Put-in-Bay Police History

My wife headed off to the mainland a few days before Christmas. It was her fifth trip on the ferry since Thanksgiving. It got me thinking about the good old days on the Island. Back in the day, come rain or come shine, Lee Miller halted his Miller Boat Line ferry service just before the Thanksgiving holidays. Alfie Parker would still run one of his Parker Boat Line ferries from the downtown to Port Clinton, but it was a long trip, sometimes in some pretty rough weather. Islanders would have to use the Ford Trimotor to get back and forth to the mainland for the duration of the winter.

It’s things like this that are looked back upon in a nostalgic way, the same way many of us look back upon when it comes to our youth growing up in the United States. For the coming issues, I’ll write about the way we were and make a comparison to the way things are today. You can then make up your own mind which was/is better – the past or the present. To start off, take a look at police protection on the island
over the years. One of the early photos of police on the island is one of several police officers dressed in uniforms like the Keystone cops wore in the old silent films of the 1910s and 1920s. We also know that John Nissen was also Chief of Put-in-Bay Police for a time in the 1930s. John was a German immigrant who became an island icon. His photo is displayed at Mossbacks in the building he owned for many years. Little is
known about those early days of policing on the island.

Little Known About Early Put-in-Bay Police History

One story that goes around in my family is about my Uncle Bill Rudolph. He was in the merchant marine and one time when he returned to the island, the mayor (not sure which one) made him the chief of police. Bill was not allergic to spirits. He, according to story, would go into the Put-in-Bay Bars, order a drink, and when asked to pay, would say, “Charge it to the mayor!” He also, as the story goes, decided to play a joke on Butch Traverso, another island character.

Bill put handcuffs on Butch, not because he was arresting him, but simply to show him what it was like to be cuffed. Trouble was Bill put them on extremely tight, then could not find the keys. Butch howled in pain until a key could be found. Needless to say, if this is all true, it’s no wonder Bill didn’t last long as chief! If you jump ahead to the 1960s, you’ll find one of the most colorful and memorable island police chiefs, Franz Schillumeit.

Put-in-Bay Police History Franz Schillumeit.

He was chief twice for several years in the 1960s and early 1970s. Franz was about 6 ft. 6 in. tall and weighed about 250 pounds. He had come back to Put-in-Bay after serving in the Marine Corps. Mayor Jim Poulos, a short, white-haired island restaurateur originally from Greece, was faced with the problem of rowdy college students who slept in the park, mashed wine bottles and generally caused mayhem
when they came to island. Franz was the perfect choice to head his Put-in-Bay Police department.


Put-in-Bay Police History picture of former Chief

Franz didn’t really have much of an office to work out of. The Council Room at the Town Hall, smaller than it is today, became police headquarters on a busy weekend. Those violating the law were brought to the Town Hall and charged. Usually, it was for an open container violation, but for those who had more serious charges, the two dungeon cells in the basement (now remodeled into interrogation rooms) became their home away from home.

Franz, plus the rent-a-cops who manned the force, needed no formal police training. If you wanted to work as a rent a- cop, you needed black pants and a white shirt and your own pistol and holster. You were issued a badge, a paper ID card with no photo, a three-foot-long nightstick and a blue hat. In those days, there was no Village-owned police car, so Franz had an old 1957 or 1958 Plymouth with the huge tail fins that came from the Township. It was painted all black or really dark and had a red gumball light on top. Franz’s successor, Captain Tom Ohlemacher, had to use his personal car for police duties. The department finally got a light-blue, mid-size Plymouth wagon. Whoopee!

If Franz knew you and you did something wrong, chances were he would let you know he knew what you were up to. Nothing more had to be said. A few words from Franz and you were back on the straight and narrow. If he didn’t know you, you didn’t want a confrontation with him. I once saw Franz slug an unresponsive, stoned prisoner with his large fist. The prisoner sat across the Council Room table from
Franz surrounded by other officers. Franz stood up, leaned over the table and let the prisoner have it. No one in the room said a word, but that kind of behavior today would surely result in a major lawsuit again the Village, and needless to say, the dismissal of the officer, be he just an officer or the chief.

There’s also the story about Franz firing his revolver at a fleeing violator, and another story about him throwing his revolver at someone he was chasing (the first is true, and while we can’t confirm the second, it sure makes for great Put-in-Bay Police History). During Franz’s tenure as Chief, the State of Ohio passed legislation to have all police officers take a number of hours of training. This included Franz. The story goes, that one of his officers took the required training and got the necessary certificate. Franz “borrowed” the officer’s certificate, changed the officer’s name by covering it up with his name and made a copy. Franz’s “certificate” was then framed and hung on the wall of the Council Room. No one ever questioned it.

Put-in-Bay Police History in the 1970’s

Tom Ohlemacher, who became chief after Franz, held a certification class on the island with the help of Dave Franklin during the winter of ‘77-’78. Also, when Tom was chief, the department got official office space in the town hall when the old fire truck bay was remodeled. This now where Karen Goaziou’s office and the restrooms are located on the first floor.

