- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Children who dream of being police officers when they grow up will get a firsthand try at the job — answering hypothetical 911 calls, deciding when to shoot a crime suspect and tracking international terrorists — at a new museum.

Plans for the National Law Enforcement Museum were announced yesterday by the foundation that runs the national memorial for slain police officers. Former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton are leading the effort to raise $80 million for the project.

“I think it is the least we can do for those who have done so much,” Mr. Bush said in a videotaped message.

Mr. Bush dedicated the memorial for slain officers on Judiciary Square in 1991, and Mr. Clinton signed legislation in 2000 to authorize the underground museum on nearby federal land.

“Law enforcement is one of the pillars of our free and democratic society, yet it is a profession that is often misunderstood or taken for granted,” said Craig Floyd, chairman of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. “This museum will peel away some of that mystery.”

When the museum opens in 2011, visitors will be able to follow officer patrols and view exhibits that delve into the practice of gathering forensic evidence from a crime scene to solve a case.

“It will be done in a way that is instructive, not gross,” said Christopher Chadbourne, who has created interactive exhibits for the Smithsonian and George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.

Simulators will give visitors a chance to make the difficult decision of whether to shoot at suspects. Seattle-based Advanced Interactive Systems, which builds simulators for police training, donated one for the museum.

“We’re going to develop content-appropriate scenarios for each age group,” said Ron Enneking, executive vice president of the company. “You don’t want the museum to be traumatic.”

Other exhibits will deal with issues that may cause some people not to trust police — such as struggles with officers during the civil rights movement, racial profiling and excessive use of force.

“We don’t want to provide a whitewashed view of law enforcement,” Mr. Floyd said. “There have been some dark moments in law-enforcement history that we need to revisit to look at what happened and why and what changes were made.”

In the past year, curators have collected 3,000 objects and manuscripts and plan to make them available for research.

The oldest pieces include a 1703 “Sheriff’s Writ” of instructions from Bristol, R.I., and a 1759 book of Colonial laws from Massachusetts Bay Colony. A Baltimore police badge that dates to 1862 was donated in memory of an officer killed in the line of duty.

Mr. Floyd said $29 million has been raised for the project, and construction is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2008.


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