No. 7173: sharing the legacy of a badge


For three decades, Deputy William Villamil wore badge no. 7173 with pride.

So when he retired last week, laid his service firearm on the table and unclipped the badge from his uniform, he could have walked away, and as is customary, another deputy would have been assigned Villamil’s badge number.

Instead, however, something extraordinary happened: The badge number was passed to another Villamil who would carry the honor.

Villamil’s son, Deputy Aaron Villamil, who’s served at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station these past four years, stopped his father in mid-explanation about the protocol of retiring badges.

“He said, ‘I want to wear the same badge as you. I want to wear your badge. Do you think I can get it?’” the elder Villamil recalled, filled with emotion as only a father could be.

“I am so proud that’s what he wanted,” he said.

Father & son

So, on the morning of March 29, the father and son went  to the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department Employee Service Center, in the Sherman Block building  on Ramona Boulevard in East Los Angeles, for one last duty — retiring the badge.

The elder Villamil began his law enforcement career on Sept. 16, 1988. The younger Villamil graduated from Valencia High School in 2011, and was hired by the LASD in 2015.

On March 29, the transfer of a well-worn deputy sheriff’s badge was handed in heirloom fashion — more like a well-worn hockey sweater than a cold piece of metal — from father to son.

“I went this morning to Sheriff’s Personnel to turn in my badge and ID for my credentials as a retired deputy sheriff,” the elder Villamil said.

“I started my career in Law Enforcement Sept. 16, 1988, and ended it today. My son Aaron was with me when I turned in my credentials, and then he exchanged his badge for mine,” he said.

SCV residents

William Villamil watched his son grow up in Santa Clarita, where the boy became a young man who signed on with the LASD Explorers program, then got assigned to the Pitchess Detention Center off The Old Road.

For the elder deputy, becoming a law enforcement officer was a family affair.

“My grandfather was a policeman in Cuba,” he said.

For the last part of his service, William Villamil worked at the Santa Clarita Courthouse.

And, although the pace inside the courthouse proved somewhat slower compared to assignments that see their share of foot chases and tussles with suspects, Villamil is retiring with his share of sensational incidents.

“There were shots fired at us,” he said, recalling his assignment in Los Angeles for the 1992 riots.

Badge culture

But William was honored be able to keep his exact badge in use, as opposed to encased in a lucite plastic material for display purposes only, which is a standard option for a deputy who’d like to keep his or her badge after retirement.

Since looking into the prospect of being allowed to hand his badge down to his son, William discovered a culture of sorts surrounding deputy badges.

“A lot of guys like to have double digits or triple digits,” he said. “They can trade their badge in for a lower number.”

Single-digit badge numbers are, of course, highly coveted.

There was one deputy, William said, who was offered a badge with the number 666, which because the number is written in the Book of Revelation of the New Testament as representing the mark of “beast” — that deputy asked for an alternative badge number.

Retirement luncheon

On March 26, a retirement luncheon was held for Villamil and two other retiring deputies at the Santa Clarita Courthouse.

Stephanie English, Santa Clarita Valley senior deputy to county Supervisor Kathryn Barger, was on hand to officially say goodbye.

“The level of knowledge and detail you have to have to do your jobs properly and carefully is very intimidating to most of us,” she told the luncheon guests. “We especially love it out here in Santa Clarita because so many of you live and work out here and know this community very well, and we really appreciate that.

“We really just want to recognize your many years of dedication and service to this community,” English said.

English handed out plaques to each of the retirees.  

What pleased William Villamil most as he held his plaque, was that this son was there to share it with him.

Three decades

Many of the well-wishers congratulating Villamil couldn’t help reflecting on three decades of commitment.

“It was a great run for me, I met a lot of good people along the way,” the retiring Villamil said. “Now (I’m) passing the torch to my son.”

And the father and son are now being reunited, in the professional sense, at the SCV Sheriff’s Station. By going through the process in East L.A., the elder Villamil now qualifies to work as part of the part-time deputy program, allowed to put in a maximum of 120 days in a year.

He has a new badge for his new position, offering him a second badge that he could one day pass on.

Only time will tell.

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On Twitter @jamesarthurholt

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