The CLEVELAND POLICE DEPARTMENT was formed in 1866 under the auspices of the Metropolitan Police Act enacted by the Ohio general assembly. Prior to 1866 police services had been provided by an elected city marshal assisted by a small number of constables and volunteer night watchmen. The "Metropolitan System," used by several large American cities at the time, created a board of police commissioners with authority to appoint a superintendent of police and a number of patrol officers. Cleveland's first department consisted of Acting Superintendent Samuel Furnal (who held the appointed rank of Captain), three sergeants, one special detective and 43 patrol officers divided into day and night platoons to protect the city's 67,000 people. In 1871 Jacob W. Schmitt, who had been instrumental in the passage of the Metropolitan Police Act, was made superintendent, serving through 2 departmental organizations until 1893. The department was shaken in 1876 when a group of patrol officers appealed their dismissal to the Ohio general assembly, which resulted in the disbanding of Cleveland's Police Board and the entire department. Following the creation of a new board, nearly all members of the department were reappointed.
After these turbulent beginnings, the police department was relatively calm and service was improved. By the turn of the century, patrol wagons and the callbox system were in use, and the department had established its mounted unit. A police force of 355 assigned to 12 different precincts kept the peace. In 1903 the department assumed its modern form when the state legislature abolished the Metropolitan Police Act, and control of the department was shifted to city government. A local department of public safety was established, headed by a director appointed by the mayor. The director, in charge of both the police and fire departments, appointed their respective chiefs. The chiefs in turn appointed the members of their departments from a Civil Service list of eligible candidates.
From 1900-20 the department concentrated on managing the city's rapid growth as its population increased from 381,000 in 1901 to 568,00 in 1911, to 831,000 in 1921. The police department also grew from 388 members in 1901 to 534 in 1911 and 1,384 in 1921. Operations were modernized as the first mobile patrol was instituted in 1903. With the introduction of automobiles, the last horse-drawn vehicle was withdrawn from service; however, most officers still walked their beats—motorcars were reserved for wagons, ambulances, and detectives. In the 1920s and 1930s the police department experimented with new technologies and procedures, gaining a reputation as one of the most progressive and efficient departments in the U.S. The Cleveland police established a women's bureau in 1924. In 1929 the department improved communications by installing its first radio transmitter, and equipping several police cars with radio receivers. When ELIOT NESS was appointed safety director in 1935, he abolished the existing system of precincts and reorganized the city into police districts with each commanded by a captain. Through the 1938 reorganization plan, 5 districts were subdivided into 32 zones, which were patrolled by radio-equipped zone cars 24 hours a day, replacing the foot patrolmen. Units of the Accident Prevention Bureau, the Emergency Ambulance Service, the Motorcycle Division, and the Detective Bureau also patrolled the streets. The end of World War II saw the department grow in number and in 1945 a 6th police district was added. In the 1950s the department pioneered the use of automatically triggered cameras in banks and stores to photograph robbery attempts (see ST. CLAIR SAVINGS & LOAN HOLDUP). While the population of the city remained stable through the 1950s, the police department continued to expand, reaching a total of 1,947 in 1960. The 1960s saw relations between the department and the city's growing black community deteriorate significantly, as rioting occurred in the Hough area in July 1966, and a 4-hour gun battle with black militants took place in July 1968, which killed 3 officers (see HOUGH RIOTS, GLENVILLE SHOOT-OUT).
In the 1970s the department suffered from the city's deteriorating finances. Aging equipment was not replaced, and the department decreased from a peak of 2,464 in 1970 to a total of 1,857 in 1980, with 12 different chiefs serving between 1966-79. This turnover, coupled with rising crime rates and increasing demands for service, contributed to a perception of the police department as a disorganized and demoralized force. In 1977 Cleveland was found guilty of discriminating against minorities in hiring, promoting, and recruiting police officers. As a result of the consent decree, the department placed greater emphasis on community relations and significantly improved its minority hiring. By 1992 the number of police officers had increased from 1,551 (in 1984) to 1,668, of whom 26.3% were black. During the administration of Mayor Michael White the city expanded its neighborhood-based policing program with storefront stations, stepped-up traffic enforcement, and other measures. Community service developments have included the addition of a Drug Abuse Resistance Education Unit, which teaches semester courses in Cleveland Elementary schools; a Mini-Station Unit, participating in Cleveland neighborhood organizations; and a Juvenile/Youth Gang Unit. In Feb. 1994 Patrick Oliver was named chief of police, as the first African American to hold that position in Cleveland. He resigned later that year. White appointed a second African American and the first female chief, Mary Bounds, in August 2001, before leaving office. New Mayor Jane Campbell's selection for the post, Edward F. Lohn, was sworn in as chief in February 2002.
View image in Digital Cleveland Starts Here®
View image at Cleveland Memory.
View image gallery at Cleveland Memory.