BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- The Bowling Green Police Department has promoted several officers to higher ranks in recent months.
Three promotions were approved by the Bowling Green Board of Commissioners on Dec. 18, and four candidates for promotion are awaiting approval from the city, which is scheduled for Feb. 5.
Officers seeking promotions are required to take a written and oral examination, which evaluates their law enforcement knowledge and on-the-job practices, Chief Doug Hawkins said.
After meeting testing requirements, Hawkins said he looks for officers who have displayed high performance over time, have shown strong leadership skills on an individual basis and have team-player values.
They have to support the agency’s values and know how to accept greater responsibility at a higher level, Hawkins said.
“They’re not just good police officers, they’re just good people,” he said.
The Board of Commissioners typically approves all recommendations that have been submitted by the agency’s chief, city human resources director Michael Grubbs said.
City officials look to make sure that people who have been recommended for promotion have met all requirements based on the city’s code and that public promotional procedures have been met, Grubbs said.
“Every promotion impacts (the department),” Hawkins said, and the ultimate goal is to select high-quality people who will work toward keeping the public safe.
Female officers making a difference at BGPD
Her 6-foot-tall frame, official navy blue police uniform, polished leather boots and police gear can sometimes carry an intimidating presence.
But BGPD Maj. Penny Bowles smiles as she sits in her spacious office, with pictures of friends and family displayed throughout. She reflects on the past 17 years that she’s been with the department.
The Board of Commissioners approved her promotion to major at a Dec. 18 ceremony.
“It’s the best job in the world,” Bowles said about working as a BGPD officer. “I’ve been very fortunate to have done a lot of things, it’s kept it fresh.”
Bowles attributes her success to hard work, dedication and the desire to serve the community.
“I really pride myself in being an officer that’s approachable and helpful,” Bowles said.
Born in a rural area of Illinois, Bowles came to Bowling Green to attend Western Kentucky University set on becoming a lawyer. But after completing an internship at the BGPD during college, Bowles realized she wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement.
She was hired as a police officer at the department in January 1996 after graduating from WKU.
“This is a male-dominated field,” Bowles said. “I knew that when I joined.”
But her gender has never been a factor while she’s worked at the BGPD, she said. Bowles attributes her promotion to the hard work she puts in.
“I know that it’s not because (there is) a need to promote a woman,” Bowles said. “I’m very excited about it and I’m proud of it,” she said about her recent promotion.
Working in a male-dominated field is not unfamiliar turf for Bowles, who said she grew up with three brothers. “I try to treat (the guys at BGPD) like my brothers,” she said. “This is my extended family.”
Capt. Melanie Watts, who has been recommended for a promotion to major, is awaiting approval from the board on Feb. 5.
Major is the third-highest rank at BGPD.
Watts has been with the department for 18 years and said that moving up into the various leadership roles has been a gratifying feeling, but it’s also helped her appreciate how much BGPD patrol officers do.
“Promotions are always nice, but really it was watching my officers do something really great” that makes her feel proud, Watts said.
She wants to be accessible to them, but also tries to be a good role model, so they’re prepared to handle various situations on their own too, she said.
Watts said that before joining the BGPD in February 1995, she had plans to work in television production but realized that it wasn’t her top career choice.
She saw an ad in the newspaper advertising for patrol officer and thought, “Wow, that would be really cool.”
To serve and help
Brian Harrell received city commission approval in December for promotion to BGPD captain.
Throughout his 17-year work history at the BGPD, Harrell said he’s learned that with law enforcement work comes a great deal of power, and his message to younger patrol officers is to learn to balance that power and never abuse it, because the ultimate goal is to serve and help the community.
Learning how to disassociate yourself from some of the negative things that officers encounter is important, he said.
“You have to maintain control, but also care about people,” Harrell said.
Harrell’s career at BGPD began in January 1996, when he became a patrol officer. It was a time of spontaneity for Harrell, who said that while patrolling, he realized that anything could happen, but the main priority is to keep the public safe.
“Don’t allow yourself to be surrounded by police friends only,” Harrell said, because it can lead to a single-minded mentality of “it’s us against them,” which is the wrong mindset to have when serving the community.
Maintaining a good balance of faith, family and work helps alleviate some of the stress that comes with the job, Harrell said.
His promotion to captain is a greater responsibility because it comes with displaying leadership to a larger group of people, he said.
“I believe in myself and know that I still have a lot to learn,” he said.
Another officer whose promotion to sergeant was approved last month is Bernie Wiedemer, who has been at the BGPD since June 2007.
Wiedemer said he has tried to serve as a role model to younger patrol officers and has tried to teach them how to deal with everyday stressors that come with law enforcement work.
Witnessing crime and seeing negativity in the community “as a new officer, that can be overwhelming,” Wiedemer said.
“I’m just excited to be given this chance and grateful,” he said.
Officers awaiting approval for promotion next month are Watts, Matt Edwards from sergeant to captain, Jason Scott from officer to sergeant and Michael Keffer from officer to sergeant.