RCMP members cherish their service medals and they are passed down from generation to generation. Unfortunately sometimes criminals target these medals in residential burglaries. They often search for cash and jewellery because they are easy to conceal and carry. A clean RCMP Long Service Medal can fetch more than of $1,000 when sold.

I am a collector of police memorabilia and often troll auction networks such as eBay in search of unique or historical items. In the past several years, I have seen a number of Long Service Medals offered for sale on eBay. Being inquisitive, the old investigator in me kicks into high gear. I wonder whether the recipient of the medal has passed away with the item no longer of interest to the estate. And I wonder whether the medal might have been stolen from the member’s residence.

Photographs of the medal that accompany the auction listing often shed clues as to its origin. Unbeknownst to many members, Long Service Medals have the recipient’s surname and initials engraved along the edge. Over the years, I have tracked three separate instances where stolen medals have ended up on eBay. One was taken from a member on the Musical Ride while touring the United States. And the two others were taken during residential breakins or thefts. Curiously, each of the victims was known to me. In all cases, I was able to reunite the medal with the member and derived great satisfaction in doing so.

So what can be done to address these problems?
In our homes, we should ensure that medals are securely stored in a safe; we should find more effective hiding places; and we should keep our valuables out of sight. Stolen medals, with personal identifiers, can be added to CPIC.

And what can be done if a Long Service Medal is spotted on eBay? If you’re suspicious, review the auction listing and take a close look at any photographs. But before pointing an accusatory finger at a seller, remember that the seller may have purchased the medal quite innocently from a third party, such as a commercial purveyor of military and police memorabilia.

All eBay auction listings allow people to check a tick-box to report what they believe to be a listing violation. This will initiate an internal investigation by eBay to see whether the item violates a listing policy. Indeed, eBay has a long list of police-related items that cannot be sold. These include “RCMP uniforms or components of those uniforms.”

If the RCMP reports an item to eBay as a uniform component that cannot be sold, it will be removed.

Regarding cases involving RCMP medals, Michael Carson, eBay Inc.’s senior manager of Global Policy and Regulation Management, said,
“I think the best first step would be for the family to try to contact the seller directly. At the bottom of the listing is an “Ask Question” link and that may be the most efficient way to resolve the issue. If they don’t get a response, we could also reach out to the seller and provide them with information from the owner to try to facilitate contact. Lastly, if they believe the item is stolen or otherwise not legally for resale, you can have law enforcement contact us directly to initiate an investigation.”

In the three cases I was involved in, it turned out that the sellers were all innocent acquirers. More often than not, the medals had been purchased online or at military trade shows.

When advised that the members (or the estate of a deceased member) had been victimized, the sellers were more than willing to end the auctions and return the medals to their rightful owners. This is evidence of the pride Canadians have in their national police force and a recognition of the need to do what’s right.
Reproduced from the Spring 2016 edition of the
RCMP Quarterly. Used with permission.

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