Some have often wondered if public safety agencies are in competition with one another. In some cases such rumors are validated, but in other cases not so much.
However, on Wednesday, June 1, the Merrill Police Department and Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office made their competition well known in the first-ever “Battle of the Badges,” organized by the Merrill Police Department.
As Police Chief Ken Neff explains, the competition was for a great cause.
“I received an e-mail from Katie Fricke of the Community Blood Center in Woodruff, advising area agencies of blood donations being on the decline. The spring and summer months are a busy time of year for the blood center,” Neff said. “I had heard of a ‘battle of the badges’ event being held in Oneida and Vilas counties back in April. I thought it was a neat idea and passed it on to our officers to see if there was an interest.”
That is where 9-year department veteran Officer Dane Mathwich stepped up.
“I thought it was a great cause,” Mathwich adds. “Blood bank shortages can affect a lot of people, even my fellow officers. You never know when someone will be that person who saves your life, or someone else’s just by being a blood donor.”
Mathwich and Neff proceeded to coordinate with Fricke for a date and time of the event.
Then at 8 a.m. on Wednesday morning, the gates opened for the Lincoln County bout of Battle of the Badges.
“Once we had a date and time set up, we split time evenly between the hours of 8-3,” Mathwich said. “We had 3 ½ hours for donations as did the sheriff’s office. Sheriff (Jeff) Jaeger was very supportive of the idea and it ended up being a lot of fun and for a great cause.”
Several members of both departments turned out for the competition, joined by Mayor Bill Bialecki and City Administrator Dave Johnson.
A total of 35 donors attempted to contribute, however due to various reasons only 30 were able to donate.
When asked when the police department secured the lead, Neff and Mathwich laugh.
“I don’t really know to be honest, it was pretty close!” Mathwich said, “Both sides were getting a hard time about not having any donuts on hand.
“We were very pleased with the turnout and happy to help out the blood center. We are hoping to make this an annual event. If the Sheriff’s office wants a re-match, that would be great or we will gladly compete with another department. I think the best part of this, is that of all blood donated stays in the northwoods.”