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Archive for Saturday, January 13, 1990

LOCAL POLICE TAKE A LOOK AT HISTORY

January 13, 1990

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Lawrence police spend much of their time trying to stay modern: spotting crime trends, obtaining new equipment and attending training programs focusing on new law enforcement methods.

But now, police officials are taking a look into their department's past.

Chris Mulvenon, Chief Ron Olin's administrative assistant, for about a year has been gathering artifacts and written information documenting the history of the Lawrence Police Department.

Mulvenon has already culled several interesting items, such as a tin badge that was issued before the mid-1930s and one of the last badges identifying a police officer as a "Patrolman." Badges now say "Police Officer" to reflect the fact that women are on the force.

MULVENON also has collected logbooks written in the 1930s and early 1940s that show not only how the department has changed but how the city has grown.

You don't see reports like this one from Aug. 1, 1937, any more: "Chickens running loose three doors north of 424 Ind."

This report from the same decade also wouldn't surface in the 1990s: "Roger Davis, Coffeeville, Kansas. A dope head. Taken to the County Jail, to be run out of town Sunday morning."

But some crimes that were popular in the 1930s continue to occur today.

"If you look through those logbooks, you'll find that people were stealing Christmas lights back in the 1930s," Mulvenon said. "And of course, we have that same thing today. Back then, people held up gas stations. Now, it's convenience stores."

COLLECTING historical data is often frustrating, Mulvenon said, since departmental efforts to preserve its history have been "sporadic, at best."

Many records and other memorabilia have vanished, either because they were lost during the department's move to its current location or were thrown away to clear storage space.

"To me, it's a personal shame because of my interest in history," he said. "But it's also a shame to the department."

The artifacts have come from a variety of sources. The logbooks were unearthed at the Law Enforcement Center. Other items have been donated by current and former police officers.

Mulvenon said the department wants to build a display containing police badges and patches, photographs, guns and other items used by officers and other members of the department. The display would be shown to school classes and other groups that tour the police department.

A LONG-RANGE goal, Mulvenon said, is to compile a book about the history of the Lawrence Police Department. The book, he said, would contain anecdotes from current and former department members as well as important chronological data.

At least two police veterans, James Haller Sr. and Mike McCaffrey, have a lot to offer to such a project.

Haller, who has been on the force longer than any current officer, has seen radical changes in the department and the city since he became a Lawrence police officer in 1962. When he started, for instance, he made $335 a month, or $4,020 a year. Today, a first-year officer makes more than $24,000 a year.

Haller said officer training in 1962 consisted of a two-week course on three subjects. In 1990, Lawrence police recruits will go through more than 100 hours of physical training alone.

HALLER AND McCaffrey, a police officer since 1965, each have a mental footlocker full of information. They remember everything from Bobby the Police Cat a black and white tomcat that used to hang around the old police station at 745 Vt. to the names and quirky traits of town vagrants.

The officers also could fill several historical volumes with war stories, most of which stem from the riots of the early 1970s.

McCaffrey said he had one of his biggest scares that year, when he was in a group of officers assigned to keep a large crowd of protesters out of Lawrence High School. He said the group of officers, who were in the high school lobby, dwindled to just himself and Haller when school officials announced that lunch was ready.

Then Haller got a phone call, leaving McCaffrey alone with the angry mob.

"My thinking at that point was that if they wanted to come in, I'd hold the door for them," McCaffrey said in a dead-pan voice.

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