By Joe Southern
Capt. Robin Frazier of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t wear a lot of hats on the job but it’s not because he couldn’t.
His office is lined with hundreds of police hats from around the world. The hats and helmets line shelves, are stacked on cabinets and generally piled in about every nook and cranny in his office. Many more are in storage because he simply doesn’t have enough space to display them all.
“My wife said that ain’t coming in the house,” he said.
Frazier started out collecting law enforcement patches. Initially his goal was to get one highway patrol patch from each state, which he easily did. At the time he was in the middle of his 31-year career with the Texas Department of Public Safety. It was while he was working as a trooper in the 1990s that he began collecting headwear, and even then that wasn’t his goal.
When a friend of his from the Rosenberg Police Department mentioned he was taking a trip to England, he asked him to bring back a Bobbie whistle. He brought back some other memorabilia along with the name of an officer he could correspond with to obtain a whistle. They corresponded and began swapping items. Eventually Frazier got a whistle and a Bobbie helmet. From there the game was on.
It didn’t take Frazier long to discover that collecting police patches and other items is a common hobby of law enforcement officers worldwide. Items from Texas – especially the famed Texas Rangers – are like gold in collecting circles. As Frazier discovered friends and colleagues making international travel plans, he often sent them with a little care package that included a letter, pictures, patches and other collectibles. They would usually return with a hat and/or other collectibles. If they didn’t have a hat, they usually had the name and address of someone who would trade hats.
“I would send Texas stuff … and get hats from all over the world,” he said.
Quite often Frazier would exchange a Stetson for a police hat or helmet. Frazier did his collecting the old fashioned way in the days before email and the Internet were really viable. He never purchased any of the hats in his collection, having traded for all of them.
At first he collected the Bobbie helmets from England and then started getting different hats from across Europe. He even traded behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, obtaining some from Russia and other countries in the former USSR. His collection is now global, coming from each inhabited continent on the planet.
Frazier did most of his collecting while with the DPS and as a deputy in Precinct 4 of the Fort Bend County Constable’s Office. Frazier has backed off collecting hats since following Sheriff Troy Nehls to the sheriff’s office four years ago.
“I don’t have anyplace to put them,” he said.
At his previous offices, “hats would fall on people’s desks,” he said.
As Frazier received each hat, he would document where it came from and how it was obtained. His hobby led to many friendships over the years.
“I developed a good relationship with the people I communicated with,” he said.
He estimates he has about 200 hats in his collection. Along the way he has become something of an expert on law enforcement headgear. He said there are three basic types of hats: Campaign (trooper style) hats, driver caps and derby style. He said there are typically three styles of helmets: Coxcomb, ball top and rose top.
In addition to hats, Frazier still has a large collection of patches and other items. He is also the designer of his favorite patches, the ones currently worn by the sheriff’s office and the precinct 4 constables office.
When it comes to police hats, Frazier is proud to say that there is only one state in the world that uses cowboy hats: Texas. No wonder they’re so sought after by law enforcement collectors around the world!