Ball State University was first established as the Indiana State Normal School in 1918 and employed unarmed security guards to check and lock the buildings. The school continued to grow and was renamed Ball State Teachers College in the 1920s in honor of the Ball family who purchased and then donated the land for the school. The school continued to keep the security guards with basically the same functions.
The director of Traffic, Safety, and Security’s first office was located in a converted closet off the Registrar’s area in the Administration Building. The security staff at the time consisted of Chief Thomas Osborn, Dr. Boyer (who dealt with faculty members who received tickets), David Hinkle (a graduate student who administered tickets to students) and a clerk. The tickets were issued by the Night Watchmen, who completed the roster of the Traffic, Safety, and Security personnel.
The Watchmen consisted of Charles Donati, Ottis Blair, Frank Majors, Kenneth Fullhart, Ernest Mohler, a graduate student, and two retired firemen, Sgt. Edwin Richey and Fred Wilson. As the Watchmen were needed during the day or night, Assistant Dean of Students Ken Collier would telephone the Heat Plant and have workers turn on a red light in a designated window at the plant. The responding Watchman would receive the message taken by the employee on duty at the Heat Plant and attend to the call. During this time, the Heat Plant was the main hub for traffic through campus and nearly all buildings faced it.
Pay for the Watchmen at this time was small compared to current salaries. According to Charles Donati, they worked 106 hours every two weeks and earned 70 cents an hour.
The current Police Department at Ball State began its journey in 1957, when President John R. Emens was in office. On March 12, 1957, President Emens hired Osborn as the first director of Traffic, Safety, and Security at Ball State Teachers College. The director reported to Public Affairs Officer Oliver Bumb who, in turn, reported to the President’s Cabinet.
By 1958, the need for space for the police department continued to grow, and the department moved into a barracks-style building located between Burris School and Elliott Hall. The building consisted of four rooms: The Chief’s office, the kitchen, the bathroom, and the radio/office room. The Police Department existed at this location for approximately eight years and is where they installed their first police radio.
During the 1960s, Ball State Teachers College became known as Ball State University and at the same time, the Ball State University Police Department was officially formed. During this period the officers did not carry weapons and had the same basic functions as they did when they were security guards. With the official forming of the Department, Chief Osborn was able to also institute the first stages of an ambulance and Investigative unit for the University Community.
The first full-time investigator for the department was Herb Estes. The unit evolved into a two-person operation after a few years and was the predecessor to the current Detective Division.
When enrollment at the university increased, the demands for services resulted in an increase of personnel. These factors, in addition to the war protests and civil unrest of the 1960s, led the Indiana legislature to pass Statute 20-12 Chapter 3.5 in July 1971. This bill gave state colleges and universities the authority to create full functioning police departments. Because of this legislation, the Ball State Police Department began the transition into what it is today. They also began to perform more of the traditional police functions, and many of the “security” functions were given over to civilian personnel.
As the university continued to expand, so did the police department. After its eight years of being located in the barracks, the department was moved to a small house at the corner of Talley and University Avenues.
The office at this location became known as the Office of Campus Police and Traffic Safety. There were three shifts of officers as well as an office staff, run by Pricilla Haskett. It was also at this location where the first female dispatcher was employed at the Ball State Police Department: Joy Brownewell.
The Department was later moved to 305 N. College, where Bob Reed would assume command as the new police chief. This building remained the home of the University Police Department for more than 30 years. During Reed’s tenure, a horse patrol was instituted with two horses purchased and housed in a barn where the present Alumni Center is located. These horses were a visible part of patrol for the police department and were extremely useful, especially when large crowds of people were present at events. The horse patrol continued through much of Joseph Wehner's time as Chief of Police and were retired only when the barn was torn down.
During Chief Wehner’s administration, two canines were purchased for use by the police department with the first being purchased in the mid 1990s. Canines at the Ball State Police Department are trained for both drug detection and patrol use. The dual-purpose dogs are used hundreds of times per year for drug detection, tracking, and searches.
In 2002, First Sgt. Gene Burton was promoted to the position of Chief of Police and was only the fourth to hold this position. During his time as Chief, Burton supported a dramatic increase in quality and consistency in training and led the department to be the first accredited college police department in Indiana.
Over the years the department has grown and progressed so that it is a police department in every sense of the word. Today’s officers patrol not only the university property but also the surrounding community.
The department offers continual training to its officers on a wide variety of topics. Officers have developed expertise in areas such as criminal investigations, crime prevention, community policing, physical tactics, firearms, standardized field sobriety testing, and tasers. The department has grown from a security department of five men to a full functioning police department with 33 sworn officers.
In March 2007, the University Police Department was moved to its current location at 200 N. McKinley. The renovated building was transformed into a modern functioning police department, equipped with the latest technology for its dispatch center, video surveillance systems, training rooms, and offices.
In 2014, Chief James A. Duckham assumed command of the University Police Department. During his tenure, Chief Duckham has made community policing a top priority for the department. Officers regularly participate in programs designed to increase police and community interactions. Officers use both traditional and non-traditional methods to increase positive community interactions. One of the most successful non-traditional programs is the department’s Lunch with a Cop program. Since its inception in 2014 over 1300 students have had lunch with a Ball State University police officer.
The Ball State University Police Department continues to be a professional law enforcement agency serving the needs of the Ball State community.