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'The Thin Blue Line' Opens at Old County Jail

The Tolland Historical Society's newest exhibit - 'The Thin Blue Line' - is in honor of police work through the centuries, featuring artifacts from the archives of the Connecticut State Police Academy Alumni Association.

The old jailhouse on the Tolland Green is alive once again with police activity – well, to a point.

The Tolland Historical Society opened its newest exhibit on Sunday, The Thin Blue Line, as a tribute to the old jail and the Connecticut State Police.

Two vintage police cruisers positioned on the grass outside of the on the green attracted considerable interest on opening day. Once inside, a host of other memorabilia, including a collection of state police uniforms dating back to the early part of the century, a display case of old state police badges and a video containing footage of car chases throughout the state police’s history also piqued the crowd’s curiosity.

Yet, of all the pieces that surprised Museum Director Kathy Bach by the amount of attention it received, it was a stuffed bear dressed in a trooper’s uniform that garnered a lot of looks; the bear is being offered as a prize in the museum’s summer-long raffle.

“Our little trooper bear is causing quite a stir,” Bach said.

The Thin Blue Line is meant to show the special connection between the state police and the town of Tolland. The old jail, where the museum is located, is neighbor to Tolland Resident State Trooper’s new offices and just down the street from the Connecticut State Police Troop C barracks.

Charles Trotter, secretary of the Connecticut State Police Academy Alumni Association, said he is happy that the historical society has been able to preserve the building. He thinks that the jail and the state police share elements of their history.

“This is about the jail, but the state police are connected to it too,” Trotter said.

The county jail was last used in 1968 and held criminals from all of Tolland County who were awaiting trial at the old courthouse across the street or had been convicted of a misdemeanor crime and were serving up to a year-long sentence.

Jerry Longo, president of the CSPAAA, said the exhibit is a valuable opportunity for the public to become acquainted with the history of the Connecticut State Police.

Longo said that generations of association members accumulated many of the artifacts that are on display in the exhibit as well as many others that will be featured in the Connecticut State Police Academy Alumni Association Museum and Educational Center on Colony Street in Meriden, which is expected to open later this summer.

Most of the artifacts were being held in storage when Bach and some other volunteers were invited by the association to choose what they wanted for the exhibit.

“Stuff like this doesn’t belong in a store room, it belongs in places like this where people can touch them and see them,” Longo said. “It’s part of our history.”

Sgt. Scott Smith, one of Tolland’s five resident troopers, said that the exhibit would help residents learn about the history of local law enforcement.

“It’s great for the town,” Smith said. “A lot of people do not know the history of the state police.”

The exhibit will be open every Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. except on Independence Day and Labor Day weekend. It closes on Oct. 2. For more information visit the Tolland Historical Society’s Web site.

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