Thursday, April 17, 2014

Meggitt Researcher Talks to Teacher Advisory Group about the Science of Fear

On March 22, the National Law Enforcement Museum’s Teacher Advisory Group (TAG)—composed of primary and secondary level educators who teach in public and private schools in Washington, DC; Maryland; and Virginia—had the opportunity to learn from a seasoned and innovative law enforcement professional.

TAG meets quarterly to advise Museum staff on practical classroom applications and program ideas leading up to the Museum’s opening. During the last meeting, the group heard from Major Randall Murphy (Ret.), Director of Advanced Immersion Technologies for Meggitt Training Systems. Major Murphy travelled from Georgia to present his experience in directing groundbreaking research on a gripping subject: combat stress and its effects on police officers in a virtual environment (and by extension, in the field). The presentation was truly eye-opening for our teachers—it provided insight into how hard it is for officers to make split-second decisions in extreme stress conditions. Major Murphy’s findings conveyed how vital simulated training is for officers, and how it saves lives.
 photo meggit_simulator_zpsf4267e89.gif
Part of the video presented by Major Murphy. 
We are thrilled that Meggitt Training Systems has generously agreed to donate one of their training simulators to the Museum. The simulator will be a key experience—the most immersive opportunity visitors will have to walk in an officer’s shoes. As part of their donation, Meggitt Training Systems is also giving the Museum and its Teacher Advisory Group access to some of their amazing trainers and researchers.

Major Murphy’s advice and input will ensure that this experience in the Museum will be the most authentic that visitors can have. The virtual experience may not be real, but it is intense. Visitors will be forewarned!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Event Recap | Witness to History: DarkMarket & the FBI Agent who Became Master Splyntr

Last night, the National Law Enforcement Museum held the ninth event in our Witness to History series, sponsored by Target. For the second time, the Museum partnered with the International Spy Museum, our host for a great evening and fascinating program: DarkMarket & the FBI Agent who Became Master Splyntr.

Craig Floyd, Chairman & CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, kicked off the program by welcoming the nearly 150 guests in attendance, and thanking the event’s sponsor, Target, and host, Peter Earnest, Executive Director of the Spy Museum. He then introduced the panel moderator, Shawn Henry, former Assistant Director of the FBI and current President of CrowdStrike Services; and panelists, J. Keith Mularski, FBI Supervisory Special Agent; and Kevin Poulsen, Investigations Editor of WIRED Magazine.


An expert on the topic of cyber crime, Shawn Henry reminded the audience that everything we do is being transmitted and stored digitally—hence why it is an incredibly important issue. He explained that, cyber crime is a lot like organized crime groups from the past. “Just like in dark alleys in your cities, but instead they’re virtual,” he said.

One of those virtual dark alleys was called DarkMarket, an international one-stop shop for selling stolen personal credit and identity information online. It became a hub for underground criminal enterprise, with over 2,500 registered members at its peak. Both panelists brought unique perspectives to the DarkMarket case and the topic of cyber crime—Keith Mularski from the view of an undercover agent who ran the site, remaining mostly undetected for two years (2006-2008), and Kevin Poulsen from the view of a reporter (and former hacker) uncovering emerging technologies and their effects on society.

Agent Mularski and other agents involved with DarkMarket had to work with law enforcement in several countries, including Germany, the United Kingdom, and Turkey. The successful case ended with more than 60 worldwide arrests and the prevention of some $70 million in financial loss.

Best advice for protecting yourself from cyber attacks? I.T. professionals need to stay ahead and make sure all networks are protected with the most up-to-date firewalls.

Thank you to all who were able to join us! Stay tuned for our next Witness to History event.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Five Fascinating Facts About Philadelphia's Moyamensing Prison

Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum 2013.29.159
The Museum’s recently-acquired collection of more than 200 historic law enforcement photographs contains a small number of ca. 1880 stereoview cards (also known as stereoscopic photographs or stereographs). One stereoview image features a unique view of the the Moyamensing Prison in Philadelphia. This prison, described as being “built for the ages” in an 1839 history of Philadelphia, opened in 1835 and was demolished in 1968. A little research revealed several “arresting” facts about the prison.
  1. The architect of the U.S. Capitol Building, Thomas Ustick Walter, also designed the Moyamensing Prison. Walter, who designed the wings and dome of the Capitol and created its modern, iconic appearance, served as the fourth Architect of the Capitol. He began his architectural career with the design of Moyamensing, a combination of Gothic and Egyptian Revival styles. Considered a humane design for its time, the prison was constructed over three years, from 1832-35.

