History of the BGPD

City Seal of Bowling GreenThe City Behind the Seal

Bowling Green is a friendly, vital Northwest Ohio community, rich in history, with diverse retail and industrial base.

Founded in 1833, the City's early growth was greatly influenced by the prosperous oil boom era of the late 1800s, evident today through downtown Bowling Green's stately architecture. The city of Bowling Green has a Charter form of government, which provides for an elected Mayor and a full-time appointed Municipal Administrator. There is a City Council composed of seven members. Bowling Green has a population of 30,028 and serves as the county seat for Wood County.

History of the Seal

During the summer of 1969, the police division discussed the possibility of designing a uniform patch that was representative of the city. It was then decided that a city seal contest, open to all students in Bowling Green schools, would be a good way to stimulate interest in the history and development of the city. A study of the actual history of the development of Bowling Green was made by the students in co-operation with the Bowling Green Police Division and the Bowling Green City Schools.

The winner of the contest was a 17 year old senior high school student. The lamp represents education at all levels within the city, including Bowling Green State University. The oil rig represents an earlier era, while the gears and tractors represent the city's strong industrial and agricultural base.

History of the Police Division

Today the Police Division consists of over 43 law enforcement officers, including the Chief, a Deputy Chief, two lieutenants, seven sergeants, a number of patrol officers, and two civil enforcement technicians. In addition, there are eleven police dispatchers, one executive secretary, and a police chaplain. This is quite a change from January 4, 1909, when the city fathers passed an ordinance reducing the police force from three men to two (not including the Chief of police), as it was "thought since the city joined the 'dry' column, there is not much doing in police circles."

On December 26, 1887, City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to "provide for such number of policemen and night watchmen as may be necessary for the good governance of said incorporated village." The one-year appointments were to be made by the mayor and approved by Council. The night watchmen and policemen were to be paid $40 per month, and special and reserve officers paid $1.50 per day "when called into duty."

On February 20, 1888, Council confirmed the appointment of Reason Bates and Abe Ireland as the City's first "Night Police." On September 24, 1888, Bates, Ireland, and Jonathan Harris were named "special police", and Frank Van Camp and William Fowler were appointed as "night policemen."

On August 12, 1902, a "Police Bell" was installed at the intersection of Main and Wooster Streets. Citizens needing a police officer simply rang the bell.

On May 25, 1903, Council decided the police force, "should be presided over by a chief whose title shall be that of 'Chief of Police'." That first chief was to be paid $720 a year. He was to have under him three patrolmen, paid $45 per month. Special patrolmen were to be used, "when the occasion demands it," and still were paid $1.50 per day.

Reed officially became Chief on June 15, 1903. The local newspaper said of Reed, "A more efficient, daring, and conscientious public official never came down the Wood County Pike. If one looks into his steel glinting eyes and sees the calm repose of that big towering figure, which is all wire and nerve, one knows that Bowling Green has the kind of Chief who doesn't know either fright or hesitation…one who has high-tempered brains in an athletic frame kept cool by common sense." The next Police Chief was Reuben M. Ellsworth. He served from January 1914, until May of 1916. Then on June 15, 1916, John R. Koontz, who had worked as a night watchman for 11 years, took over as Chief. Koontz served until February 29, 1928.

Bowling Green's fourth Police Chief, Carl M. "Shorty" Galliher was appointed on May 2, 1928. According to the newspaper, "Galliher was afraid of nothing and lets nothing stop him when he is after someone." He had been well known to the community as a tackle on the high school football team. The newspaper's assessment of Galliher proved almost eerily true. When on April 16, 1931, the 36-year-old police chief was involved in a shootout on South Prospect Street, just north of Clough Street. William "Billy the Baby-Faced Killer" Miller died at the scene. The other convict, Frank (Pretty Boy Floyd) Mitchell, got away. The police officer that was driving the cruiser when Galliher was on the running board, Ralph "Zibe" Castner, was shot and died of his wounds a week later. He had been on the force just over two years. Castner is the only police officer in Bowling Green's history that has been killed in the line of duty.

Galliher served as Police Chief until May 1940. During his term, Officer Frank Rogers was promoted to "Police Sergeant", the Police Division's first. Guy D. Spitler succeeded Galliher in September 1940. Spitler retired on December 26, 1959. Since Spitler's retirement, Bowling Green has seen the appointment of the following Chiefs of Police: John L. "Tommy" Vail (June 19, 1960), Milton J. Nicholson (June 16, 1968), Colburn W Schall (October 15, 1970), Galen L. Ash (October 16, 1978), Thomas E Votava (April 7, 1997), Gary L. Spencer (July 01, 2006) and Bradford M. Conner (March 19, 2011).