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Published: Saturday, 5/28/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Toledo Police Museum receives finishing touches

Grand opening of exhibits set for June 9

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Toledo Police Officer Penny Halcomb closes the case on an exhibit after preparing it for viewing before the opening of the Toledo Police Museum. Toledo Police Officer Penny Halcomb closes the case on an exhibit after preparing it for viewing before the opening of the Toledo Police Museum.
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EDITOR'S NOTE: This version corrects the photo identification of Brenda Miscannon Rollins, Jeanette Hurst, and Diane Miscannon.

The sign on Beth Cooley’s office door Thursday afternoon had the numbers 9, 8, and 7 written in heavy black pen — with the 9 and 8 crossed out.

It’s the final countdown.

The Toledo Police Museum is to be host for a grand opening on Thursday, then open for public tours June 9.

“It’s going to be very, very busy,” said Officer Cooley, president of the Toledo Police Museum Inc., which will operate the facility at the city-owned Ottawa Park Nature Education Center, 2201 Ottawa Pkwy. “It’s like a beehive in here.”

In the next several days, before the museum is unveiled to about 300 people at the invitation-only grand opening, a lot of work remains to be done.

Mulch needs to be spread, flowers are to planted, a 1948 police car and motorcycle need to be moved inside, signs needs to go up, displays have to be put in place, things have to be bolted to the floor.

And every so often, someone comes up with another great idea. Add it to the list.

Toledo police uniforms from different eras are on display at the Toledo Police Museum. The museum is inside the city-owned Ottawa Park Nature Education Center, 2201 Ottawa Pkwy. Toledo police uniforms from different eras are on display at the Toledo Police Museum. The museum is inside the city-owned Ottawa Park Nature Education Center, 2201 Ottawa Pkwy.
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The museum has been a work in progress since May 13, 2010, when Chief Mike Navarre handed Officer Cooley a note after a staff meeting: Call retired Officer Dick Parton about opening a museum. Since then, it’s been full speed ahead.

There have been quite a few days when Officer Cooley and volunteers have arrived at the museum around 7 a.m. and didn’t leave until 11 p.m. Her dog, Bella, has taken up residence with her there. About two weeks before the opening, she half-joked about moving in a cot.

After the museum opens, she’s taking two weeks off.

“The vacation will be needed,” Officer Cooley said laughing.

But she hasn’t been alone in the effort — volunteers, police officers on light duty, and children who have community service to fulfill have helped put the museum together.

Figuring out how many hours they all have put in would be impossible, and maybe a little bit shocking.

Police Officer Penny Halcomb, who has been working at the museum on light duty since she broke her wrist last winter, was putting together a Safe-T-City display showcasing several T-shirts and original booklets from when the program was initiated in 1972 as Safety Town.

The program later shut down. It was reinstated as Safe-T-City in 1977.

A dedication and memorial to Officer Charles W. Roth is one of the many exhibits housed in the Toledo Police Museum. Officer Roth established the Toledo Police Academy in 1938. A dedication and memorial to Officer Charles W. Roth is one of the many exhibits housed in the Toledo Police Museum. Officer Roth established the Toledo Police Academy in 1938.
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The process of putting the museum together started on Sept. 16, when members of the Toledo Police Historical Museum Committee went to retired police Officer Bill Kellar’s storage garage to look through items he collected for safekeeping.

“When we open we won’t be a museum, we’ll be a place where old stuff is displayed,” Officer Cooley said. “The gloss is on, but the real work is coming. We’ve got cataloguing and researching to do, but for now we’re a glossy place for nice old stuff.”

In 1988, the Toledo Police Museum opened on the first floor of the Safety Building downtown but was shut down in the early 1990s by Chief Gerald Galvin.

Chief Navarre appointed a board in 2010 to bring back the museum.

Officer Cooley, who grew up wanting to be a teacher of either history or English — or a farmer — is loving her appointment to the board.

She works in the planning and research section of the department, so Chief Navarre might not have known he was giving her a dream assignment.

