Formal training for Cleveland Police Officers can be traced back to 1914, when the first “police school” was established at the Eighth Precinct Headquarters. Part One of this series describes the history of police training from 1914 through 1954. Part Two follows the development of that training from 1954 to 1976.
After leaving the facilities at 1283 Riverbed Road in 1954, the Cleveland Police School moved to quarters in the old 12th Precinct at 8312 Detroit Avenue. Safety Director John McCormack was quoted in the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the move would be temporary. “Plans to use the precinct station until new modern quarters can be built for police training use have been approved by a group of police officers who visited the station this week. He said examination of the station had shown it to be in good condition, although it was vacant and formerly was used as a print shop for the safety department.” The move was to to these temporary quarters was to take place in two weeks and no decision had been made about the fate of the Riverbed building.
Several options for new permanent academy quarters were discussed, including a joint training school for police and fire cadets. In May of 1954, the City of Cleveland entered into a one-year lease with Western Reserve University, testing their facilities for a new academy location. The school moved to Hitchcock Hall, 11015 Euclid Avenue, “…with the police rookies joining the legions of cap-and-gowners…” on the campus.
The first group of cadets to attend the new school were appointed on 08/16/1954 and included two policewomen, Barbara Ann Yedlick #3003 and Doris Jean Watkins #3002.
Several innovations were incorporated into the new training program debuted at Hitchcock Hall. A physical fitness program, the first of its kind to be implemented at the police academy, required cadets and patrolmen returning for training to receive physical instruction for seven weeks at the Adelbert College gymnasium. Patrolman Vince L. Ardito #101 originated the program and drew up a list of 25 qualifying tests. A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in physical education, Ardito was given approval for the program by Deputy Inspector Richard Wagner and Captain James Dodge, who headed the Academy.
Another innovation was a mockup model of the dashboard of a patrol car, devised by the Motor Vehicle Maintenance and Radio Repair Division of the Safety Department. Using the model, which was mounted on rolling casters and equipped just like an actual police car, “…the students will be instructed in the proper method of using a police radio. Also mounted on the dash is a recall light and shotgun holder,” according to the Plain Dealer.
The first class graduated from this academy program at Hitchcock Hall on 02/11/1955.
In March of 1955, Western Reserve University offered a partnership with the Cleveland Police. The Plain Dealer reported “Like schools of law, medicine, and social work, The Cleveland Police Academy has been recognized as a professional school – it has been invited to integrate itself with Western Reserve University.” Police Command staff personnel declined the offer and stated that the City planned on moving forward with “A combined police and fire school, with a 29-acre campus of its own, will be built on city owned land adjoining West Part Cemetery.” Although the Police Academy never came to fruition, a state-of-the-art Pistol Range was constructed on this site.
Classes continued on the Western Reserve University campus until March of 1958 when the academy moved to an empty Fire Station #32, a 2-story, 2-bay brick building with a stone façade, located at 1431 West 112th Street. Classes continued at Fire Station #32 with three groups training there. The final class was appointed July 18, 1960. Retired Deputy Chief Michael Janero reminisced about being in the first class to train in this location:
“About 57 years ago we were sitting in a Fire House on Madison Ave and it was called the Police Academy and I remember (Lieutenant) Rademaker telling the class that they were going to be the future supervisors of the department. Well at the time we all thought it was a lot of BS. I have been screwing around with the class names etc. and thought you might like to see what I came up with if you already have not done this. As of March 3, 2017 : the class of December 16, 1958 started out with 39 officers – 19 were promoted; 3-Deputy Chief, 3-Captains, 7-Lieutenants, and 6-Sergeants.”
After the Cleveland Police academy moved off of the Western Reserve University campus, the college partnered with the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office and created the first Suburban Police School, because of the success seen with of the Cleveland training program. This training program continued at the Law Medicine Center into the 1970s, with a number of Cleveland Police Officers serving as part time instructors.