Among those who were “rent-a-cops” were locals Fran Morrow, Ed Cummings from the group home on East Point, Jim Fastzkie, Len Worley from the Acorn Club, the Burris brothers, Dale and Wayne, from North Bass, Bob “Werty” Wertenbach who worked for Dick Fox and later for Miller Boat Line, Bill Wertenbach, Wayne Larson who later lived on North Bass and became house parent at the Island Resorts dorm before retiring, Tom Campbell whose grandson Tavis worked for the department years later, the current police chief Steve Riddle, and yours truly, Jeff Koehler. Bill Wertenbach, who had served in the U.S, Navy, did something rather unusual when it came to taking down someone fleeing from him. He would throw his nightstick at the fleer’s legs. More often than not, the person would trip and fall making it that much easier for Bill to apprehend him.

Two police chiefs who served between Franz’s two stints were a fellow named Magee (the first name long is forgotten) and Ernie Owens.
Tom Ohlemacher took on the chief’s job in 1974 after Franz quit and became the island plumber. Other chiefs included Bud Cox (who ended up getting in trouble with the law), Rick Schwable who caused a stir when he was involved in a wet-T-shirt contest at the old Castle and was terminated, former State Highway Patrol officer and Marine Veteran Murray Youtz and Marine veteran, and Jim Lang who now has a cottage on Chapman Rd.

There were two short-term chiefs, Matt Fruchy and Al Duff. Matt was hired and moved into Back Bay Condos with his wife. Right after moving in, his wife was scared when she found a partying island visitor climbing up her balcony. Needless to say, the new chief resigned immediately after several days on the job and was never heard of again. The other short-term chief was Al Duff. Mayor Poulos had him fill the position temporarily before hiring someone else.

Women In Put-in-Bay Police History

Put-in-Bay Police History has also had an acting woman chief, Bev Adair, who did a fine job between two “official” male chiefs. She retired to the desert in Utah. She raises goats with one of her fellow officers and Island Airline pilot Cindy Dages. Cindy’s son, Shawn Dages, tells us they make Quemada sauce (a Mexican caramel), a paw wax for animals and goat milk soap. They sell their all-natural products at fairs and
festivals. Cindy, who started when Tom Ohlemacher was chief, was with the department for about 20 years When it comes to women and minorities, the department has had women, black and Latino officers over the years.

Put-in-Bay has had some memorable officers, Del Milner (who also provided rent-a-cops and security from a private company), Tim Bolger, Tom Golem, Tom Pascoe (an Insurance Agent from Sandusky) and, of course, Ron Root, a small man with a bigger-than-ever love for Put-in-Bay. He was one of the few officers who knew everyone on the island and whom everyone on the island knew. Three members of the Boyles family worked for the Put-in-Bay Police Department. Art, the state park manager, and bike shop operator, worked at an officer when needed, and his late wife, Sandy, was the matron for women who were arrested. Their son, Tip, now a Put-in-Bay Village Councilman, also served on
the department.

Put-in-Bay Police History The Ric Lampela / Steve Korossy Dark Years

At one time, the Put-in-Bay Police Dept. ran a harbor patrol boat. Grants from the state helped pay for its operation. One of the duties of the boat patrol was to help with security runs along the border and keeping an eye on those boating to Pelee Island Canada. The boat was handy for getting emergency people to the upper islands, too, but finally, the boat patrol was abandoned several years ago. After Jim Lang,  Ric Lampela has the honor of holding the Put-in-Bay Police Chief job longer than anyone but ended his career being terminated after the Put-in-Bay Village Council voted to Fire Ric Lampela from office for a number of alleged offenses. Among those who worked in Ric’s department were his brother Brad, Tavis Campbell who moved to the mainland where he is a police officer, and Don Dress who served at the department’s dispatcher for many seasons. Put-in-Bay Policeman Steve Korossy was also charged with multiple felonies.

Put-in-Bay Police History – Modern Day

Mike Frank from Sandusky replaced Lampela and was well on his way to rebuilding the image of the department until he left after a little more than a year on the job after working with Put-in-Bay Hotels & Resorts to fix issues. Today, Chief Steve Riddle heads up a the Put-in-Bay Police Dept. He and Deputy Chief Doug Miller oversee a
permanent staff who all have the proper certification and training. The police department offices take up most of the basement area in the Town Hall. It was remodeled some years ago. There are interrogation rooms (the former dungeon cells), a dispatch room, an office area for the officers to write their reports, an office for the chief, a lobby, modern holding cells, and an evidence room. The department has several
police cars, all appropriately equipped and owned by the Village of Put-in-Bay.

Currently, Lieutenant Matt Mariano has been with the department the longest. Officers have uniforms, body cameras and bullet-proof
vests. As in the past, they help keep law and order in the Village and also in the township (on all the islands). What used to be “rent-a-cops” are now officially on the Put-in-Bay Police roster and those who are not full-time or hire seasonal full- or part-time those who are used as the need arises.