MIAMI -- Teresa Miyares stood silently before one of seven white marble walls, searching more than 3,400 inscriptions on it for the name of her husband, Emilio.
A motorcycle officer with the Hialeah Police Department, Emilio Miyares died at age 27 in November 1986 when one of four men he stopped for questioning took the pistol from his holster and shot him four times in a shopping mall parking lot. "It makes me feel very sad to have my husband's name on this wall," Miyares said. "I can come here now, and at least I'm not alone."
Miyares and her children, Emilio Jr., 11, and Jessica, 7, were among 150 family members of slain police officers who attended the recent opening here of the American Police Hall of Fame. The combination museum and memorial to slain officers was moved last month from North Port, Fla., to the larger site here in hopes that more people would visit.
The opening was a sign that Miami's sagging tourist industry may be mending itself and the city's wounded reputation. Local businesses have campaigned independently to lure visitors since the early 1980s when street disturbances, rampant drug smuggling and the nation's highest per-capita murder rate made international headlines. Tourism also suffered after three days of unrest when a Hispanic police officer fatally shot a black motorcyclist during Super Bowl week in January 1989.
Billed as a family attraction, the Hall of Fame is a white, windowless building that features an immediate attention-getter on the facade -- a fully-equipped patrol car, mounted as if it had screeched to a stop about 12 feet up the wall. Inside, autographed pictures of more than 40 movie stars cover a wall, and exhibits depict Miami's fight against drug smuggling that drew national attention during the five years that "Miami Vice" ran on network television.
"Every city in America has a drug problem, but we were the gateway for the drugs," said Gerald Arenberg, executive director of the Hall of Fame museum.
Miami ranks first nationally in the quantity of confiscated cocaine, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Of the 82,437 kilograms of cocaine seized nationally by DEA agents last year, 30,177 were found here. The DEA's Miami division also confiscated about $210 million in drug money and property last year, most in the nation.
Nevertheless, the drug situation here "is getting better," DEA's John Fernandes said. "We have noticed a modest increase in the price of cocaine since the latter part of 1989. That's a positive sign."
The National Association of Chiefs of Police, which runs the Hall of Fame, spent $1.2 million to acquire and $800,000 to renovate the former headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The building, which housed the FBI for 23 years and became too small for its 300-member staff, "just reeks of law enforcement and the ghosts of hundreds of agents who have worked here," Arenberg said.
The old memorial to fallen officers was "a tenth of the size" of the new one, with little room left for more names, he added.
The Hall of Fame now houses a 400-ton marble memorial, engraved with names, ranks and department affiliations of more than 3,400 officers killed in the United States and its territories since 1960. There also is a small chapel and a crime-prevention center.
In second-floor displays are more than 10,000 police artifacts, including uniforms, badges, weapons and body armor. Visitors can play detective by studying a mock murder scene and can sit in a reconstructed gas chamber and electric chair. A national video crime clock tallies burglaries, assaults and rapes as they happen. Unusual patrol motorcycles and cars, even the riot-control vehicle used in the futuristic movie "Blade Runner," are parked at the museum.
"All these officers and their families have stories," said Paul Abbott, a spokesman for the chiefs' association. "You could not build a museum big enough to tell all their stories."
Police officers, families of slain officers and association members are admitted free, and part of the building is being remodeled to provide association offices.
The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, a five-year-old organization created to revive the tourist economy, has begun to promote the attraction. "We want the world to know that Miami isn't just beach-blanket bingo," said Mary Louise English, the bureau's director of media relations.
Last year was a good one for Miami tourism as 7.3 million people visited and generated $5.7 billion in revenue. Just as it is difficult to predict when the city's turbulent past no longer will affect tourism, it is difficult to say whether visitors will flock to the Hall of Fame, English said.
About 150 somber people attended the recent opening ceremony inside the seven-foot barbed-wire fence that surrounds the building, which is two blocks from burglary-prone environs. They heard a reading of the honor roll of slain officers, and some cringed as familiar names were spoken. An honor guard fired a 21-gun salute at the end.
Then came a piercing wail from the surrounding streets, a familiar sound here. The racket was caused by automobile alarms, whose sensors had mistaken the loud cracks of rifle shots for the noises of a burglary attempt.