U. of I. Police seeking a part of its past

URBANA – U. of I. Police are looking for a long-lost piece of their history, and they are reaching out to the public for help finding it.

The shoulder patch pictured above is believed to be the first patch U. of I. Police officers attached to their uniforms. Over the years, police shoulder patches have become an integral part of uniforms and even a highly-sought item for collectors.

They have also become a part of police departments’ histories and tradition, and U. of I. Police would like to put their first patch on display at the U. of I. Public Safety building.

There’s only one problem: They can’t find one. Police are hoping someone has held on to one through the years and is willing to donate it to the department.

“Police departments didn’t start putting patches on their uniforms for the most part until after World War II,” said U. of I. Police Sgt. John Brown. “I would suspect that someone probably has one laying around, and they just have no idea.”

The earliest known photo of the patch is from 1959. It’s a fairly simple design: The letters “UI” are adjoined and outlined by the state of Illinois. It is believed that the stitching is blue on an orange background.

By 1963, U. of I. Police had already redesigned the shoulder patch by moving the “UI” letters down and inserting the word “POLICE” inside of a six-pointed star.

The patch has evolved throughout the years. U. of I. Police regularly field requests from collectors from across the United States and internationally. UIPD is a bit of a collector itself – the department has shoulder patches from all 14 Big Ten campus police agencies hanging in its conference room.

Anyone with information is asked to call U. of I. Police at 217-333-1216 and ask for Sgt. John Brown.