Tuesday, March 13, 2018

One Officer's Story: Patricia Kelly

Patricia Kelly being sworn in as a police officer

“She is the only woman in the world who raised twin astronauts. She raised two sons, not just brothers but twins, who flew up into the heavens."  

Richard Kelly, Husband

Officer Patricia Kelly was a trailblazer. As the first female police officer with the West Orange (NJ) Police Department, she was adept at breaking up bar fights while working the midnight shift and raising twin sons at home. At just 5 feet, 4 inches tall, her family called her fearless — and they should know. Sons Mark and Scott Kelly, identical twins, both blazed their own trails as NASA astronauts. Her husband Richard was a Navy paratrooper who later became a West Orange (NJ) police officer  working alongside his wife. Kelly was assigned to patrol with Harry Phillips, who went on to become Executive Director of the Police Unity tour.

Scott Kelly recalled his mother was the first woman to pass the men’s physical fitness test. “Patty” Kelly cleared a makeshift blockade of more than seven feet tall in four and a half seconds, earning her a spot as West Orange’s first female police officer. When daughter-in-law U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot at an Arizona campaign event in 2011, Mark Kelly says it was his mother who stayed by her side while she recovered.

Born the oldest of four children in New York’s Bronx borough, Kelly married when she was 20 years old. In addition to her ten years of service with the police department in West Orange, Kelly was also a prison guard, an Essex Park County (NJ) police officer and served with the Flagler Beach (FL) Police Department before an injury prompted her to retire and move to Texas to be near her grandchildren. Patricia Kelly died in April 2012 of lung cancer but left a lasting legacy as an exceptional person both on the job and off. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Our New National Law Enforcement Museum: Don’t just see it. Experience it.

Opening Fall 2018

Visitors at the new National Law Enforcement Museum won’t just see what it’s like to be in law enforcement — they’ll experience it in an immersive “walk in the shoes” experience that connects visitors to all parts of American law enforcement — past, present and future.

The Museum features more than 20,000 artifacts that depict law enforcement officers, historic events and pop culture, all housed in a 57,000 square foot building conveniently located in the heart of downtown Washington, DC.  The Museum’s interactive exhibits offer something for everyone.

Groups of all ages will enjoy taking part in an authentic law enforcement training simulator experience, trying their hands at fielding 9-1-1 emergency calls or testing their analytical and critical-thinking skills in our Take the Case exhibit. They’ll also hear first-hand accounts of what it’s like to be an officer from those who’ve worn the badge. There’s also theater, classroom and cafĂ© to enhance your Museum experience.

Our Museum isn’t just a fun place to visit, it’s educational too. Guided and self-guided tours are available to help your group discover all the Museum has to offer. Resources such as activity carts, educator guides and lesson plans are available to exercise math, science, engineering and technology (STEM) skills and help students make the most of their visit.  Our Museum Education team can tailor our popular forensics workshops to your group’s individual needs and interests. 

Conveniently located at the Judiciary Square metro station, the Museum is just blocks from the National Mall and numerous DC landmarks, making it an easy stop on your visit to the nation’s capital.  Our Group Tours team can help you plan and coordinate your visit with special group tour discounts, as well as nearby parking, lodging and dining options.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Message from the Executive Director

David L. Brant, Executive Director
National Law Enforcement Museum
From my office in downtown Washington, DC,  I am just blocks from some of the nation’s most prestigious museums.  I’m deeply honored that soon our new National Law Enforcement Museum will be among them, situated in the heart of the nation’s capital and surrounded by some of the country’s most important landmarks.

As a father and grandfather, I am committed to making sure the Museum won’t just be another tourist attraction, but will provide a real educational experience for all visitors — both young and old. Our Museum’s education staff has been working diligently to craft thought-provoking, insightful programs that will engage visitors and ultimately help foster a stronger relationship among law enforcement and the communities they serve.

Visitors will find many interactive and immersive exhibits when the Museum opens its doors this fall. In addition, we’ll be offering guided and self-guided group tours, special workshops and classes, along with activity carts on the exhibit floor and online resources for visitors of all ages.

One of the exciting components of our education program will be distance-learning tools from FieldTripZoom and Streamable Learning. These innovative companies have partnered with the Museum to provide a virtual classroom experience so that students from around the country can participate in our educational programs without ever leaving their own classrooms.

