Monday, November 23, 2009

Many Perspectives, Different Paths, One Common Goal

Talk about rewarding. To work with a group of committed professionals on a project, not just any project but a really important project, is incredibly meaningful. To arrive at work in the morning and know that I’m going to learn something from one of our bright young professionals keeps daily routines interesting. I find myself reflecting at the end of the day on some bright idea that one of my Generation X or Y colleagues has had about an innovative approach to exhibiting and interpreting the interactive law enforcement vehicle that will become part of the Museum or how to engage our Education Advisory Committee in an interactive judgment simulator session. I realize how much I appreciate their contributions.

At the other end of the experience spectrum (not too far at the other end, mind you!) there’s the wisdom and knowledge that our department senior director brings to the team. She provides the kind of insight and thoughtfulness that we need to be able to build a “world class” institution. She has ideas about caring for artifacts, accessing the collection and building relationships that may not make our lives easier, but, in the end, we know it’s the right way to approach the creation of an institution that's "Built to Last."

What’s especially fun, though, is when we disagree. That’s when the sparks fly and passions ignite. You immediately see that every one of us is doing this work because we care. I’m happy to say that we’re all still idealistic enough to think that this project might make a difference. Imagine achieving the mission we set out to achieve. What a privilege to be able to say someday, “I helped to make that happen.”

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Try Our Newest Family Activity: Build a Badge

Our latest NLEM Insider newsletter features NLEM’s Build a Badge family activity designed for elementary-age students. We hope you’ll take a minute to share it with your children. Encourage them to create their own law enforcement badge with symbols that reflect who they are. Mom and Dad (aunts and uncles, grandparents—you can share, too!), once they’ve finished, refer to the “Build a Badge” activity guide’s Conversation Starters on page 4 to talk more about the topic. Then please take a minute to post a comment below related to what you learned or talked about together!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Link Between the NLEM & Domestic Violence Prevention: Part I

Whenever I tell someone that the National Law Enforcement Museum is currently developing domestic violence prevention programs, their initial reaction is one of enthusiasm. Frequently, however, a look of wonder soon overshadows their face: “That sounds great,” they reply, “but why domestic violence? Why is it important for the National Law Enforcement Museum to focus on domestic violence prevention?”

Each year, an estimated 1.3 million women will be physically assaulted by an intimate partner according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. This fact alone demonstrates the magnitude of the public safety problem that domestic violence (DV) presents for law enforcement. And every day, officers play a pivotal role in trying to manage it. As noted in a Department of Justice-funded report (p. 12), officers are often the first contact for violence-prone families, provide a “free” service, in the sense that the costs are not immediately apparent, and intervene as visible authority figures. The same report quoted the finding of Buzawa & Buzawa that in such cases, the police are “likely to be the only public agency in a position to provide rapid assistance on a 24-hour basis.” What many people do not realize, however, is that DV takes a heavy toll on the nation’s law enforcement community as well.

DV calls are among the most dangerous calls that law enforcement officers respond to. The situations can be extremely volatile since the individuals involved are often emotionally charged, and weapons may be involved. Since 1855, 663 officers have lost their lives while responding to domestic disturbance calls in the United States, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Far more officers are assaulted during domestic disturbance calls than during any other circumstance. In 2007, 32 percent of the 59,201 assaults on police officers occurred during domestic disturbance calls, according to the FBI. The next highest category, “attempting other arrests,” resulted in only 15 percent of total assaults against officers. And these statistics say nothing of the vicarious trauma that may be experienced by the responding officers—those negative changes that can happen to humanitarian workers over time as they witness other people’s suffering and need.

In this light, it is easy to understand why DV has been and will remain a critical issue for American law enforcement. And since part of the NLEM’s mission is to tell their story and contribute to a safer society, there is a clear rationale for the Museum to be involved in developing DV prevention programs. Now, the obvious question arises: what DV prevention programs are being developed by the Museum? More to come on that in Part II.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

November Artifact Detective: Nothing improves your driving like a ticket

Artifact Detective logo with magnifying glass
Please help us uncover some of the stories behind our objects. Leave a comment with anything you may know about the featured item. We welcome all information, and we’d appreciate sources and citations when possible. Thanks!

Pin saying Nothing improves your driving like a ticket Pin. Collection of the NLEM, 2007.73.48.

This is a first for the Artifact Detective, as we know virtually nothing about this object. So if it looks familiar or if a department near you or your own department used a slogan like this, let us know.

We are interested in learning more about historic “drive safely” campaigns; if you know of any, please leave a comment!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My Changing Perceptions of Law Enforcement

One of the important parts of the National Law Enforcement Museum’s mission is changing public perceptions of law enforcement. Big task, right? Well, I’m a good example of an early Museum success story. When I started working here over two years ago, I didn’t have a bad perception of law enforcement, and I generally liked the idea that they are here, but I definitely didn’t think about the job officers do and the risks they take.

After I started working here, my perceptions began to change. I began learning about the profession through exhibit designs that reinforce the great things law enforcement officers have done and still do to keep us safe. As a member of the Memorial Fund staff, I attended a wreath laying ceremony for fallen officers at the Memorial. The speakers, both law enforcement and survivors, touched me. Then during Police Week, I got to talk to many law enforcement officers and their loved ones. This gave law enforcement a more human face and really made me appreciate how the job affects not just the officers but also their families.

I was surprised by how quickly my perceptions of law enforcement changed. I went from passing a cop and praying that they wouldn’t pull me over to wanting to walk up to officers on street corners and talk to them about who they are and why they became an officer. I hope that the educational programs and exhibits we’re creating for the Museum will be able to alter the public’s perceptions for the better, like working here has changed mine. Even if we don’t manage to change our visitors’ feelings towards law enforcement, I hope that we will be able to open up positive dialog between law enforcement and the public they protect.

For me, learning about and being involved in law enforcement events has changed my perception of law enforcement. I’m interested to see if anyone else has had a similar experience. If so, please share it!