”
Dick Ross was the sheriff at the time and Meyer did not get in trouble once he told him about the missing badge.
“Every time I drove by that spot it would trigger a memory in my mind that my badge is here somewhere,” Meyer said. “Unless someone picked it up and took it home as a keepsake. It’s something that always was on the back of my mind that my badge is laying in that ditch somewhere.”
The boys met with Meyer on Sunday night to give him the badge back.
“To have these kids find it is really cool. It’s like a treasure, a time capsule piece,” Meyer said. “It’s in really good shape. It’s not bent up. It’s tarnished. All the finish and the Minnesota state seal emblem is gone, but other than that it looks good.”
Meyer and the Larson family were surprised and amazed the badge just turned up. The road was gravel when the badge went missing and since then the road was reconstructed and bituminous was overlayed. Snowplows and graders made passes on the road for three decades and it never showed up.
“It’s remarkable,” Meyer said.
Josh Larson said the boys go on bike rides often looking for treasures but don’t ride near the cornfield often. When the brothers found the badge and returned it to its rightful owner, they learned how much the treasure meant to Meyer, Josh Larson said.
Meyer presented the boys with a Crow Wing County Sheriff Challenge coins and a badge.
“They were hoping for a Taser,” Larson said and laughed, but were appreciative of the coins. “We want to thank the police departments and sheriff’s office for all that they do.”