The Cleveland Metropolitan Park District was established on July 23, 1917.
From the beginning days of the Park District, its leaders recognized the need to
not only protect the environment, but also those who would visit its pristine
surroundings. That need led to the formation of the Cleveland Metropolitan Park
District Police Department.
The creation of the Park District's law enforcement agency was made possible
on June 14, 1920, when the Board of Park Commissioners passed resolution #315
which called for maintaining "...general peace and good order of the park." The
Park District hired its first patrolman on May 5, 1921.
In 1922, a second patrolman was hired, and soon after, the Park District
purchased a three room cottage on Lorain Avenue, for $500, to be used as police
headquarters. As the year progressed, three more officers joined the ranks at a
salary of $100 per month.
The earliest officers patrolled the Park District on foot and horseback,
because there were few roads. Officers had no communications equipment. Red
illuminated pole lamps were added in key locations throughout the Park District.
The lamps were turned on as a simple but effective signal that an incident had
occurred which required an officer's attention.
The Great Depression
had a significant impact on the Park District. Work programs created by
President Franklin D. Roosevelt led to many improvements on park land. By 1933,
the Park District and its law enforcement agency were growing in tandem. The
department had increased to 15 officers. They used a stable of horses, one
motorcycle, and three cars to patrol what had grown, by that year, into a 10,000
acre park district. During World War II, many younger officers were called into
service overseas. As a result, older officers were hired to protect the Park
In 1945, the Board of Park Commissioners passed resolution #2317,
arming its police officers. The .38 caliber Smith & Wesson Police Special
was designated as the official department firearm. Prior to the passage of the
resolution, officers were expected to furnish their own weapons. In the mid
1950s, the patrol fleet was equipped with mobile telephones instead of standard
police radios. It was believed that mobile
phones permitted greater flexibility. Chief James K. Hoy reported, "the Park
District is adjacent to so many other police districts that no single radio
frequency could be assigned satisfactorily."
In 1967, the title "police" was officially changed to "ranger." The new name
more accurately represented the department's outdoor law enforcement functions.
The revamped department soon moved into a new home, occupying a former Ohio
Turnpike tollgate building in Strongsville. At the same time, 10 new cars were
purchased for the 45 member department. The new vehicles
were equipped with the department's first radio system, and a central dispatch
center became operational.
The Cleveland Metroparks Ranger Training Academy was also established in
1967. The training academy was the first such center for park ranger training in
the United States, except for the National Park Service Academy in Colorado. Law
enforcement officers from other park districts and local police agencies were
invited to attend at no cost. During its 19 years of operation, the academy
graduated 877 law enforcement officers.
In 1970, while the nation was dealing with the Vietnam War and recovering
from the turbulent 60s, Cleveland Metroparks rangers dealt with social unrest on
their soil. An autumn concert in Mill Stream Run Reservation erupted into
violence. The resulting chaos netted more than 400 arrests.
The disturbance remains, to this day, the single largest policing incident to
occur in Cleveland Metroparks.
In 1973 and 1981, national acclaim was bestowed on the Ranger Department. The
Mounted Unit was invited to ride in the Washington D.C. inaugural parades of
presidents Richard M. Nixon and Ronald W. Reagan. On both occasions, Cleveland
Metroparks Ranger Department was selected as the lone Ohio law enforcement
In a profession that is sworn to provide for public safety, rangers are
sometimes placed into perilous situations. Such was the case in 1983, when
Ranger James English was shot by a man while working undercover at Memphis
Picnic Area. Ranger English recovered and returned to work, and was promoted to
sergeant shortly thereafter. The department survived a similar occurrence in the
late 1970s, when Ranger Paul Moricz was shot through his campaign hat during a
traffic stop in Rocky River Reservation. Fortunately, Ranger Moricz was not
By the mid 1980s, the Park District had grown to over 18,000 acres of land,
patrolled by 77 rangers. In the years that followed, the Ranger Department
became more specialized and technologically advanced. Traffic, Detective, and K-9 units were established, and a computer-aided
dispatch center and records management system were implemented.
In 2004, the department moved into a new headquarters in Rocky
River Reservation. Ranger Headquarters houses a state-of-the-art communications center, prisoner holding
facilities, a forensic laboratory, and a museum. The museum displays
photographs, uniforms, artifacts, and equipment utilized throughout the years.
Of particular note is the national award for Best Dressed Law Enforcement
Agency, as featured in the September 2004 edition of Law and Order magazine.
Groups may schedule a tour of Ranger Headquarters by contacting the public information specialist.
Today, the department's force includes 85 sworn rangers. These rangers patrol
what has become a park district with nearly 23,000 acres of land in six northeast
Ohio counties, 100 miles of connecting parkways, and Cleveland Metroparks
From its earliest days, Cleveland Metroparks Ranger Department has grown in
size, technology, and experience of its personnel. Through extensive training
programs, continuing education efforts, and advancements in technology, the
department and its rangers remain in a perpetual state of evolution. The
vitality of the Ranger Department reflects the importance the community places
on Cleveland's "Emerald Necklace," an open space of natural beauty and diversity
that welcomes over 40 million visitors a year.