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Site to hold grand reopening at First Night Akron
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UA history students help police reform their museum

By Phil Trexler
Beacon Journal staff writer

Some of Akron's more seedier moments are housed inside, aired out for everyone to see. There are mementos from the notorious Pretty Boy Floyd, including a ''tommy'' submachine gun like the one he used before Akron police ended his crime wave.

There's a bullet-tattered uniform of fallen police officer Floyd A. Weatherholt Jr., with his open pack of Winstons popping out from a shirt pocket.

His killer's gun is in the same case, along with a letter the condemned man wrote just before his execution.

Around the corner are two graffiti-littered doors taken from the hangout of a city street gang. Other items note the riots of 1900, 1938 and 1968.

Guns — although none that still fire — are everywhere. Gambling machines sit silent. A million dollars in cash — albeit shredded — stands near a former police chief's tombstone.

Police work often isn't pretty, and the renovated Akron Police Museum isn't shy about marking the city's dark side.

Now in its 40th year, the museum— located in the mezzanine level of the Akron Police Department on South High Street — is welcoming visitors to its grand reopening as part of First Night Akron celebrated on New Year's Eve.

Thanks to the work of University of Akron students, the department's community police officers, volunteers and donors, the Akron Police Department's museum takes visitors through the city's history, for better and worse.

Over the past year, every trinket, photo, newspaper clipping — hundreds of items in all — have been documented and archived. It proved a monumental task for UA history students Deborah Chiappini and Morgan Choffin.

Not only did the students count the collection, but they also helped turn the disorganized memories into a viewer-friendly stroll through time.

''We wanted to create something that was accessible for all ages, but at the same time, we wanted to be true to what the department does,'' Chiappini said.

''So we looked for a happy medium between the violence of crime and the positive association people have with police officers.''

The softer side comes through in displays of badges and uniforms from years past, the smiling portraits of former police chiefs, an officer cutout and a classic 1965 Harley-Davidson, although it should be noted that an officer died while driving the motorcycle.

The museum also showcases some of the more archaic devices police used over the years, such as an early 20th century call box that pre-dates portable radios, an early lie detector machine called the Berkeley Psychograph and a 40-year-old ''Drunkometer'' that tested suspected drunk drivers.

It's all here.

And more that's stored away is waiting its turn.

''We wanted to make sure to avoid being a gun museum,'' said community police Patrolman James Conley, a third-generation Akron officer who helps lead tours. ''But we also wanted to show what we do, make sure the history was here so that people can see what the police department does. It's good for people to know.''

The museum will be open from 6 to 11 p.m. on New Year's Eve. Admission is always free. For other open dates, contact the community relations department at 330-375-2390.


Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or ptrexler@thebeaconjournal.com.

 

The sign on the door of the newly renovated Akron Police Department Museum in the Stubbs Justice Center. (Paul Tople/Akron Beacon Journal)

Some of Akron's more seedier moments are housed inside, aired out for everyone to see. There are mementos from the notorious Pretty Boy Floyd, including a ''tommy'' submachine gun like the one he used before Akron police ended his crime wave.

There's a bullet-tattered uniform of fallen police officer Floyd A. Weatherholt Jr., with his open pack of Winstons popping out from a shirt pocket.

His killer's gun is in the same case, along with a letter the condemned man wrote just before his execution.

Around the corner are two graffiti-littered doors taken from the hangout of a city street gang. Other items note the riots of 1900, 1938 and 1968.

Guns — although none that still fire — are everywhere. Gambling machines sit silent. A million dollars in cash — albeit shredded — stands near a former police chief's tombstone.

Police work often isn't pretty, and the renovated Akron Police Museum isn't shy about marking the city's dark side.

Now in its 40th year, the museum— located in the mezzanine level of the Akron Police Department on South High Street — is welcoming visitors to its grand reopening as part of First Night Akron celebrated on New Year's Eve.

Thanks to the work of University of Akron students, the department's community police officers, volunteers and donors, the Akron Police Department's museum takes visitors through the city's history, for better and worse.

Over the past year, every trinket, photo, newspaper clipping — hundreds of items in all — have been documented and archived. It proved a monumental task for UA history students Deborah Chiappini and Morgan Choffin.

Not only did the students count the collection, but they also helped turn the disorganized memories into a viewer-friendly stroll through time.

''We wanted to create something that was accessible for all ages, but at the same time, we wanted to be true to what the department does,'' Chiappini said.