  2. Edgar Allen Poe was once imprisoned there…  Apparently, Poe became drunk and suicidal one night in 1849. He was arrested for public drunkenness, slept it off in prison, and was released the next day.

  3. …and so was Al Capone (but for only one night).  On May 16, 1929, Capone and his body guard Frank Cline were arrested in Philadelphia by Detectives James “Shooey” Malone and Jack Creedon. They both spent at least one night in several penal institutions in the area, including Moyamensing.  Later Capone was transferred to Eastern State Penitentiary and was released several months later.

  4. Moyamensing was the site of Pennsylvania’s last execution by hanging in 1916. In 1834, Pennsylvania was the first state to abolish public hangings, which had become notorious public spectacles. Each county thereafter carried out “private hangings” within the walls of the institution until hangings were replaced with electric chair executions.

  5. America’s first known serial killer, H.H. Holmes, was hanged at Moyamensing. Herman Webster Mudgett, also known as Dr. H. H. Holmes, was one of the earliest-known serial killers in the United States. A swindler and scam artist, he became notorious for his killings, when, during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, he lured victims to his infamous “murder castle” by offering his large home as a hotel. His killing spree horrified and fascinated the public, and he was hanged for his crimes in May 1896 at Moyamensing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bog Sticks – Irish Officers Continuing a Tradition

The Irish potato famine of the 1840s brought thousands of Irish immigrants to New York and other American cities. Unfortunately, many were not welcome, particularly when it came to seeking employment. By 1870, due to widespread political corruption, a more objective system of hiring people for municipal jobs was put in place. Called the Civil Service System, it was an outgrowth of the Civil Service Act passed by Congress in 1871. This gave everyone, including people of Irish descent, a more equal opportunity for finding employment in jobs like policing.

Bog Stick from the Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum.
In the 1870s-80s, a common tool of the trade for police officers was a club. Most officers purchased their own, which all looked similar in appearance. Unimpressed with the American clubs, many new Irish-American police officers sent home to have special ones made, modeled after “shillelaghs.” These clubs are named after a forest in Ireland, home to the oak trees from which the tools are constructed. It is thought that this tradition is what led Irish-Americans to carry bog sticks (like the one pictured above), clubs made of bog oak, which was unique to the ancient peat bogs of Ireland. Bog sticks were typically quite decorative while also heavy and able to deliver a hearty blow if necessary.

Forte, Matthew G.  American Police Equipment: A Guide to Early Restraints, Clubs & Lanterns. Turn of the Century Publishers, New Jersey: 2000.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Museum Receives Incredible Photograph Collection

The National Law Enforcement Museum is thrilled to announce the recent acquisition of a unique and impressively documented collection of photographs that once belonged in the collection of Dr. Stanley Burns, of The Burns Archive. Thanks to the donation by Alice Dana in honor of Dr. Burns, the Museum now boasts photographs that document numerous events from law enforcement history, including Queen Elizabeth’s first visit to the United States (in 1957), Fidel Castro’s visit to the United States (in 1959), various officers on duty during the 1970s, and a range of high profile murder cases from the 1950-70s.

Take a peek at a few gems from this collection of over 200 photographs:

Monday, January 13, 2014

"A day I will never forget." –Special Agent Tom McDade, November 27, 1934

Tom McDade’s FBI application photo,
courtesy of the FBI.
Recently, the Museum was offered the opportunity to preserve and utilize an amazing piece of 1930s FBI history. Ray Batvinis, of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, introduced us to Jared McDade, who was looking for a way to share a 1934-1938 diary that belonged to his father, Special Agent Tom McDade.

Upon review, Museum staff found that Agent McDade’s 318-page diary includes firsthand accounts about some big players in the 1930s FBI and gangster scene. Unlike the (somewhat dry) official FBI reports, McDade’s diary offers a window into his life as an FBI agent, from everyday details to thrilling car chases and shootouts.

November 27, 1934 Thursday. A day I will never forget. What follows is a riveting description of McDade’s and an agent named Ryan’s encounter with Baby Face Nelson and his associates.

They turned again and running about 40-45 miles per hour they ran along side and the driver yelled to us to pull over. A man in the back seat had a rifle or tommy pointed at us. I stepped on the gas and ran down road and they opened fire. The plunk of the shots sounded on our rear. We bent low and Ryan started firing through the rear window with an automatic. I kept the accelerator to the floor and ran about 72-75 M.P.H. We drew away from them but they continued to follow. We looked for a road to turn off to phone or get to cover from their guns but had to run…In trying to turn in I went too fast ran off the road and into a field. We jumped from the car and Ryan borrowed an attendant’s at a gas station to get to a phone. I watched the road but they didn’t follow. Purvis advised us to come back...

