DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Having a police badge get into the wrong hands could be a disaster, but luckily, a missing Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department badge eventually ended up in the right hands.
Those hands belonged to Max Santagata, 10, of Monson, who found the rusting badge last week on Lake Hebron’s muddy bottom. Santagata, accompanied by his mother, Rebecca Santagata, returned the badge to the department last week. The lake is in Monson.
“We really appreciate this young guy doing the right thing by turning the badge in,” Lt. Robert Young of the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department said Tuesday. “A lot of people would have taken it as a souvenir,” he said.
“Police badges and identification in the wrong hands could be used for some wrong purposes so we try to keep a tight handle on where the badges and police IDs are,” Young said. The badge discovered by Santagata wasn’t discovered missing by the department for quite some time because the officer worked only infrequently for the department, he explained.
The part-time deputy had kept his badge in his vehicle. When he changed vehicles he thought the badge was in some items he had taken inside his house, Young said. “He thought he had misplaced it,” he said.
While police were tracking down a suspect in some vehicle break-ins in the Monson area a few years ago, information surfaced that a badge had been taken in one of the break-ins and the burglar had gotten rid of it, according to Young.
The mystery of the missing badge was solved late last week when Max Santagata, whose family owns and operates Lakeshore House, found the badge buried near the public landing.
“My son puts his goggles on and he and his friends go exploring all the time and he found a bunch of stuff,” Rebecca Santagata said Tuesday. She said her son has a collection of items he has found on the bottom of the lake, mostly bottles.
The younger Santagata said Tuesday that he knew he had found a real badge, so he hurried home to show his mother. Although he would liked to have kept the badge for his collection, he said, both he and his mom knew the right thing to do was return it to the sheriff’s department.
Max also found three sets of keys and a cellular telephone in the same location as the badge, but neither he nor his mother had thought of those items as having connections to the badge’s theft. Since then, they have decided they need to turn in those items, which could have stemmed from the burglaries.