A piece of history comes home

By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Editor

Messenger photos by Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Police Chief Casey Adams poses with the revolver by a portrait of former Groveport Police Chief Al Whipple that hangs in the police department offices.

An old revolver has come home.

The Groveport Police Department received a historical artifact of its past when relatives of legendary Groveport Police Chief Al Whipple recently donated his .38 Smith & Wesson revolver to the department.

Whipple used the gun, which has his name inscribed on it, during his tenure as the city’s police chief from 1966 to 1980.

“In those days police officers furnished their own weapons,” said Groveport Police Chief Casey Adams. “This type of gun was popular among police officers then. It’s in great condition and the only wear marks on it are from the holster.”

Adams said today’s Groveport Police officers are issued 9mm semi-automatic Glock handguns for use while on duty.

The .38 Smith & Wesson revolver used by Groveport Police Chief Al Whipple during his time with the Groveport Police Department from 1966 to 1980.

“The Glocks have a 17 shot capacity while Whipple’s revolver fired six shots,” said Adams.
Adams said the Himler family in Morgan County, who are in-laws of Whipple’s, preserved the gun for many years. He said the family “wanted to return a sense of history back to Groveport.”

The Groveport Police Department plans to clean the gun and place it on public display in a secured glass case in its office lobby. Adams said the display should be ready in about a month.

He said former police chief Roger Adams, who became chief when Whipple retired, and former reserve Groveport policeman Shawn Cleary, both recognized the gun and remember seeing Whipple carry and use it.

Adams said Whipple had a well known reputation for being an excellent and accurate marksman. He noted the revolver’s sight still has a small dab of red fingernail polish on it that helped Whipple focus his aim.

Al Whipple’s name is engraved on the weapon.

“He prided himself on his marksmanship,” said Adams, who then told a story from decades ago illustrating Whipple’s shooting skill.

“Once, after a storm, a tree limb in Hickory Alley fell on a live electric line severely bowing the line,” said Adams. “It was a danger because the limb could knock the live line down to the ground. So Whipple pulled his revolver out and shot the wire severing it at the transformer bringing down the wire. It eliminating the danger from a live wire. It was said he was the best shot in Franklin County.”

Groveport Police Sgt. Ernie Bell recalled two other examples of Whipple’s marksmanship.

“He was out at the qualification range and he cut a slot in the target,” said Bell. “Then he inserted a business card in the slot sideways with the thin edge of the short end of the card exposed. He hit the card from 30 feet away.”

Another time Bell was at the qualification range and his shots were going low and to the left.

“I thought there was a problem with my gun,” said Bell. “Al Whipple said, ‘Let me see that gun,’ and boom, boom, he fired six shots that all hit within two inches of each other on the head in the target. He handed it back to me and said, ‘Ain’t nothin’ wrong with this gun, boy.’ He was a legend.”

Adams said Whipple lived in the community and was an early promoter of the concept of community policing where officers interact positively with citizens on a regular basis.
Of the revolver returning home, Adams said, “It’s nice to have this piece of history coming back. How many other police agencies have something like this? Our officers like seeing it.”

Whipple and Groveport police history
For much of its history, Groveport relied on the traditional part time town marshal system (where in the 19th century part of the marshal’s pay was that he could keep any stray hog or other animal he found roaming around the village) for its policing.

That era ended in 1966 when the village hired its first full time police chief, Al Whipple. Whipple, first served alone, but in a few years he and the village government built the police department into a fully manned staff. Whipple was known for his straight forward demeanor, fairness, and his ability to read situations. Whipple served as chief until 1980, when he retired after suffering a back injury while making an arrest. He passed away in 2001 at the age of 68.

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