McDade and his partner managed to escape Nelson. Unfortunately, two other FBI agents, Hollis and Cowley, weren’t so lucky. Later in the day, Nelson and his associates shot and killed Special Agent Hollis. Special Agent Cowley would pass the next day of his mortal wounds.

Agents searched for Nelson over night with no luck. Later Nelson was found dead from the injuries he sustained in the battle with Hollis and Cowley. McDade wrote of the aftermath in his diary: At the office 6 PM and on all night. Did some accounting problems then sat in a poker game from 2 AM to 6:30 AM. Everybody was just waiting for an emergency call.

Jared McDade (holding his father's diary) and Craig W. Floyd,
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund Chairman & CEO
This is just one story from the rich pages of Tom McDade’s diary. Many thanks to the McDade family and Ray Batvinis for giving the Museum the opportunity to use this truly fascinating resource, to capture some real stories of American law enforcement—as seen through Agent McDade's eyes—and share them with Museum visitors.

Learn more about Agent McDade and his diary.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Artifact Spotlight: Exploring the Origins of a Photo Album

In 2007, the National Law Enforcement Museum acquired a photo album that purportedly belonged to an FBI agent in the 1930s or 40s. The album contained 44 photographs, mostly of crime scenes, some of which were very graphic. Amongst the pictures of lesser-known criminals and accident victims—people like Mrs. Cheries, Shorty Mangum, Aviator W. L. Edwards, and Mrs. Capormo—were morgue photos of the infamous duo Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, as well as a photo of wanted gangster, Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd.

With notorious criminal photos like these in the mix, it’s not surprising that the album was thought to have belonged to a federal agent. But, after a call to the album’s previous owner, Museum staff discovered that the FBI connection was a red herring. The prior owner clarified some of the facts, namely that she found the album inside of an abandoned storage unit in Houston, Texas. She had no idea about the origins of the album, but guessed it might have come from a local officer. So, that left Museum staff with lots to investigate. The overt clues within the album—stamps from the Houston Chronicle, a reference to Chocolate Bayou (a bayou near Houston), and the seal of the Houston Police Department—all pointed to Houston. The significance of another less obvious clue, a word that looked like "Busted" or “Buster” handwritten in pencil on the back of many of the photos, was initially hazy, but it would eventually lead back to Houston, too.

Click the photos to view on Flickr and read what we know about them.

Upon further examination, yet another Houston link was found. One of the little-known episodes depicted in the photographs happened to be one that’s very familiar to the Museum: the January 1932 confrontation between Houston police and Harry and Jennings Young. The Young Brothers were on the run after a shootout in Missouri that resulted in the death of six law enforcement officers. Acting on a tip, the Houston police, armed with shotguns and tear gas, surrounded the brothers’ rented cottage in downtown Houston. When officers had the brothers cornered in the cottage bathroom, they heard one brother shout, “we’re dead—come and get us,” followed by several gunshots. Rather than surrender, the brothers had shot each other.

Now with five photographs correctly attributed to the Young Brothers case, the Museum had inadvertently attained more important pieces of law enforcement history than anyone had first thought. With this newfound information, staff began to wonder—what other stories might the album have to tell? A closer look revealed one officer who was in many of the photographs. Could he be the album’s original owner? Might his name be Buster?

The Museum turned to Officer James Chapman of the Houston (TX) Police Department for help identifying the mysterious officer. In no time at all, we had our answer—the officer was Clairville V. Kern, also known as Buster. Buster Kern served as a patrolman, mounted officer, motorcycle officer, captain, and chief of detectives with the Houston Police Department, before he was elected Sheriff of Harris County. He was the county’s longest-serving sheriff, holding the office from 1949 to 1972.

A lawman in Texas for over 40 years, C.V. “Buster” Kern saw it all. He solved murders, faced off against gangsters, even got in a fistfight with a prosecutor. This water-damaged album provides a brief look into the world in which he lived. The Museum is proud to have it in its collection. However, its preservation is bittersweet—in talking to the album’s previous owner, we learned that the storage unit had held dozens of similar albums that she “trashed” because of the gory photographs they contained. This one album “slipped out of a box and went unseen for a couple of weeks,” at which point she opened it and saw the picture of Clyde Barrow. Ironically, an important story of law enforcement was saved, all thanks to a photo of a petty bank robber and murderer.

By looking for cases associated with Kern, one series of previously unidentified photographs of dive operations has been linked to the gangland-style slaying of Houston restaurant owner Vincent Vallone in 1949. But there is more research to be done and cases to unravel, so take a look at the photos above and see if there is anything you can add to the story.