HIBBING — It’s about new beginnings. Moving into the future. After decades of sporting their respective patches, the Hibbing police and firefighters have unveiled new symbols to represent their departments.

The longtime police patch had a traditional Iron Range mining scene featuring a brown earth beneath a light blue sky. The phrases “Police Hibbing” and “Minnesota’s Largest City” surround the image in a bright yellow border.

Earlier this week, Police Chief Steve Estey joined the Hibbing Kiwanis Club for lunch in a backroom of Sammy’s Pizza and Restaurant, where they announced that officers would soon wear a patch featuring the phrase, “City of Hibbing Police” prominently displayed in a nighttime sky over Hibbing High School and an anchor. The sayings, “To Protect And Serve” and “Established 1893” are etched into banners flanked to the outside.

“We had the last patch for 30 years,” Estey told the small group in attendance. “I’m excited to move forward with a new image and new direction.”

This spring, Estey began working with the Hibbing City Council and the Hibbing Kiwanis Club to organize the organize the Patch Contest which asked city residents to design a new patch after 30-plus years. Last month, officers took to Facebook to say they had narrowed down the top three selections in the contest from 120 entries, some from elementary and high school students. They asked residents to submit their votes online or through the mail for what would become the latest shoulder patch.

This week, Estey and members of the Kiwanis Club applauded for the winners and handed over their cash prizes: 1) John Southard, $300; 2) Tanner Thompson, $150; and 3) Amanda McMillen, $50.

“It’s an honor,” said Southard, 33, of Hibbing, an employee at Northern Business Products and graphic design freelancer, told the Hibbing Daily Tribune. Turns out he tried becoming an officer more than a decade ago, but couldn’t complete the skills testing due to physical injuries to his shoulder and back for which he’s undergone surgical procedures. “I’ve always been supportive of the police department and figured it would be great to compete.”

It was February when the Hibbing City Council voted 5-2 to approve hiring Estey to replace outgoing Chief Maryann Hooper. Since then, Estey — a former detective with the Virginia Police Department — have publicly made efforts to engage with the local community. Since then, he has participated in welcoming more than 500 people at the spaghetti and meatball K-9 officer fundraiser and then made it a point to introduce two new officers at a city council meeting — the first event of its kind in recent memory. He went on to hold a newly established Coffee with a Cop event. Switching to a new patch is the latest of Estey’s attempts to expose his officers to the community. “People can see we’re human and we have a doing to do,” he told the HDT this week at the restaurant.

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Less than half an hour before the police went to Sammy’s, the Hibbing Fire Department posted their own fashion change on their Facebook page: “We are excited to unveil our new logo, patch and challenge coins.”

Reached by phone, Fire Chief Erik Jankila told the HDT that members of the department held “many, many, many leadership meetings over the year” to decide on a patch after 20 years that best reflect their “mission statement to provide essential public safety services that our community can trust, rely on, and be proud of.”

Firefighters looked for answers in Bob Dylan, a hometown boy turned musician and winner of the Nobel and Puliter prizes, and selected the title of his song, “Gotta Serve Somebody” as the header of the new patch. The words, “integrity, compassion, safety, professionalism and pride appear at the bottom of the patch.

“We’re updating the department’s identity,” Jankila said. “We’re a pretty young organization,” There’s a lot of transition and we needed to do something that reflected the changes we’re going through as a community.”

Like the police, the firefighters plan on switching over to the new patches in the upcoming months.

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