Madison Police Department honors city’s history with sesquicentennial badge

MADISON — As Madison continues to celebrate its 150th anniversary as an incorporated town, the Madison Police Department is doing their part to honor this piece of the city’s history by wearing a special badge made for the occasion.

According to David Jernigan, Madison’s chief of police, he first got the idea for a sesquicentennial badge from his time serving as part of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office. In 2008, the department celebrated its own 200th anniversary, and Jernigan said the officers wore a special badge for about a year to commemorate the milestone.

When Madison’s sesquicentennial started to draw near, the wheels began turning in Jernigan’s mind for MPD’s first special badge.

“I knew we were having our 150th anniversary—the sesquicentennial—and I said, ‘this would be a good thing,’ so I thought about it way last year because I knew it would take at least six months to order,” he said. “… I like kind of thinking outside the box a little bit and thinking about things that basically spotlight or characterize or highlight what we do, and certainly, this is one of the things we decided to do.”

The sesquicentennial badge, right, differs greatly from the Madison Police Department’s usual badge. (Record Photo/Kendyl Hollingsworth)

The badges were produced in the latter part of 2018 and distributed in about the third week of January. Produced by the Utah-based company SymbolArts, the final design for the badge incorporates a traditional shield shape with the Alabama coat of arms, an eagle at the top and an overall aged look. The words “150th Anniversary,” along with the dates 1869 and 2019, span the bottom of the badge.

“I wanted to have something that looked old,” Jernigan explained. “Of course, I don’t know what a badge looked like back in 1869 … so I worked with the company that made these, and we kind of went back and forth on a couple different kind of styles. I said I want to make sure it says ‘150th Anniversary,’ and I’ve always liked the eagle up at the top.”

Jernigan said he was also inspired by the design of the Cullman Police Department’s badge, which he noticed at a past conference for chiefs of police.

The sesquicentennial badge was not only distributed to officers, though. Jernigan said everyone in the department, from accounts to records personnel to dispatchers, was given one as well.

“Our plans are to retire it at the end of the year, and then that way each person that got one—especially the officers—can keep it as a keepsake,” he added. Jernigan also hopes the badge will serve as a good conversation-starter as they wear it.

While the badge mainly serves to recognize Madison’s 150th anniversary, it has also helped Jernigan and others to reflect on Constable William A. Russell, the only Madison officer to be killed in the line of duty. Russell was assaulted in the line of duty in 1903 and soon succumbed to his injuries. According to a program from last year’s Law Enforcement Memorial Service in Madison County, Russell was attempting to serve a woman court papers for failure to pay for furniture when she struck him in the head with a “heavy stick.” The woman was later charged with murder and sentenced to life in prison. Russell’s name is included in the State of Alabama Law Enforcement Memorial.

Keeping with the department’s dedication to honoring their own history, Jernigan said MPD hopes to gather more information on Russell and honor him at the department in the form of a small memorial. “It might be something that we put in a shadowbox or something like that and hang it in the lobby so when people come in, they can know that there was a police officer constable here in the city who, even though it was over 100 years ago, gave his life enforcing the law here in the city.”

Until then, today’s police officers in Madison can wear the sesquicentennial badge as a way to honor both the city’s legacy and their own.

We’re proudly wearing it, and of course, all this year we’ll be celebrating the 150th anniversary,” Jernigan said.

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