Wauconda police wearing pink badges to raise breast cancer awareness
Wauconda police officers are wearing specially designed pink badges this month to raise awareness of breast cancer.
All 25 officers and one community service officer have traded their traditional badges for pink shields emblazoned with pink ribbons and the phrase "breast cancer awareness" beneath the department's name. The shields include officers' badge numbers and rank for command staff.
Officers Keith Ringham and Chris Gallivan came up with the promotion, which is happening now because October is considered breast cancer awareness month. It's particularly personal for Ringham, who lost his wife, Debi, to lung cancer in 2010.
The goal, Ringham said, is to show the community the department supports cancer survivors and cancer research.
"It's hard to understand until you're directly affected by it," Ringham said. "It makes you want to go out and do more."
Wauconda's cops aren't the only officers donning pink this month. In Vernon Hills, some officers are wearing pink T-shirts under their uniforms to bring attention to the cause.
Vernon Hills Officer Rebecca Foy has gone a step farther, adding two sets of pink handcuffs to her equipment belt.
"It's a good way to open up the conversation with people," Foy said.
Some Mount Prospect police officers are wearing pink badges this month, too. And in Lombard, firefighters will wear custom pink T-shirts.
According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Men are affected to a lesser degree.
More than 249,000 Americans will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, according to the cancer society. It will kill more than 40,000 Americans this year.
Ringham, Gallivan and retired dispatcher Jim Petter designed Wauconda's pink badge. They cost $52 each, and the participating officers paid for them personally.
The officers also kicked in about $400 for a donation to the American Cancer Society.
The badges already have proved popular with the public. Chief David Wermes and Deputy Chief Mike Botterman received compliments Tuesday morning during a community event at Wauconda Grade School.
"I like the response that we're getting from the community," Botterman said. "Hopefully that will stir them to do something as well."
Vernon Hills Police Chief Mark Fleischhauer said he hopes his officers' pink shirts and cuffs prompt people to take more interest in their own health.
"Personal vigilance is a very powerful tool for early detection and prevention," he said.
The pink promotions aren't limited to the Chicago area. Officers in communities in Alabama, New Jersey, Oregon and other states are wearing pink badges or even driving pink cruisers this month.