Ball State University was first established as the Eastern Division, Indiana State Normal School, in 1918. Unarmed security guards were employed 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 bought and then donated the land for the school. The school kept 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 that 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 came from the night watchmen, who completed the roster of the traffic, safety, and security personnel.
The night watchmen had kept law and order for sometime prior to Osborn's arrival. 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 specific window at the plant. Whichever watchman saw and responded to the light may have walked or driven in a Heat Plant truck or on three-wheeled motorcycles. The responding watchman would receive the message taken by the man on duty at the Heat Plant and attend to the call. At this time, the Heat Plant was the main hub for traffic through campus. Nearly all buildings faced the plant at that time. The red light was placed in this building for that reason.
Pay for the watchmen at this time in history was small compared to current salaries. According to Charles Donati (one of the watchmen), the watchmen worked 106 hours every two weeks and earned $0.70 an hour for nine hours for five days, then eight hours one day, and one day off. They earned $0.05 pr hour extra for over 106 hours.
In the early stages of the campus police, both before and during Osborn's tenure as chief, police officers made “clock rounds” to every building on campus twice per night (only done by third shift police officers). The requirement for the officers was to check the security of all outside doors, all mechanical rooms for fire safety, and each floor for security. At various locations in each building, a time clock key was installed, and the officer carried a clock. At the key location, the key was inserted into the clock and the clock recorded the time and location of the key. At the end of the shift, the recording tapes would be removed from the clock by the supervisor and stored for the official record. This type of security system was discontinued in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
The 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. There were four rooms: the chief’s office, the kitchen, the bathroom, and the radio/office room. The police department existed at that location for approximately eight years, and it was also at this location that the Ball State Police Department installed its first police radio. This eliminated the need for the red light at the Heat Plant. There was a base radio in the barracks, portable radios for the officers to use, and a radio in Chief Osborn’s 1957 Ford. In addition, there was a three-wheeled motor scooter the police department used. Edwin Ritchey, who was in charge of fire safety, extinguisher checks, and other safety issues on campus, primarily used the scooter. All other officers were generally assigned to foot patrol.
During the 1960s, Ball State Teachers College became Ball State University. At the same time, the Ball State University Police Department was officially formed. At first, the officers did not carry weapons and had basic functions as they did when they were security guards. During this time, the police department obtained two vehicles (one new and one used). Because of the new vehicles, the department started transporting people to the health center and the hospital. Chief Osborn thus instituted the first stage of ambulance service to the university community.
The initial service consisted of a station wagon with an ambulance cot and first aid equipment. All officers were trained in basic first aid. Ninety percent of the calls were transported to the Ball Health Center; the remaining 10 percent were at the discretion of the officer if transport was needed to Ball Memorial Hospital. The success of this service led to the subsequence higher level of service supported by a full ambulance service. The ambulance and associated equipment were housed in a special garage at 305 N. College Avenue, a later home of the Ball State Police Department. The training for the officers increased to operate the ambulance; not all officers were certified for this service. This service was discontinued when the Delaware County EMS began.
During this era, Chief Osborn also initiated an investigative unit. The first full-time investigator was Herb Estes. The unit evolved into a two person operation after a few years and was the predecessor to the detective division of later years.
Another duty of the Ball State Police Department during this time was the management of the service building motor pool when the university was closed during the evenings, weekends, and holidays. When employees needed a vehicle for university business, they scheduled the vehicle use at the Administration Building (Office of Business). Each day a police officer would go to the business office in the Administration Building to obtain a list of the scheduled vehicles and names of the employees receiving a vehicle. When the university was closed, all vehicles would be obtained at the campus police department and these vehicles would be returned to the campus police department. After the motor pool vehicles were returned, they were taken to the service building, which is now called West Quad. The garage was on the north side of this building, in the basement. The gas pumps were located north of the service building in the campus drive and west of the Ball Gym. This service was discontinued in the early 1970s.
Enrollment at the university increased, and the demands for service 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 university 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 traditional “security” functions were given over to civilian personnel.
The university continued to expand, and 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, previously owned by Dr. Quick. This home had a basement for the officers' use, a chief’s office, radio communications room, and a front office. In the basement, the officers had personal lockers, a fully furnished lunch room with a range (stove) and running water, plus an area to reload ammunition for firearms training.
When the police station was moved to Talley and University (southeast corner), there was a very apparent public service mission. The small room that overlooked University Avenue had a location for public help/information service. Visitors could come to the front porch to get campus directions; the radio operator could open the porch window and provide information that could help them to get around the campus and find what they were looking for.
The office at this location became known as the Office of the 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. She worked part time and was called in for evening/weekend hours when that officer was needed on campus. This home was used for several years until it was slated to be torn down.
The Ball State Police Department was then moved to 305 N. College, an existing and renovated home which Ed Sollars and family had previously owned. The new building was much larger than the former one. By this time, Bob Reed had
assumed command of the Police Department as the new police chief, and Annabelle Epperson was in charge of the office. This building remained the home of the University Police Department for more than 30 years.
During Reed’s tenure, a horse patrol was instituted. Two horses were initially purchased and were housed in a barn where the present Alumni Center is located, near the football stadium. 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. The horse barn was torn down during Wehner's administration, and the horses were retired.
Also during Wehner’s administration, two canines were purchased for use by the police department. The first police dogs were purchased in the mid-1990s. Canines at the Ball State Police Department are trained for 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. Burton is only the fourth chief the Ball State Police has had. Since 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.
The department has grown and progressed so that it is a police department in every sense of the word. The officers patrol not only the university property but also the surrounding community. The police vehicles are equipped with laptop computers, and their whereabouts are known to the dispatchers by a global positioning system. The radio system allows communications with all local emergency service personnel and the Indiana State Police. Already to have been completed is the capability of having radio communications with dispatch in any part of the state via the Hoosier SAFE-T Network.
Currently, the Ball State Police Department has specialized units in the area of detectives, K-9, and bicycle patrol. The department offers continual training to its officers on a wide variety of topics. Its officers have developed expertise in areas such as criminal investigations, crime prevention, community policing, physical tactics, bicycle patrol, firearms, drug recognition, standardized field sobriety testing, police baton, chemical weapons, and tasers. The department has grown from a security department of five men to a full functioning police department with 31 sworn officers.
In March 2007, the University Police Department moved into its new location at 200 N. McKinley. The university renovated building and made it into a modern functioning police department, equipped with the latest technology in the dispatch center, video surveillance systems, training rooms, and wireless Internet technology.