“He couldn’t have tasked me that day with anything that would thrill me more,” she said, adding that the chief — who spent part of May 21 weeding in front of the museum building — has let the museum become its own entity without making it what he wanted to see.

“I went from knowing nothing about the department’s history to dreaming of being [a Toledo Police Department historian],” she said.

Brenda Miscannon Rollins, left, visiting from Houston, her mother, Jeanette Hurst, center, and sister Diane Miscannon look at an exhibit at the Toledo Police Museum before it opens to the public. They are the daughters and former wife of Officer William Miscannon, who was killed in the line of duty in 1970. Brenda Miscannon Rollins, left, visiting from Houston, her mother, Jeanette Hurst, center, and sister Diane Miscannon look at an exhibit at the Toledo Police Museum before it opens to the public. They are the daughters and former wife of Officer William Miscannon, who was killed in the line of duty in 1970.
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The museum is now home to dozens of artifacts, hundreds of old booking photos, and replicas of the police department’s past — including a jail cell where people will be able to put on a striped vest and pose for a glamour shot behind bars.

Officer Cooley’s favorite item is the wall display that will honor the fallen Toledo police officers.

“Where you get your mug shot taken is cool, and we have fun stuff, but where my heart stops and where my emotional ties are [is with the memorial wall]. With losing Keith [Dressel], every name out there, their families and the departments then went through the same thing,” she said, excusing herself to grab a tissue and wipe tears from her eyes.

There’s also a very cool machine — a shiny metal drum housed in a sleek wooden box.

It’s an ebulliometer, which during the days of Prohibition, was used by police to burn liquids to determine the amount of alcohol.

But there are things missing from the museum that would be awesome to have in the collection, Officer Cooley said.

In the early 1900s, police officers and firefighters wore dogtags with their names and information on them in case of catastrophe.

Swanton resident Dave Grant, with 20/20 Exhibits of Northwood, polishes a display sign in the Toledo Police Museum at the Ottawa Park Nature Education Center. Swanton resident Dave Grant, with 20/20 Exhibits of Northwood, polishes a display sign in the Toledo Police Museum at the Ottawa Park Nature Education Center.
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“I’d love to know if someone has them so we could see them,” Officer Cooley said. Adding one to the museum’s collection might be nice too.

It’s pieces of history like those that make the museum so important — it will be a way for current police officers to connect with retired officers and to see that the problems officers face aren’t unique to the current day, but were overcome by officers in the past.

“We can rediscover our pride in who we are,” Officer Cooley said. “We’re a cool department.”

The museum will also benefit the community.

“The community can come walk a day in our footsteps,” the officer said. “They’ll see why we act the way we do sometimes or why we come across the way we do. They’ll see the ultimate sacrifice that officers have made. They’ll see we’re just people too. We’re people who choose to do this job.”

The museum received an initial $50,000 from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund, money recovered from investigations.

The museum now receives about $750 a month in payroll deductions from the department.

In September, Toledo City Council approved leasing the city-owned building to the museum for $1 a year.

A "Fort Industry Design July 1, 1909-circa December 1925" police badge which is on display at The Toledo Police Museum before it opens to the public. A "Fort Industry Design July 1, 1909-circa December 1925" police badge which is on display at The Toledo Police Museum before it opens to the public.
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The Blade provided digital images and information to the museum and a $5,000 donation for the grand opening party.

The museum will open for its first public tour on June 9 and will then be open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every week.

Officer Cooley said her dream is to see the museum open Tuesday through Saturday. The museum will be run entirely by volunteers.

Admission is free, but donations are always welcome — TARTA donated a refurbished bus fare box for the museum in which to collect donations.

For now, Officer Cooley still has a few days to prepare for the grand opening.

“As the days get closer, it’s scary,” she said. “We couldn’t be any closer to the wire. We are expecting to finish the day before the opening. It’s full-steam ahead with 100 percent effort.”

Until then, she’ll keep a countdown on her office door.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com or 419-724-6054.

 

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