In December of 1960, the new Fifth District Headquarters opened at 10700 Chester Avenue. A portion of the second floor was designated for the Police Academy. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported, “More pleasing to Safety Director John N. McCormick than any other feature of the new station are the two large classrooms on the second floor. He hopes to utilize them for year-round refresher courses for experienced policemen. A folding door between the classrooms may be pushed back to convert them into a big assemble hall – the only one available to the police department. In the large hall-way outside of the classrooms the chief looks forward to establishing someday a ‘crime prevention museum.’”
The Fifth District Police Academy graduated twelve cadet classes between 1962 and 1967. The Cleveland Public Library established a small “police branch” on the second floor with books on law enforcement and police science for the cadets to use. Physical training took place at the St. Clair Recreation Center, 6520 St. Clair Avenue and weapons training was held at the Grays Armory, 1234 Bolivar Avenue.
The Big Creek Pistol Range was closed with the construction of Interstate 71. A new outdoor range was created at 3666 West 58th Street that was functional in the summer of 1969. It took a number of years before it became a quality shooting range.
Therefore, the department moved the academy to a building with significantly more space at 2341 Carnegie Avenue. Built in 1926 by architects Frank R. Walker and Harry E. Weeks, the upper floors housed the architectural firm’s offices and the ground floor was leased to the Jones-Finny Lincoln auto dealership. In the late 1960s, the City negotiated a lease for space in the building, then known as the Human Engineering Institute Building. The space used for the Academy, which had formerly been used by the Republic Steel Corporation as a training school for its workmen, included three classrooms, office space, an auditorium and came equipped with classroom furniture and equipment.
The department arranged for the academy to use the gym and swimming pool at the closed YWCA located at East 18 Street and Prospect Avenue. In February, Philip W. Porter, former Executive Editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, set up an office in the building and produced the first internal publication of the Cleveland Division of Police (eventually known as The Guardian).
The first class to attend the academy at 2341 Carnegie Avenue was the class of May 13, 1969. That class was unique because of its small size. It consisted of only seven men and it remains the smallest academy class in the modern history of the department.
The next Cadet Class began training on July 7, 1969. None of the 120 men were sworn officers when they entered the academy – another first for the department. These men had all taken and passed a civil service entrance exam months earlier, but a court challenge resulted in that exam being thrown out because it was discovered some of the applicants taking the test had received a copy of the exam in advance and had shared it with others. The 120 were approached by the department and offered a chance to attend the academy on an “if come” basis. They were told that the exam would be given again at a future date, and if they passed that future entrance exam, the background check (which included a polygraph exam at that time), and other tests, they would be hired as police officers. Unfortunately, not every one of the 120 passed the entrance exam, and of those who did, some did not pass the physical exam, or the background check, etc. Some who were within the age limit for police officers set by the city when they took the first entrance exam were ineligible because they exceeded the age limit by the time the second exam was administered.
The classrooms at 2341 Carnegie were also used for various “in-service” training programs. On December 4, 1969, the Cleveland Public Library opened the 1800 volume Cleveland Police Branch on the fifth floor. It was described in the Plain Dealer as “… an extensive collection of books on police science and law enforcement…open to students, suburban officers and all members of the Cleveland Police Department.”
Included in the 1969 appointments was the last group of female cadets to be assigned directly to the Woman’s Bureau. In March of 1978, these Officers were transferred to Detective Bureau and their Badge Numbers were changed from the 3000 series assigned only to Policewomen to regularly assigned badge numbers.
Budget cuts implemented by City Council in 1971 resulted in the Police Academy being forced to move from the Carnegie Avenue location. In 1972 the Division of Police entered into an agreement with the Utilities Department to lease the Amstan Building at 1825 Lakeside Avenue. The first Cadets began training on January 16, 1973. Physical training resumed at the St. Clair Recreation Center, 6520 St. Clair Avenue and weapons training was held at the Grays Armory, 1234 Bolivar Avenue and the Outdoor Range, 3666 West 58th Street.
The Police Academy, Narcotic, Homicide, Robbery, Burglary, and Task Force (later the SWAT Unit) occupied this building until the new Police Headquarters building located in the Justice Center at 1300 Ontario Street was completed in 1976.
Written by Cleveland Police Historical Society and Museum volunteer Commander Robert Cermak, Ret.