The Badge of a Mason

Within our Craft, it is universally accepted that a man is first made a Mason in his heart...

badge01... I am certainly no exception, however before I was ever made a Mason, I was a cop. I joined the Cranston Police Department in 2004 as a rookie patrolman and remain working there today as a detective assigned to the department’s Special Victims Unit. After joining Harmony Lodge No. 9 in 2010 I was quickly struck by the similarities between Freemasonry and law enforcement, both advocate its members practice moral rectitude, be fair in their dealings with others, and keep their passions and behavior within acceptable boundaries. Two brotherhoods not unalike, and it is because of the teachings and philosophies that Freemasonry and law enforcement share what I always sought out. Places where the two would intersect. I found this to be in part the "light" of which I was in search.

That "light" shined a little brighter in January 2019, when I was reading through a Cranston Police Department Retirees Association newsletter that was distributed among the department’s active members. I happened upon an article written by retired Cranston Police Sergeant James Ignasher about a Cranston Police Chief’s badge engraved with the Masonic square and compasses on its back. This was astounding to me, in that while I enjoyed a multitude of times where my profession and the Craft would converge, none ever incorporated my own police department. The detective in me took over, and I needed to find out more.

badge02The badge, it turns out, belonged to James G. Miller (1876-1941), whose career with the Cranston Police spanned over four decades. Before Cranston was formally incorporated as a city and had a police force, it was a town patrolled by a variety of constables working under the supervision of a Town Sergeant.

Miller worked as one of these constables beginning in the late 1890s, and when the city did officially establish its police force in 1910, Miller was one of the original 10 patrolmen sworn into it. By 1912 Miller was serving as the department’s first detective.

Three years later in 1915, Detective James Miller became Brother James Miller, as he joined Doric Lodge No. 38 in Cranston (Initiated: February 10,1915; Passed: May 12,1915; Raised: May 26, 1915; and signed By-Laws: June 9, 1915).

Some 14 years after signing the Doric Lodge No. 38 by-laws, Brother Miller completed his accession through the ranks of the police department, and in 1929 he was named as the sixth Chief of the Cranston Police.

badge03Which now brings us to his Chief’s badge with the square and compass. Based on what is known of the Cranston Police during the period of Brother Miller’s time as chief, the pictured badge did not fit the specifications set forth by the city or police department. The inconsistent styling of this badge vis-à-vis what was issued to and worn by members of the Cranston Police at that time would lead one to believe that the Masonic badge was what is commonly referred to as a "presentation badge," or a gift not necessarily meant for every day wear, but for display or as a keepsake.

Armed with that knowledge, this detective was led to the voluminous archives of Doric Lodge No. 38, which are now maintained by Harmony Lodge No. 9, in search of any evidence of when or why this badge was presented to Brother Chief Miller. Much to my dismay, after a long and thorough search through the minutes and records of Doric Lodge from 1929 to 1941, I did not locate any entry that would allude to the badge being presented to him in, or by his own lodge. With no discernable markings on the badge by its craftsman, its origins remain somewhat mysterious.

badge05My search for light, however, was not entirely fruitless. I did locate an entry in the records of Doric Lodge commemorating the death of Brother Miller. Unlike the other death announcements in the lodge records around the time of Brother Miller’s death, his entry was accompanied by a short biography: "Brother Miller was appointed to the Cranston Police as a special patrolman in 1898 and was later appointed to the regular force and in 1913 became the department’s [sic] inspector in charge of all investigations. In January 1929, he became chief of the department and served as such until his death." The uniqueness of this entry reflects the admiration and respect that the lodge had for Brother Miller and his position within the Cranston Police Department and is an appropriate tribute to a life of service spent in the quarries of Freemasonry and in the protection of the citizens of Rhode Island. Additionally, I discovered that besides Brother Miller, two others of the original 10 patrolmen sworn into the Cranston Police upon its formation in 1910 would take the oath and obligation of a Master Mason: Officer Henry Clay Debow joined Doric Lodge No. 38 in 1920 and officer George Smith joined Jenks Lodge No.24 in 1922.

Close to a century separates the time that brothers and fellow Cranston Police officers; Miller, Debow, Smith, and I took our respective oaths, one on the Masonic altar and the other to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution on behalf of its citizens. Upon some personal introspection into the influences of Freemasonry on the earliest members of my police department, I pray that today I live up to the legacy that they set forth in applying the teachings of our Craft to our vocation.

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By: Brother Daniel Lee