Urbana detective investigating police department history

URBANA—A casual conversation between police officers has sparked a historic investigation at the Urbana Police Department.

Detective Matt Rivers is investigating a new case, but the clues he has are old.

“It's one big investigation that's been going for 150 years,” said Rivers. “And so now we have to put together evidence and interview witnesses.”

Because the puzzle Rivers is trying to piece together is the complete history if the Urbana Police Department.

“It's a little bit trickier if we want to nail down, if we want to say well I have a roster of every single officer that ever worked here, and that's kind of one of the other goals we're trying to work on,” said Rivers.

Because currently, no such roster exists. So Rivers teamed up with two other detectives back in February, and they've been going straight to the source to gather information ever since.

“We talked to one officer who was here in the 50s, which is kind of wild to think about,” said Rivers. “You know this was 60, 70 years ago he was here doing the same job we do, but a lot different.”

As proven by hand-written logbooks from the 1960s and a Smith & Wesson pistol that belonged to a chief in the 30s. These items and about 30 others are being held in UPD's evidence vault, because this investigation into the past is being treated like a modern-day case.

“For the history project we generated a police report number so whenever we get new pieces of evidence we put them into our evidence vault under this case number,” said Rivers.     

 Because by the time the force turns 160 next year, Rivers hopes to have a complete record of all the officers that have rise through its ranks.

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