Students and teachers who are not able to travel to Washington, DC can engage with the Museum’s content through several distance learning tools. We currently offer three classes while the Museum is under construction: Law Enforcement and Technology, Women in Law Enforcement and DNA and Investigations.
Many of  you may already be familiar with the Museum’s popular forensics summer camps and workshops. These hands-on experiences take students inside the messy and meticulous world of crime scene analysis and investigations. While our summer camps are designed for students, our forensics workshops can be specially-tailored towards participant groups of any age, from school-aged youth to senior adults.

Our Museum team has really done its homework in developing our educational programs. They’ve formed a Teachers’ Advisory Group to provide regular feedback on the Museum experience and educational programs, as well as solicit new ideas for engaging and educating our visitors.

David L. Brant
Executive Director
National Law Enforcement Museum

Celebrating Women's History Month

“As it turns out, about the time we had our guns out a sergeant pulled up and he was aghast at the fact that policewomen had actually pulled their guns on a man.”
Elizabeth Coffal Robinson, from  Policewomen Who Made History: Breaking through the Ranks

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we also take time to pay homage to Elizabeth Coffal Robinson and Betty Blankenship. Classmates at the Indianapolis (IN) Police Academy in 1967, the two would go on to become the first women assigned to patrol together in the country. Prior to Robinson and Blankenship’s patrol partnership, women in law enforcement performed mainly secretarial or social work duties.

Photograph: Officers Elizabeth Coffal Robinson and Betty Blankenship in uniform,
standing on either side of a man in glasses, 1970. 2011.40.47.
Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum. Washington, DC.
The pair were assigned to patrol in Car 47. As policewomen, they faced some unique challenges. A senior officer would usually ride with new officers for several months to assist with on-the-job training, but the two new female officers were left on their own.

“We were put out on the street with no training whatever. We had to monitor both radio frequencies, but we had no idea how to even answer the radio,” Blankenship told Indianapolis Magazine.

Their uniforms also posed a challenge. The policewomens’ uniforms included a skirt and heels, making it difficult to run while pursuing a suspect. They were also required to store their handguns in their purses, rather than on a duty belt because policewomen had previously not been assigned to patrol work that might require quick access to a gun.  This made it difficult to reach their guns quickly in an emergency. In response, Robinson and Blankenship came up with a new uniform design, similar to a maternity top which concealed their service weapons underneath, allowing for quicker access than reaching into a purse.

Photograph: Officers Robinson and Blankenship. 2011.40.73.
Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum. Washington, DC.

Elizabeth Coffal Robinson and Betty Blankenship both rose to the rank of sergeant. Their partnership paved the way for future female law enforcement officers to take on the same responsibilities as their male counterparts.

History's Blotter: The Hanafi Muslim Siege

Some of the ammo and weapons seized by law enforcement following the Hanafi Siege in 1977.

"This was an early wake-up call about violence and terrorism and the extent to which groups will go to engage in violence either for the sake of violence or to make a point."
Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president of B'nai B'rith International to the Washington Post, March 12, 2007

On March 10, 1977 a dozen men armed with guns, knives and machetes, seized control of three buildings in downtown Washington, DC. They took close to 150 people hostage, most of them from inside the B’nai B’rith headquarters building. A radio reporter and security guard were killed, and several others, including then DC Councilman Marion Barry, were wounded.

The assailants were part of a group known as Hanafi Muslims led by Hamas Abdul Khaalis, a former Nation of Islam secretary who later became critical of the Nation of Islam. He left the group to form a rival Islamic organization known as the Hanafi movement. The group established its headquarters in a home in Washington, DC that had been purchased by basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In 1973, seven members of Khaalis’ family were murdered inside the home. Khaalis blamed the Nation of Islam.

Khaalis made three demands during the siege: he wanted the DC government to turn over men who had been convicted of murdering his family along with those convicted of killing Malcolm X. He also wanted a movie about the prophet Mohammed banned because he believed it to be a sacrilegious portrayal.

The gunmen started shooting as soon as they entered the building — killing a young radio reporter named Maurice Williams and a security guard named Mack Cantrell. Councilman Marion Barry walked out of his office to see what was going on and was shot and injured. He made his way back into the council chamber and was rescued by firemen who used a ladder to get him out of the building and take him to the hospital.

During the siege, the Metropolitan (DC) Police Department spent almost 40 hours negotiating with Khaalis, who finally agreed to meet with city officials and Muslim ambassadors from Egypt, Pakistan, and Iran. Metropolitan (DC) Deputy Chief Robert Rabe persuaded Khaalis to leave his stronghold in the B’nai B’rith building, while Police Chief Maurice Cullinane persuaded him to surrender his weapons. The ambassadors convinced Khaalis to release all of the hostages.

