By Linda Dillman
A half century has come and gone since Madison Township voters approved a ballot issue in 1971 to create their own police department to patrol urban streets and rural roadways and keep residents safe and secure.
Fifty years later, while the mission is still the same, times and the size of the law enforcement staff has changed.
Madison Township Police Chief Gary York said while a celebration is planned for later this year, township officers kicked off the golden anniversary with a vintage inspired badge they are wearing until the end of the year.
“2022 marks a significant year in Madison Township history,” said York. “One way the officers are commemorating the milestone is by donning ‘throwback’ badges forged to duplicate those worn by the very first Madison Township constables in 1972. We wanted to pay special tribute, and give a nod to those officers who bore the weight of this badge before us, and continue their legacy forward for those officers who will carry this badge after we are gone.”
Before operating its own department, starting in 1968, the township contracted with Groveport for 24-hour a day, seven days a week protection for $30,000 a year. That agreement ended after the ballot issue passed in November 1971.
Levy funds were not specifically set aside to establish the department, which sparked controversy with Franklin County Sheriff Stacy Hall – who submitted a proposal to provide service for the township beginning in 1972 – and residents. The sheriff favored consolidating agencies throughout the county rather than creating more law enforcement entities.
According to news reports of the time, a “hostile” crowd of residents favored establishing a township police department and township trustees Robert Brobst, Worley Rager, and Dewey Shumaker responded by committing $130,000 to create the Madison Township Police Department.
Jim Alexander was hired as the first chief and tasked with creating the department from scratch. Retired Madison Township Police Capt. Dale Bryan served on the first shift in 1972, joining a total staff of five employees. He previously was a member of the Groveport Police Department.
There were no cruisers in 1972, so officers acquired an old emergency squad painted all white with a door decal on the side. According to Bryan in a 2012 interview, there were no pursuits with the makeshift cruiser.
“One time, we pulled up on a call and the people looked at us and said they didn’t call the fire department for a squad – they wanted the police, not a medic,” said Bryan. “About three months later we finally got a cruiser.”
Part of the township’s former fire department complex on College Street in Groveport was walled up half a century ago to provide housing for the new department, much to the chagrin of firefighters who lost recreational space for their pool table.
Over the years, officers were added and levies passed. In 1995, a brand new 9,600 square-foot dedicated law enforcement facility was constructed on Hamilton Road where Greg Ryan served as chief until he retired in 2013. Chuck Stevens was chief of police from 1991-97 and when the new building was built in 1995.
After Ryan, Mike Ratliff was chief from July 2013 until he passed away in June 2014. Then Ken Braden was chief until he left in December 2017 before Gary York—a 30-year veteran of the Groveport Police Department—was hired as chief at the start of 2018.
There were three female officers prior to 1995. Today, the department includes two full time female officers along with Madison Township’s first female sergeant.
“We’ve added three new officers in the last two and a half months and in February, we hired our first naturalized citizen as an officer,” York said. “That’s historic.”