- Associated Press - Monday, June 5, 2017

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) - Patrol officer Christina Meyer lives in a home built by her great-grandparents, which she said fostered her lifelong interest in history.

She studied anthropology at the University of New Hampshire before becoming a police officer and was the only one to answer a recent call for someone to curate the Police Department’s historical artifacts.

Some of the relics are already displayed in glass-front cases in the lobby of the Junkins Ave. police station. Others are stuffed in a basement closet that Meyer will examine, sift, archive and preserve.

“I have boxes of stuff to go through,” she said. “This is going to be a labor of love.”

In the basement closet is a box full of vintage and antique handcuffs, some looking like torture devices. There’s a box of police uniform patches, a trio of foam heads topped with vintage police caps and a push-button telephone. There’s a triple beam scale, wood nightsticks, framed portraits and old cruiser light bars.

There are printing press negatives of police photos, old cameras and a half-dozen 1960’s books about traffic investigations. Tucked in the closet are old police uniforms, photographs and a leather-bound notebook with printed cards police used to record information about suspects before the advent of computers.

In an adjacent hallway, Meyer said, she’ll set up a preservation station and she plans to archive everything in digital format.

The Portsmouth officer said historic preservation was always part of her life while living in the family home where Civil War-era photos of her ancestors have been displayed for more than a century. As a UNH student, she dreamed of archaeological adventures in foreign countries but said she came to policing through bartending.

Tending bar to pay her way through college, Meyer said, was sometimes hands-on when it came to managing drunken last-call patrons. While physically removing a patron from a Dover bar one night, she said, a local police officer told her she’d make a good cop.

Meyer said she later learned to handle firearms while an intern at the Sig Sauer Training Academy, where she met people in law enforcement and decided to apply for a job opening with the Lee Police Department. It was 1999 when she went to the police academy and, she said, “before I knew it I had a midnight shift by myself.”

“There was no supervisor on,” she said, “So I learned a lot.”

Later hired as a Portsmouth officer, Meyer said she shared stories about the history of the Police Department with former chief David “Lou” Ferland who wrote the book, “Historic Crimes and Justice in Portsmouth New Hampshire.” She said she bought his book and hoped to help him preserve police relics but it never happened before he retired.

So when Capt. Frank Warchol recently asked for volunteers, Meyer said, she stepped up.

Meyer said she’ll have a summer intern from UNH to help “go through everything,” cull items without historical significance and process everything that is significant.

Many of the items were donated by citizens and need to be researched and archived, she said. One example, a 1970 certification for Emil Peschel Jr. as a Rye auxiliary officer, won’t be part of the final Portsmouth collection, but will likely be donated to Rye.

There is also a collection of 1887 arrest logs, court case books from 1899, officer logs from 1950 and bound Police Commission minutes from 1895.

Meyer said the Portsmouth Athenaeum has boxes of bound and handwritten Portsmouth police arrest and daily log books from the 1800s. There were no phones so residents who needed police help had to go to the station or find a cop walking a beat. The recording officer wrote all the details with a fountain pen and in narrative format.

The athenaeum collection is missing one book that Meyer said is on display in the lobby of police headquarters. One of her first orders of historical police business, she said, will be to give that bound log book to the athenaeum so the collection is complete and available to researchers.

“They should be together,” she said.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2sIQC6D

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Information from: Portsmouth Herald, https://www.seacoastonline.com

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