Champaign Officer’s Sacrifice Remembered
49 years ago, a Champaign police officer was killed in the line of duty. Now, present and former officers are planning a year of activities in memory of Robert L. Tatman.
At around 1 AM on November 25, 1967, Officer Tatman was found shot to death by his squad car, minutes after he radioed in that he was stopping a vehicle on West Church Street near Mattis Avenue.
Tatman’s killing has never been solved. He is one of just two Champaign police officers to have been killed while on duty. The other was Patrolman Thomas Dodsworth, who was shot and killed while attempting to arrest two bootlegging suspects in 1913.
Zane Ziegler, a retired Champaign police officer and president of the Champaign Police Historical Society, says the centennial of Dodsworth’s death was remembered with a memorial decal and a motorcade and wreath-laying ceremony. And he says the Historical Society wants to do that and more to mark the 50th anniversary of Tatman's death, working with current and former Champaign police officers, and members of Tatman's family.
Ziegler says that when he joined the Champaign Police Department in 1975, memories of Tatman were still fresh among department personnel.
"He (Tatman) used to go to Champaign High School (now Champaign Central) for games and things, and had a pretty good rapport with students,” said Ziegler.” He was well-liked by everybody that I’ve talked to.”
This weekend, Champaign police vehicles will start displaying a memorial decal featuring Tatman’s service badge and his 1967 squad car emblem. A silver plated commemorative “challenge” coin is also being produced. Such coins traditionally feature the insignia of an organization (usually military). The Tatman coin will feature Robert Tatman’s name, his badge and his “end of watch” date.
Ziegler says it’s important that Tatman’s sacrifice be remembered.
“I think that you remind the community, and you also remind the officers that are working today, what can happen out there,” said Ziegler. “And also for the family. They’ve gone for a long time without a father. He had four children at the time. So it’s been rough on them.”
The Tatman decal and challenge coin are available for purchase through December 31 at $10 each, with proceeds going to the Champaign Police Historical Society. They’re available through the Champaign Police Department.
Ziegler says special observances remembering Robert Tatman’s sacrifice are being planned for the annual Champaign police memorial ceremony this spring. And he says that on October 25, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Tatman’s death will be remembered with a motorcade and wreath-laying ceremony.