Warwick Police are looking to reclaim their history and have put out a call for photos, uniforms, badges and other items from the department’s past.
After 48 years with the Warwick Police, Inspector Chris Mathiesen says he has become the department’s “unofficial historian.”
“I’ve been here the longest,” he said with a laugh, saying that anytime a fellow officer or citizen has a historical question about the department, they are directed to him.
Mathiesen, who has been with the department since the mid-’60s, remembers getting calls from people living out of state who were looking for photos of relatives who had been in the force. It was then that Mathiesen realized the department did not have historical records like that.
“Documents, pictures are not available,” he said.
About six years ago, Mathiesen and Major Thomas Nye took it upon themselves to gather police memorabilia to put on display throughout the department. The two gathered some of their own photos, antique sirens and gumball lights and badges from departments throughout the state to put in frames and a lobby display case.
“The problem is a lot of it did not relate to the department,” said Mathiesen, pointing out that almost half of the items in the lobby display case are from the Providence Police Department.
Now, Mathiesen is in the process of collecting any and all memorabilia relating to Warwick Police including but not limited to photos, badges, uniforms etc.
Mathiesen explained that any photos would be scanned and returned immediately and other items could be given to the department through a “loan program.” He said the property would be kept in the station and would be returned whenever the owner wanted it; they would have a ticket of some kind to show that they donated the item in the first place.
“I want to put emphasis on that we’re not keeping it,” said Mathiesen.
Currently, Mathiesen has been able to collect photos from the 1960s until now, but the Warwick Police Department has existed since 1921, so there is a lot left to find.
The inspector believes that by having mementos from the past on display throughout the department, younger generations of officers will be able to appreciate and understand the officers that came before them.
Mathiesen also teaches officer survival and terrorism classes at the Police Academy and says the students will often ask him about life as an officer in the 1960s. Mathiesen recalls being on patrol in a car with just the gumball siren; now there are monitor screens, radios and other technological advancements.
One item that Mathiesen is searching for is an original Warwick Police badge from the 1920s or 1930s. He explained that the original badges were shaped like shields; they looked like the traditional badges one would see in a TV show or movie. Now the department uses radiator badges, which look very different.
Mathiesen is also looking for a picture of Patrolman Walter G. McQuarry, who was killed on duty in 1911. Five Warwick police officers have been killed on duty, and Mathiesen explained that the department hopes to have portraits painted of all five to hang in the community room. Two have been created and are on display, and they have pictures of two others to use for the portraits.
Mathiesen also has a vision to get mannequins to display uniforms from the different decades, alongside photos and larger mementos in a corner of the community room. He also has a number of older firearms that he will disarm and include in the display.
If items are brought to Mathiesen that are not from the Warwick Police, he will gladly pass it along to the department it does belong to. He has a deal with retired captain John Glancy of Providence Police to turn over any Providence memorabilia he finds and Glancy will provide any Warwick Police items he finds.
“We don’t want all this stuff of Providence,” said Mathiesen when describing the display case in the station’s lobby. “We’re going to give it to John Glancy for his museum.”
If you have any photographs or memorabilia you would like to give or loan to the Warwick Police for display, contact Inspector Chris Mathiesen by calling 468-4200.