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13 WREX’s investigation into Belvidere Police Department earns national recognition

IRE Award

ROCKFORD (WREX) — A year-long investigation into excessive force allegations against the Belvidere Police Department, led by former anchor Kristin Crowley, has been honored by the Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE) organization.

The investigation was named as a finalist in the "Video Division IV" category, which recognizes excellence in investigative journalism for broadcast television stations in markets 51+.

The winner in the category came from WGME CBS 13 in Portland, Maine. 13 WREX's investigation came in second in the national competition. This is the station's first-ever recognition from IRE.

Crowley, who is now an investigative reporter at WXIA in Atlanta, along with other members of the 13 WREX team, pored over thousands of documents, interviewed dozens of people, and investigated their claims of excessive force by the Belvidere Police Department.

The first investigation found the police department has been named in at least 12 lawsuits for police misconduct, it has paid tens of thousands of dollars to settle many of those claims, and two officers — who combined were named in half of those lawsuits — remained on the force.

Ten months after the first investigation aired, three new lawsuits were filed, all of them from men saying arrests with Belvidere Police landed them in the hospital. All three lawsuits name Officer Brandon Parker, who was also part of the initial investigation.

"It’s an honor to be named a finalist for the 2020 IRE Award for our reporting on excessive force allegations against the Belvidere Police Department," Crowley said. "13 Investigates will never stop fighting for justice for members of our local communities."

The investigation sparked conversation in the Belvidere community among its residents and city leaders. This past December, the city council unanimously approved the purchase of body cameras for the police department.

Judges commented on the investigative series, "Impressive reporting that grew out of a reporter noticing a wrong in her community and wondering if it was more widespread. This series is well-produced, and the relentless pursuit of proof — through dash-cam records, audio recordings and complaints — is commendable and has forced change."

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