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Published: Monday, 6/9/2003

New badges mark B.G. police centennial

Lt. Ken Fortney pins on one of the new badges. Lt. Ken Fortney pins on one of the new badges.

BOWLING GREEN - Police Chief Thomas Votava ordered his officers to turn in their badges.

And then he handed out new ones.

In observance of the department's 100th anniversary Sunday, officers are wearing newly designed badges. The shield is dominated by a likeness of the city's police building.

Chief Votava said the new design was aided by input from the force.

“It's an excellent selection ...,” the chief said of the new badge. “It shows the current police facility. It is the symbol of the city, it is the symbol of the department.”

The beginning of the Bowling Green police force started with passage of the police ordinance on Dec. 26, 1887.

But it wasn't until June 15, 1903, that the first police chief, Joseph Reed, was appointed and the department was officially created.

Since then, law enforcement has seen a lot of changes, Lt. Bradley Biller said.

At one time, the Bowling Green “department” consisted of two sworn officers. It now employs 42 officers and 15 civilian employees who respond to about 30,000 calls a year. They can be seen patrolling in cars, on bicycles, and often on foot.

The department was one of the first agencies in northwest Ohio to receive its accreditation and one of the first agencies nationwide to require all officers to have at least an associate's degree from college.

The badge commemorates the department's 100th year. The badge commemorates the department's 100th year.

“We went from using a call box on the corner of Main and Wooster, where people could ring for an officer, to having a rather sophisticated communications network,” Lieutenant Biller said. “There have been a lot of changes.”

Throughout the department's history, only one officer has been killed in the line of duty. Patrolman Ralph Castner died April 23, 1931.

Patrolman Castner was felled seven days before in downtown Bowling Green during a confrontation with Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd and some of his henchmen. Floyd fled after the shooting.

The centennial gave the department a chance to change a badge that, they admit, was not very distinctive. The old shield, which bore an eagle and a small version of the city seal, is a common design among police agencies and even security companies, Lieutenant Biller said.

“I think they've been looking for an excuse for a long time to do something about the badges,” Mayor John Quinn said. “The 100-year anniversary was a good time to do it.”

Chief Votava admitted handing in the badge he had worn for his 32 years on the police force was bittersweet.

But he said the officers seem to like the new badges - ones that easily identify officers as being from Bowling Green.

“I guess in 100 years from now, the police chief can hand out another set of badges,” he said.

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