Friday, April 10, 2015

American Police Hall of Fame and Museum


Police museum houses memorials, displays gear



Identification information on almost 9,000 on-duty officers killed since 1960 is displayed on the walls of the memorial.

            I always go out of my way to see one-of-a-kind museums, so I jumped at the chance to explore the American Police Hall of Fame & Museum in Titusville, Fla. Founded in 1960, it is the nation’s first national police museum and memorial dedicated to law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

            The centerpiece is a series of walls that display the names of almost 9,000 on-duty officers killed since 1960. Notes by each name indicate the city and state where the officer died. Along the bottoms of the walls, visitors place mementos such as flowers, pictures and personal objects that would have been meaningful to the person being honored. These walls had a strong emotional impact on me because I have worked with so many law enforcement personnel.

robocop

A costume from the movie "Robocop" stands on display at the American Police Hall of Fame and Museum in Titusville, Fla

            The next area I stepped into was a bit chilling because it held examples of devices used in executions: a gas chamber, an electric chair, a hanging noose and a guillotine. Posters for the FBI’s most-wanted fugitives were on a nearby wall. In front of the posters was a collection of dozens of billy clubs, nightsticks and blackjacks used by different police forces.

            Want to see how prisoners are housed? A regular cell for two awaits you, and nearby is the old-fashioned bare cell housing a steel ball — the type chained to an inmate’s leg. Several older methods of confining prisoners include an iron seating cage and stocks of various kinds. How one could survive some of them without going crazy was beyond me.

            Why do officers sometimes shoot individuals holding toy guns? A mixed display of real and toy guns demonstrates the problem of telling the difference, particularly when one is under stress and must make split-second decisions. A collection of police cars of various vintages and other pursuit vehicles are on display: a WaveRunner speedboat, an Alaskan snowmobile, motorcycles, an all-terrain vehicle, a Segway and a bicycle. No horses, however, were on exhibit.

            A RoboCop suit from the “RoboCop” movies is on display, along with the police car driven by Harrison Ford in “Blade Runner.” If children want to dress up as officers to have their pictures taken, a variety of uniforms in various sizes are available.

            One display shows how a face is reconstructed from a skull for identification purposes. You can have your fingerprints analyzed at one station. A small room was set up as a crime scene where a killing occurred so that visitors could read some information about crime analysis, carefully look around the room for clues and push buttons to find out how good they were at spotting clues.

            We were turned off by the film for children on staying safe from strangers because its advice seemed at times incomplete. For example, it only stressed strangers as dangerous and did not acknowledge that most sexual abuse is committed by people familiar to the child. At a shooting range connected with the museum, you can fire a machine gun for $40 and shoot a pistol for $10.

            Many walls were covered with law enforcement arm patches; the guide said the museum has boxes of them in a backroom to put up later.

            The museum has given a yearly Officer of the Year award since 1988. Law enforcement agencies submit reports on candidates; the docent indicated that the museum administrators find making the decision difficult because so many officers are deserving. Plaques for each of the awardees are near the memorial rooms.

            The police museum houses two not-for-profit American law enforcement associations: the National Association of Chiefs of Police and the American Federation of Police and Concerned Citizens.


The police car driven by Harrison Ford in “Blade Runner.”



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