What's in a badge number?

February 3, 2010 3:21:53 AM PST
They are three numbers so steeped in symbolism that in Texas you can't get them on a personalized license plate. They're also the numbers on a Houston police officer's badge, but he wears it as a family honor. Welcome to Carl Black's world. He's a Houston police officer and when he walks into a restaurant or a room, he gets noticed. It's the story of the man who wears the badge number 666.

Black requested the badge number when he joined HPD 20 years ago, requesting the same badge number his late grandfather Lloyd Black once wore as a motorcycle officer. To Carl Black, it was honoring his family's rich tradition of service in law enforcement. To those on the wrong side of the badge, it has another meaning.

"I don't know what they actually think," said Black. "Some of them won't even talk to me. I get the information I need and they're ready to get away from me and go to jail. They're ready to get out of the car."

The biblical significance of the number goes back to the Book of Revelations and its description of the antichrist. It's in Verse 18: If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast for it is man's number. His number is 666.

"I've had other people call me Damien from The Omen book. Things like that," said Black.

He is assigned to the HPD Sex Offender Division. His partner is Officer Ricardo Rojas Garcia.

"I joke around with him. When I first started working with him, I said I'm going to have to see a priest and get blessed because I'm working with you," said Garcia.

Speaking of that, Black has been asked to leave a church. He was looking for a suspect at the time.

"Of course he wasn't there, but the preacher came down and he said, 'Excuse me, but could you please leave. I don't want that number in my church,' which is fine with me," said Black.

His wife, Deann Black, encountered a similar objection years ago on their wedding day. The groom's cake was complete with badge number.

"Well, the church had a conniption and did not want it on the premises, didn't want it there. But I told them it's just a number," said Deann.

The bride won and the cake was served. It is a number, but one that honors the memory of Carl Black's grandfather. And if one day anyone in his family wants to carry on the police tradition and request the same badge number, Black will pass it on. But they'll still have to be prepared for the reactions.

Officer Black has about a dozen relatives involved in law enforcement, including several in HPD, none of whom are eligible to use the same badge number.