Division of Police
History of Lakewood Police Department
The Hamlet of Lakewood (population 400) was granted on December 19, 1885. The first city ordinance was passed in 1889. The ordinance read:
“Be it ordained by the trustees of the Hamlet of Lakewood, Ohio, that no person shall ride or drive any horse or horses or other animal or animals in such a manner as to endanger or unreasonably incommode any person or at a rate of speed exceeding eight miles and hour. Any person violating the provision of this section may be arrested and fined a sum not exceeding twenty-five dollars or imprisonment not more than thirty days or both at the direction of the court.”
The Hamlet needed someone to enforce such issues. This job went to Charles Townsend who was elected Marshal and Chief of Police to enforce the ordinances. To assist Marshal Townsend in his duties eleven Special Police Officers were sworn in and charged fifty cents each for their badges.
It was not until 1896 that two steel cages were purchased for lockup, and a penal institution established in Frank Penny’s barn. The steel cages did not always stay in Frank Penny’s barn. They were moved several times throughout the Hamlet, finding homes in sheds and even in a tavern, called the “Halfway House”, on Detroit Ave. at Thoreau Road. The cages were moved from barn to barn and the occasional shed, until a permanent building could be erected to house the cages.
The Hamlet of Lakewood became the Village of Lakewood on May 4, 1903.
On January 5, 1914 Lakewood became a City. Under the new charter, Henry C. O’Dell became the first chief of Police for the city of Lakewood. Henry O’Dell was born in Cleveland, Ohio on September 15, 1856. He had a grammar school education and was a farmer by training. Henry O’Dell began his police career when he became a Deputy Marshall for the Hamlet of Lakewood in 1889.
In 1913 the Police Department was placed in the Fire station on Warren Road. Prior to this the Police headquarters was located on Riverside Road just south of Detroit Ave. In 1923 the old Cuyahoga Telephone building at 1484 Warren was purchased and the Police Department was moved. The Police Department was moved again in 1959 to its current location at 12650 Detroit Ave.
Equipment has always been a key factor in policing. Until 1914 the patrolmen used bicycles, but in that year the City purchased its first motorcycle ( a 4 cylinder Henderson), the only motor vehicle in the department. The number increased to five in the following years. In 1917 the first patrol wagon was purchased, a Model “T” Ford. The following years cars replaced the motorcycles.
The first communication system of the Police Department consisted of a group of eight telephone boxes on Detroit, Madison, and Clifton Ave., where the officers received hourly reports and received instructions. In 1923, a contract with the Gamewell Signal system established a system of 36 telephones and recall bosses. A flashing light system over these boxes permitted the desk officer at headquarters to reach officers on their “beats” in an emergency.
In the 1930’s patrol cars were equipped with receivers. However, mobile units could not call in on them and the desk officer could not be certain his outgoing message was received. Finally in 1944, a fifty-watt broadcasting station was installed with 11 transmitters for both Police and Fire Department.
In the early years of the Police Department, the Police were responsible for more than just calls from the public. The Police Department erected and removed all traffic signs, painted all traffic lanes and cross walks, kept traffic lights in repair, serviced the signal system and repaired its own automobiles and radios.
A Detective Bureau was established in 1915, staffed by two plain clothed officers. A Woman’s Bureau was established in 1926 and was headed by a policewoman. She handled all juvenile matters and filed all charges in juvenile court, when minors were involved, and aided in investigations pertaining to female persons.
During World War II the Police Department was Control Center for Civilian Defense when hundreds of volunteers were trained as Air Raid Wardens. Fire Watchers, First aid, Auxiliary Nurses, etc.… It was also the place where civilians worked to help keep records during that time.
In the years that followed the Lakewood Police Department would once again return to one of its earlier means of transportation, the bicycle. In 1991 bicycle patrol returned to the Birdtown area (Southeast section) of Lakewood to assist in Community Policing.