On the 40th anniversary of the siege in 2017, Cullinane reflected that he would handle the situation the same way today, telling The Washington Post, “If it meant saving 149 lives, I would still be talking to (Khaalis) on the phone.”

Khaalis and the other gunmen were convicted and sent to prison, where Khaalis died in 2003.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


Assistant Special Agent in Charge, US Justice/Drug Enforcement Administration

Richard T. Oakley
Richard T. Oakley grew up in Somerville, New Jersey, and befriended a couple of members of the hometown police department. At the age of 24, he joined the New Brunswick (NJ) Police Department in September 1967 and attended the New Jersey State Police Academy at Sea Girt.

Oakley was assigned to the police department’s patrol division with a starting salary of $5,000 per year and was later promoted to the rank of Detective in the Narcotics and Homicide Division. “Homicide turned out to be the most challenging of my assignments, and the most costly emotionally” says Oakley.

Policing in 1967 was very difficult for minorities. According to Oakley, the black community felt that he had betrayed them; many police departments resisted hiring black officers. “It was not unusual to hear racial slurs over the radio or find racial notes placed on your locker,” he says. “You also had to submit a photo with your application. This was one way to weed out applicants, a practice that would later become unconstitutional.”

In 1972, Oakley joined the Union County (NJ) Prosecutor’s Office as a Narcotics Investigator with the Narcotic Strike Force in West Field (NJ). He worked undercover in several DEA narcotics investigations. At that time, Oakley says the DEA did not have any black agents in the area. Oakley went on to become a Special Agent, undergoing 15 weeks of basic training in Washington, DC, and Quantico, Virginia before spending time in the New York and Newark Field Divisions. Eventually, he started working undercover in two Newark heroin smuggling organizations.

On June 26, 1980, his cover was blown when one of the organizations discovered he  was a DEA Agent. “Once we got into the park, he (the suspect) told me to park the vehicle and he got out. He returned in a few minutes, and I could see that his hands were dirty.” I asked him, “What’s going on? You got people here? What’s up?” He said “no, follow me” and headed down an embankment. “He turned and I could see a Rohm, nickel-plated, brake open 22 caliber pistol in his hand. He fired the first shot which went past my ear, the second shot misfired. I started to run in a zig-zag pattern. Not one of his shots struck me.”

The suspect was apprehended and sentenced to 10 years in Danbury Federal Prison.

In November of 1987, Oakley was promoted to Supervisory Special Agent where he supervised a team of 12 agents in the San Francisco (CA) Field Division, He later transferred to headquarters in Arlington, Virginia where he held several positions including Chief of the Policy and Procedure Unit, Special Assistant to the Deputy Administrator for Operations, Special Assistant to the Administrator of DEA, and finally, Secretary of the DEA Career Board. His advice to anyone contemplating a career in law enforcement is to “go into it with the right mindset. Understand that some people will resist your commands, but you should remain the professional that you are and resist the temptation to be pulled in the fray. Understand the laws that you are upholding. Make sure you fully understand the use of deadly force. Understand that the person you are today will change.”

Read Officer Oakley’s story in his own words. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Message from the Executive Director

David L. Brant, Executive Director
National Law Enforcement Museum
As I watch our beautiful National Law Enforcement Museum edge closer to completion, I’m excited by the growing and impressive collection of artifacts that visitors will see when we open our doors this fall.

The Museum is home to more than 20,000 artifacts that tell the story of law enforcement in America. Our Museum team has carefully curated this collection to ensure there’s something of interest to everyone, regardless of whether they have an affiliation with law enforcement.

Visitors will find credentials issued to Deputy Sheriff Ted Hinton, youngest member of the posse that ambushed Bonnie and Clyde. They’ll be able to see a script from the television series Gunsmoke, signed by actor James Arness. There’s also an American flag recovered from 9/11’s Ground Zero along with thousands of other artifacts that tell the story of American law enforcement from those who have worn the badge as well as those who portray law enforcement in pop culture.

In addition to building and managing a world-class collection, they have designed interactive and immersive exhibits which surround these historical treasures. Our team has worked hard to provide an educational and engaging experience for visitors of all ages and from all walks of life. They’ll hear first-hand accounts of what it’s like to walk in the shoes of an officer, as well as try their hand at fielding a simulated 9-1-1 call or step into a police interrogation in our Take the Case exhibit. I hope you’ll be as impressed with the new National Law Enforcement Museum as I am, and I look forward to seeing you at the Museum this fall.


David L. Brant
Executive Director, National Law Enforcement Museum