''So we looked for a happy medium between the violence of crime and the positive association people have with police officers.''

The softer side comes through in displays of badges and uniforms from years past, the smiling portraits of former police chiefs, an officer cutout and a classic 1965 Harley-Davidson, although it should be noted that an officer died while driving the motorcycle.

The museum also showcases some of the more archaic devices police used over the years, such as an early 20th century call box that pre-dates portable radios, an early lie detector machine called the Berkeley Psychograph and a 40-year-old ''Drunkometer'' that tested suspected drunk drivers.

It's all here.

And more that's stored away is waiting its turn.

''We wanted to make sure to avoid being a gun museum,'' said community police Patrolman James Conley, a third-generation Akron officer who helps lead tours. ''But we also wanted to show what we do, make sure the history was here so that people can see what the police department does. It's good for people to know.''

The museum will be open from 6 to 11 p.m. on New Year's Eve. Admission is always free. For other open dates, contact the community relations department at 330-375-2390.


Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or ptrexler@thebeaconjournal.com.



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Typhoon
Akron, Oh

Posted 07:47 AM, 12/30/2009

I, for one plan to see it. It sounds like they did a good job.


Slovensko
Canton, OH

Posted 09:08 AM, 12/30/2009

I wanna Harley. . . .


KenmoreKid
Akron, OH

Posted 09:19 AM, 12/30/2009

"more seedier" or more seedy?


Todd65
Arnoldsburg, WV

Posted 10:45 AM, 12/30/2009

Jimmy should give folks the full story about his older relatives, that were Akron officers. they were VERY well known and not for their good deeds. everyone has heard of the Conley boys on the akron Police Force. LOL


Todd65
Arnoldsburg, WV

Posted 10:47 AM, 12/30/2009

The Conley Legacy, is probably one of the more seedy sides that won't be revealed. LOL


Todd65
Arnoldsburg, WV

Posted 10:48 AM, 12/30/2009

Can't post on this one, huh?


Bob61
Antioch, Fl

Posted 12:06 PM, 12/30/2009

The officer killed on that motorcycle was Glenn Stewart. Glenn was my Dad's best friend when they were kids, and joined APD about the same time. I can still remember being at the house after his funeral. He was chasing a car when someone turned in front of him. Maybe people could look around a bit when they hear a siren, and don't turn until you know where it is?
I knew the Conleys, though I don't remember ever meeting Jack. Yes, there are stories. Some embellished, some true, some not. But I also know that Jack and Pat, at the least, were serving before the basic Miranda rights were established. Much of what happened back then would be a violation of civil rights, judged by today's standards. The rules changed.
The part about Floyd is confusing though. He was killed in a cornfield outside E Liverpool, though he was frequently in Akron and Canton.


Jer1963
Mogadore, Oh

Posted 01:17 PM, 12/30/2009

I'll take the Tommy gun and be SGT. Saunders, who wants to be Kirby? Just gotta find a B.A.R. and a bottle of French wine.


truth seeker
Barnsville, Ohio

Posted 03:22 PM, 12/30/2009

Some police like the Conely's were bad, but you have
a lot more good cop's and knocking them because of a
few bad isn't right.


Bob61
Antioch, Fl

Posted 07:37 PM, 12/30/2009

truth seeker
True enough, there were issues. But they also had the reputation of never being too busy, or too far away, to respond to an "Officer needs assistance" call.
Not everyone with a sterling record can make that claim.
Including, though he certainly isn't representative of officers ANYWHERE, the poor, oppressed Douglas Prade. Long before he tried to make his fortune by killing a woman, there were many within the APD who wanted his badge number changed to 180. Because that's the direction he was heading every time someone needed help in a bad situation.


A Retired Cop Who Knows
Akron, OH

Posted 10:33 PM, 12/30/2009

Nice article, Phil!

If you visit, take the time to go through some of the old Beacon Journal articles to see what a GOOD, HOMETOWN newspaper is all about. It should be required reading for Steve Hoffman, who has no clue whatsoever!

As for the Conley's....I was ALWAYS happy when one of them backed me up!


Grog67
akron, Oh

Posted 12:29 AM, 12/31/2009

i like taking my kids to museaums....looks like i'll have to add this one to the list....


bubblehead
Pure Speculation is Pure Nutbag, FU

Posted 10:50 PM, 12/31/2009

Do they have the photos of the Heaven Can Wait torture house?














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