A Museum to Honor Law Enforcers

A news conference announcing plans for a National Law Enforcement Museum at Judiciary Square offered a look at the rigors behind the badge.
A news conference announcing plans for a National Law Enforcement Museum at Judiciary Square offered a look at the rigors behind the badge. (By Rich Lipski -- The Washington Post)
By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 1, 2007

You're a cop. You've been summoned to an alley behind a strip mall that's a known drug hangout. You hail a man and two women lounging by an old car.

The man, a beefy guy in a plaid work shirt, gets belligerent and starts toward you. One of the women grabs his arm to hold him back, and as you focus on them, the other woman slips a pistol from her pocket and opens fire.

Bang. You're dead.

This big-screen interactive simulation of an eight-second slice in the virtual life of an everyday cop was demonstrated yesterday as the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund kicked off the money-raising campaign for a new museum, planned to open in 2011 near Judiciary Square.

Nearly $30 million has been raised for the museum, which is designed to showcase police work and the history of American law enforcement. Yesterday's event began a drive to raise the rest of the $80 million cost, with officials previewing some of the attractions.

The police training simulation, in which participants must make snap shoot-or-don't-shoot decisions, is one of several interactive features. Visitors also will be able to attend a simulated autopsy -- which will be "instructive, not gross" -- do realistic forensic and detective work, and see a word-class collection of police memorabilia, according to museum officials.

The fundraising drive was launched at the National Press Club with a boost from former presidents Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush, who spoke via video recording, and former U.S. attorneys general John D. Ashcroft, Dick Thornburgh and Edwin A. Meese, who spoke in person. Several local officials also attended, including D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, Prince George's County Police Chief Melvin C. High and Fairfax County Police Chief David M. Rohrer.

Also present was Jean Hill, president of Concerns of Police Survivors, which supports families and friends of slain police officers. Hill is the mother of Barry Hill, a 38-year-old Harris County, Tex., deputy sheriff, who was shot seven times and killed while trying to arrest a car thief Dec. 4, 2000.

"It's a matter of honor that we not forget the sacrifice of the living or the dead, and with the construction of the National Law Enforcement Museum we will forever be honoring all men and women who have taken the oath to protect and to serve," she said.

Her son was among numerous slain or wounded law enforcement officers remembered yesterday. Among them were J.D. Tippit, the Dallas police officer who was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald on Nov. 22, 1963, and Fairfax County's Vicky O. Armel and Michael E. Garbarino, who were fatally shot by a disturbed teenager last May.

Plans call for the 90,000-square-foot museum to be built mostly underground in the 400 block of E Street NW, across from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, according to the fund's chairman, Craig W. Floyd.

A sampling of museum artifacts on display yesterday included historic handcuffs and badges, some collectible crime cards, featuring the likes of Machine Gun Kelly and John Dillinger, and an original "Wanted" poster from the 1932 kidnapping of the son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh.

Among other things, the museum will enable visitors to practice being a 911 operator, enter actual prison cells the museum hopes to acquire from New York's Sing Sing prison, and enter a hall of remembrance honoring the country's 17,500 fallen police officers.

Officials said the autopsy will feature a table bearing a manikin on which a simulated post mortem will be projected from overhead cameras. It won't be too graphic, exhibits designer Christopher Chadbourne said. But a sign will be posted outside to warn the squeamish.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company