Matter of pride: Benton police wearing newly designed badge

By Wayne Bryan Published August 14, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: William Harvey

On Aug. 4, the Benton Police Department unveiled a new unique badge design that will be worn by the city’s police officers, including Larry Applegarth, shown above. The new design replaces a generic shield with one including an image of the Saline County Courthouse.

BENTON — Benton Police have revealed the end of a confidential operation, known only to Chief Kirk Lane and Capt. Jeff Besancon. On Aug. 4, the Benton Police Department unveiled a new unique badge design that will be worn by the city’s police officers.

The new design replaces a generic shield that has been in use by the department for a long time.

“We got to looking, and it seems this generic badge has been in use at least as far back as the 1860s,” said Lt. Kevin Russell. “It was a badge design that was used by so many other departments. We have been wanting something unique to Benton for a while.”

The shields the new officers wear on their chests carry a familiar image for Benton residents, the Saline County Courthouse.

“The old badge had nothing reflective of the community,” Russell said. “The Saline County Courthouse is an iconic image that is recognized by local citizens and will be familiar to others because it was also featured in various movies over the years. It will be something that connects our officers with the community, and we hope it gives them and the residents a sense of pride.”

The project to create a new badge has been ongoing since the spring, involving Capt. Besancon’s first design suggestions, working with Chief Lane, and a final design from Symbol Arts — an Ogden, Utah-based designer and manufacturer of badges, medals, awards and other police and military items.

“I didn’t know about it until I was handed the artwork to make our announcement,” Russell said.

Along with an embossed image of the courthouse, the badge carries the words “City of Benton” above the image and “Police Est. 1837” below the image.

The officer’s rank and a badge number are under the word “Police.” The badge number will be the employee number and is unique to the officer. For many police departments where badge numbers have been used for generations, there can be major importance placed on the identifying number. In some of those departments, numbers have been retired, similar to star athletes’ uniform numbers that are not used after their playing days are over.

In some departments, such as the New York Police Department, numbers can be handed down from one generation to another.

Benton Police included some background about badges in the department’s press release:

“The first ‘police badges’ were actually the coat of arms worn by knights. The coat of arms identified the knight and his allegiance to justice and chivalry. Similar to police officers of today who swear to serve and protect, knights from the medieval era were often sworn in and asked to ‘protect the weak, defenseless [and] helpless, and fight for the general welfare of all.’

“Most officers you see wear their badges on their uniform on an area above their left chest pocket. Why are they worn here? When an officer takes his oath, he is given a badge, and it is said that it is worn over the heart for two reasons: first, to ever remind them of their pledge to protect; and second, because the left arm was the arm that often held the coat of arms shield of the knights.”

The new badges are being given to all existing officers. New officers to the department will wear the old style during their probationary period, then will be given their permanent badges in the new style.

The new badges and their design were paid for using money seized from drug operations, Russell said.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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