On the second floor of the Dallas Police Department’s Jack Evans headquarters is a room piled high with boxes containing a century’s worth of incident reports and arrest warrants, department newsletters and newspaper clippings; vintage badges, patches and patrolman caps fill several glass display cases; books containing city code and local true crime stories line metal shelves; and a heavy, rusty ball-and-chain leg cuff occupies a dark corner.
Dallas Police Senior Cpl. Rick Janich, curator of the forthcoming Dallas Police Museum, is working to transform these artifacts into a proper exhibit.
“There’s been a desire to have a museum since the ’60s,” he says. “We’re just waiting on more money.”
The Police Department is accepting donations to help make it happen. Meanwhile, when his schedule permits, Janich shows visitors around, allowing them to sift through handwritten records and black-and-white photos. He might even show off the collection of handguns and badges, stashed under lock and key, that once belonged to famous lawmen such as Prohibition-era police chief Elmo Strait.
A descendent of the early Preston Hollow pioneers, Strait served as the Police Department’s seventh chief in 1921, enacting reforms and programs still in use today, such as the police reserve system. However, his tenure was brief. According to a report in the Dallas Morning News archives from that era, the demands of his job caused “a breakdown in health,” prompting him to resign his position and remain under medical care. Although he had been improving, he suffered in the end a “hemorrhage of the throat.” He died suddenly at age 46 and lies in our neighborhood’s small, private burial ground known as Merrell Cemetery (read more on page 28). The day after his death, the chief was honored across the city. “Every wheel in the Dallas street railway system will be stopped and all traffic in the city will halt for one minute at 4 o’clock …” reads the obituary.
Other artifacts that await viewing in the 4,000-square-foot museum reflect a time long before technological conveniences. Instead of the computer systems now equipped in every squad car, each officer had his own notebook, known as a “hook book,” to “keep track of bad guys,” Janich says.
A large vintage photograph of the Dallas Police force in 1893 shows wool-uniformed officers who all have one thing in common: the mustache. Janich says the department adopted the trend from England.
“It was one of those, ‘Well, it’s not required, but we would prefer it because it shows you’re more healthy.’ ”
And have you ever wondered what was inside those tall police hats? That’s where the officers kept their lunch. “They didn’t have anywhere else to put it,” Janich says.
The museum will undoubtedly be a popular attraction, Janich says. After all, the Dallas Police Department has groupies, he explains.
“Fans of the show ‘Dallas SWAT’ will show up here looking for Rich Emberlin or Ed Spila or other stars of the reality TV show,” he says, “hoping for an autograph.”
To learn more or to donate to the Dallas Police Museum, visit dallaspolice.net and click on “Police Museum.”
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