Decal to mark officer's death
CHAMPAIGN — It's been 100 years since the Champaign Police Department lost the first of its two sworn officers who have died in the line of duty.
To mark the July 6, 1913, murder of Officer Thomas Dodsworth, the department's squad cars will be decked with decals with his name, badge number, the date he died and the phrases "End of Watch" and "We Never Forget."
Dodsworth was gunned down as he tried to arrest a bootlegger at 111 N. Champaign St.
The decals were put on the cars to mark National Law Enforcement Police Week, which runs through Saturday.
Retired Champaign police officer Zane Ziegler, who has become the de facto department historian, said it's uncertain how long the decals will remain on the cars, but he thinks they'll be there through July.
"I didn't know what we were going to do, but I know we needed to do something. We were all trying to think what we could do, and that kind of came out," Ziegler said of the decals. He credited Deputy Police Chief Joe Gallo with the decal idea.
They turned to Keith Kropp, owner of Custom Signs & Graphics in Sidney, to come up with the design. His employee, Lauren Ramseyer, daughter of Champaign police Sgt. Bruce Ramseyer, had a hand in the final product.
"The only thing we had to go off of was a badge and a date. We wanted to make it honoring the person," Kropp said. "We wanted something that tied the colors in with the Champaign squad cars. We threw ideas back and forth until we got what they wanted."
The decal — 5 inches tall and 7 inches long — can be applied to glass or paint.
Ziegler said he ordered extras because other retirees expressed an interest in having one. The decals cost $5 but he's selling them for $10 to raise money to continue to beef up permanent displays of police memorabilia within the department.
Ziegler for years has been collecting departmental treasures and is working on setting up permanent displays in the police station. A glass case in a second-floor multi-purpose room features a ball and chain, bulletproof shields, badges, helmets and old radios, for example.
"That will stay there," he said of the memorabilia in the case and several photos on the walls in that room.
He's hoping to persuade the powers-that-be to give him a little more space in an alcove outside that room to display old uniforms and a blotter desk so he won't have to drag them in and out of storage.
In addition to the decals on the squad cars, Ziegler said several members of the police historical preservation group pitched in to buy a brick honoring Dodsworth for the police and fire memorial in West Side Park.
The department's other fallen officer is Robert Tatman, 27 at the time. He was killed with his own service revolver Nov. 25, 1967, on West Church Street just west of Mattis Avenue. Family members of Tatman had previously bought a brick for him in the memorial. Tatman's murder was never solved.
Both men will be remembered in a ceremony at 11:30 a.m. Friday at the memorial.
At noon, a police vehicle processional will travel to the Champaign County Courthouse in downtown Urbana for a countywide ceremony honoring fallen officers in Champaign County and the state of Illinois.
Patrol officers will also wear a black band across their badges to remember their fallen comrades.