Allan Coates

Curator, Cleveland Police Museum

Guns. Knives. Sliced-up bodies. Hey, bring the whole family! “Since 1866, the Cleveland Police have a rich history of police and detective work,” says Allan Coates, curator of the Police Museum, located downtown in the Justice Center. “The story of our museum is the story of Cleveland.” Disneyland? Not quite. Interesting? Very.

How did police officers get around in 1866?
Everything was on foot. It wasn’t a very big city back then.

Was it a long walk to the doughnut shop?
Yeah, probably.

Describe a policeman’s job back then.
If an officer found you drunk on the streets, he’d bring you in, feed you breakfast and then get you out in time to get you to work the next morning.

So basically, they did the job of a wife.
In a manner of speaking, yes.

Were there many crooks?
Actually, there were. In those days, everybody carried a knife or gun — even women. Once you left Cleveland city limits, there was very little law enforcement in outlying areas.

So the sign should’ve read: Thanks for visiting Cleveland. Good luck.

Who were Cleveland’s three worst criminals ever?
Blinky Morgan, a gang leader in the 1880s. Shondor Birns, a racketeer in the ’70s. And the Torso Murders killer in the ’30s.

All-time best cop scandal.
Well, it wasn’t really a scandal, but Chief of Police Fred Kohler (1903-’13) had a mistress in Bay Village he didn’t exactly try to hide. When he became mayor, he got another girlfriend on the East Side, too.

It’s important to be close to your constituents.
I guess he had to even things out.

Why is Garrett Morgan, the inventor of the stoplight, in the police hall of fame?
Morgan didn’t actually invent the stoplight; he electrified it so it could be seen at night. He’s in here because of how he helped traffic management.

I think I speak for everyone when I say, “Thanks a lot, Garrett.”
I hear you.

Does anyone come in here and say, “See that copper up there? He’s the one who put grandpa in the Big House.”
I did have a woman once who saw an old photo of a gang of thugs and asked for a copy because her grandfather was in the lineup.

She must have been proud.
Yeah, how do you explain that one to the kids?

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