At 109 years old, the Connecticut State Police force is the oldest law enforcement agency of its kind in the nation, according to its website. Now you can take a peek into its storied history at Meriden’s newest museum — the Connecticut State Police Museum and Education Center at 294 Colony St., Building 7.
The museum houses a collection of 20,000 photos as well as artifacts including weapons, uniforms, log books, and 10 vintage cruisers. Most of the items have been donated by former troopers and their families.
Founded and run by the Connecticut State Police Alumni Association, the museum opened on Saturday, July 1, drawing a crowd of about 300, including Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and the . Museum Director Jerry Longo, a retired sergeant with the Connecticut State Police, recently gave Patch a tour.
The first thing you’ll see upon entering the museum is a marble replica of the original 1903 state police badge on the floor just inside the entrance. It was created for the museum by Galleria Design Center of Middletown.
One room showcases such historic items as the switchboard used by the first state police dispatchers and original uniforms spanning several decades. The museum is trying to raise money for a climate-controlled glass case to better preserve the uniforms, according to Longo. Donations from the public are welcome.
Among the many artifacts on display dating back to the early 20th century is a complete set of darkroom equipment donated by the family of Arthur Kathe, a former trooper. Kathe was one of the first photographers to do darkroom work at the state police barracks. In the same room, you can also look at a variety of nightsticks and handcuffs, and an original leather vest once worn by a motorcycle officer in the 1940s.
Off of that room is the museum’s collection of firearms. They are kept in what was once a vault back when the building served as administrative offices for the Meriden School for Boys, Longo says.
The museum also houses a special memorial room. Photos of the 21 Connecticut state troopers killed in the line of duty line its walls. The names of all of the fallen police officers statewide since 1855 are also displayed.
The museum’s 40-seat media room is ideal for viewing historic films and training sessions. It is equipped with a state-of-the-art SMART Board.
Ten vintage state police cruisers are stored in a separate building.
A committee of state police alumni has been working on establishing the museum for about eight years. The effort really got off the ground about three years ago, Longo says, when they paid $1 to lease the building for 10 years and went to work getting it renovated. The museum is funded entirely by grants and private donations, mostly from the Connecticut State Police Alumni Association.
The museum is open to the public on Fridays from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. Hours may expand if additional volunteers can be recruited, Longo says. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.