Cleveland police Detective Robert Bolton made a visit to Scotland Yard. After seeing the Black Museum there, he got the idea that Cleveland should have its own police museum. In 1983, the Cleveland Police Museum opened in the city’s justice center on Ontario Street downtown.
The museum remains there, but has expanded from 1,200 square feet to 4,000. There are many exhibits on the sordid history of crime in Cleveland, including the torso murders, bootlegging across Lake Erie and throughout the city, and the efforts of Eliot Ness to clean up the town.
At the time, the number of cities with police museums could be counted on one hand. Now, there are police museums in cities throughout Ohio. The Greater Cincinnati Police History Museum opened in 2006, and there are exhibits and museums at the police departments in Akron (open by appointment) and Dayton as well.
In 2011, the Toledo Police Museum opened, next to the police substation in Ottawa Park. Because the museum’s in the park, there’s no shortage of things to do nearby. There’s a playground and a picnic pavilion next to the museum, and behind it is the Ottawa Park Golf Course, billed as the second oldest course in the United States, and the oldest west of New York City.
The museum features exhibits on various aspects of the city’s crime and police history. The centerpiece of the museum is a 1948 Ford panel truck made to look like a police truck. There’s also a police motorcycle, and various radios, firearms and body armor, demonstrating how the technology used in police work has changed through the department’s history.
Toledo has more than its fair share of crime history. There’s a display commemorating the Willys riots of 1919, and also on display is the revolver that Thomas “Yonnie” Licavoli used to kill bootlegger John Kennedy in 1933.
Licavoli and his brother Peter were members of the notorious Purple Gang in Detroit, and their cousin John was a mob boss in Cleveland (he was played by Tony Lo Bianco in the 2011 movie “Kill the Irishman”).