BLUFFTON — To recognize the service of law enforcement during National Peace Officers Memorial Day, the Bluffton Police Department will be dedicating a new “Wall of Honor” display at 7 p.m. next Wednesday, May 15.
“I wanted the opportunity for us to preserve the historical value of the police department. Part of that is to let people know who worked here,” Bluffton Chief Ryan Burkholder said.
Burkholder said he came up with the idea as a way to highlight the work — both past and present — of the town’s police department. While dedicating the wall, the department will also be adding to it by honoring two of its former chiefs, recognizing the two Bluffton officers who died in the line of duty and announcing the local officers worthy of the officer of the year and the chief’s leadership awards.
Officers honored will have their head-shots posted on the wall, along with a few paragraphs explaining their achievements.
Those past chiefs to be honored include Chief William Gaiffe, who retired in 1973 after service for more than 17 years, and Chief Rick Skilliter, who served for 27 years.
Burkholder said during the ceremony, the police department will also “retire” Skilliter’s badge number in the same way a professional sports franchise may do with highly-regarded athletes upon their retirements.
As for the two Bluffton officers who died in the line of duty, Burkholder said part of the wall will be devoted to their remembrance. Owen Grandstaff, who died on March 26, 1927, had been trying to arrest a suspect for passing a bad check when the suspect escaped. Grandstaff died of a heart attack during the resulting foot chase, Burkholder said. Frank Hermann — the second Bluffton office — died when he was struck by a vehicle on September 5, 1929.
The last portion of the memorial is to be used to honor existing officers, Burkholder said. Every year, the department awards the chief’s leadership award to recognize an officer who goes above and beyond his or her duty. Last year, the award was given to Sgt. Tyler Hochestetler and his K-9 officer, Kato. The police department also will hand out the “officer of the year” award. The recipient of the award is chosen by the department’s officers.
“I’ve felt that we needed to have a place to recognize officers that have gone above and beyond. As my third year as chief, I felt it was the right time during police memorial week,” Burkholder said.
Other events to be held during National Peace Officers Memorial Day include a remembrance ceremony to be held by Lima police officers and Allen County deputies at the Fraternal Order of Police Hall, 750 W. Robb Ave., on May 15, at noon.
National Peace Officers Memorial Day, celebrated every May 15, was established by Congress in 1962.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.