Hundreds of items didn't make it to police and fire museum displays
Mike DeBernardo, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The new police and fire safety museum showcases a collection of historic items to show the evolution of public safety in Utah.
But not all the items collected for the museum are on display. In a locked room on the third floor of the museum at 475 S. 300 East are items that didn’t make it to the museum lobby.
“Yeah, there are some neat items up here,” said Salt Lake Police Lt. Mike Ross.
Ross is in charge of the museum, and with some help, has collected hundreds of items that show his department's past.
“We began in 1851, so there is a lot of history with the Salt Lake City Police Department,” he said.
There is a book on one of the tables that has old mug shots. One of those mug shots is of George Cassidy, who you probably know as Butch Cassidy.
"He was actually picked up in Wyoming and sent down here to serve time,” Ross said. "That photo has been seen all over the place. That's the original photo."
There are also dozens of books on shelves with mug shots, and each mug shot has a story.
“This book here is all prostitutes from the 1930s. You can read the stories of how they came to the big city and unfortunately ended up in that kind of life,” Ross said.
There are old police badges, guns and trophies, too. They’re all stacked on shelves waiting to maybe one day be put on display.
"It is strictly (because) we just didn't have enough room. Maybe we can rotate them in and out of the lobby display,” said Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank. “I would love to have two floors of museum space and that's all we do."
One photo features the first traffic light, which was developed by Salt Lake traffic officer Lester F. Wire in the early 1920s. It’s believed to be the first traffic light in the country.
Other items in this room also show how rough female officers in the department had it early on.
One photo from the early 1900s shows the entire department in front of a building, except for the lone woman in the picture, who was forced to sit behind a tree so you can’t see her face.
"Everyone is dressed in a uniform and badge and she's got a corsage," Ross said.
There is also a female police uniform from the 1970s that featured a skirt. It only lasted two weeks before female officers demanded a change.
There is also evidence that plenty of laws have changed. A yearly arrest report shows some of the laws that were broken in 1892.
"Allowing chickens to trespass. We made four arrests for that. Allowing females in a saloon after 9 p.m. We made arrests for that,” Ross said.
Budgets changed too.
“In the early 1900s, the budget for the entire police department was $60,000,” Burbank said. “Well, now, that won’t even pay for one police officer.”
But for all the items in this room, there are plenty of things Ross would like to have.
“We don’t have a lot of our police uniforms through the years. We would certainly love to have somebody who might have these uniforms donate them to us, as well as any other items related to the history of the police and fire departments,” Ross said.
Anyone who would like to contact Ross about items in the museum, or to donate items can call the Salt Lake City Police Department at 801-799-3100.
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