STB: Hiawatha Chief on mission to bring back badge from 1950's

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HIAWATHA, Kan. (WIBW) -- An officer's badge is often the first piece people use to identify law enforcement on scene.

This week, we - quite literally - salute Hiawatha's badge from the fifties and the man behind the mission to bring it back.

"Everything we do in law enforcement is always steep with tradition," Defore said.

Chief John Defore has been at the Hiawatha Police Dept. for more than six years, in law enforcement for 26 and the vintage badge went into retirement before he was even born.

"Back then, with the exception of the center seal, it was all punched out of a press." Defore explains the differences between the badges - old and new.

After he saw the 50's era hardware on display in the city hall museum, recently set up by the city clerk, Defore knew he had to get it recommissioned.

"This is Hiawatha and this badge represents the pride we have because it's so unique it's to only us," DeFore said.

The Topeka Police Dept. and Shawnee Co. Sheriff's Office wear one of a kind badges and Defore says it's time Hiawatha followed suit while staying true to their history. City Commissioners agree.

"Hiawatha's very much involved in bringing back history, we're such a historical town, and we take pride in doing that," Hiawatha Utility Commissioner Toni Hull said.

"An officer's badge is extremely important," Defore exclaimed.

For Chief DeFore, it's not only about recognizing the history of Hiawatha, but also preserving the memory of people who made this city great, like Michael Thompson.

"That's a fallen brother," Defore explained, "and I've got people that still, to this day, will walk into the police department and want to talk about Mike," DeFore said.

Much like he did to install this memorial for mike, Chief Defore is asking for public donations to fund the badge revival.

Defore says, "to bring back a piece of history and make that part of our tradition - that's phenomenal."

To Hull, Defore's dedication to the project is another example of his service.

"I have to say we're extremely fortunate to have him," Hull said, "The Chief goes out of his way to do numerous things."

And for Defore, it's another way to show how, after time in five law enforcement agencies in two states, he's found a home in Hiawatha.

"I'll never leave," Defore said.

It will cost a little more than $1,500 to make the switch. If you'd like to help, contact the Hiawatha Police Dept. at (785) 742-2156.