Monday, November 12, 2012

Service to Country, Service to Community

Visit any sheriff’s office, police department, or federal law enforcement agency today and you are bound to meet men and women who are veterans from our most recent wars. This overlapping tradition of service has been a part of law enforcement since the very beginning. Law enforcement officers have served in every war since the American Revolution, and some veterans from every war have gone on to serve in law enforcement.

The two types of service have a number of similarities and also some major differences. Service to a larger cause, whether country or community, might be the single most important point of connection, but there are many others. In the sixth edition of Character and Cops, Edwin J. Delattre quotes extensively from a letter written by Deputy Chief Paul Ciesinski of the Hartford (CT) Police Department about his experience as a law enforcement officer and as an infantry brigade commander in Iraq in 2005-2006. Ciesinski noted that one of the benefits police officers have in the military is that they are “emotionally tolerant of the idea that other people will try to hurt and kill them.” His law enforcement training in the use of force was both a detriment and a benefit to him in Iraq. “I had to suppress use-of-force rules I learned and internalized for a decade and a half as a police officer…[but] it was a benefit because the type of war we were fighting, a counterinsurgency, inherently called for restraint in the use of force compared to other types of war.”

This November as our nation honors and remembers the veterans of all our wars, the National Law Enforcement Museum would like to hear from the many law enforcement officers who have also served in the military. Tell us your story in the "Post a Comment" section below.

To start you off, here’s the story of a veteran who fought for his country 150 years ago and who went on to a distinguished career in law enforcement.

Webber Seavey

Webber Seavey was a Nebraska native who enlisted in the Army at the start of the Civil War when he was 20 years old. He was assigned to Company H, 5th Iowa Cavalry and served with the 5th through the entire four years of the war. Seavey and his regiment joined the many other Westerners who marched with U.S. General William T. Sherman through Georgia. He participated in numerous skirmishes and battles and escaped from Confederate Prisons (one of which was the infamous Andersonville) twice. During those four years, he was gradually promoted from the rank of private to captain.

After the war, Seavey traveled the world and made his fortune, finally returning to his native Nebraska in the 1880s. In 1887, he was appointed Chief of the Omaha Police Department.

This pamphlet published by Seavey in 1910 describes his
allegiances to both military and law enforcement. 

Library of Congress
Seavey went on to create one of the most professional police forces in the western United States. Many of Seavey’s ideas were ahead of his time, including the establishment of a public fund to help the families of officers wounded or killed on the job. Seavey was also the driving force behind the establishment of the National Chiefs of Police Union, today known as the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). He sent letters to thousands of police chiefs inviting them to Chicago for a meeting during the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Fittingly, Seavey was elected the first president of what would become the IACP and the association’s annual award for innovative policing practices still bears his name today.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Third Annual National Law Enforcement Museum Gala

Since the National Law Enforcement Museum’s Groundbreaking in October 2010, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund has hosted a Gala each year to raise awareness and funds for the Museum. This year’s Gala, held on October 12 at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC, focused on an exhibit slated for the Museum called Reel to Real that will highlight Hollywood’s portrayal of policing compared to real-life law enforcement. 

Given the theme, it was only fitting to have Richard Belzer of Law & Order: SVU fame emcee the event. Mr. Belzer spoke sincerely about his admiration for the men and women of law enforcement and the sacrifices they make for our safety.

Though solemn in his welcoming remarks, he later sprinkled in some good-natured irreverence in true Belzer style during a bit with Montgomery County (MD) Police Chief Tom Manger, in which he introduced himself as New York City Police Detective John Munch and coyly offered “salary” as one of the differences between “reel” and “real” police work. Chief Manger jokingly fired back another difference as a nod to Hollywood’s propensity for plastic surgery—“real” police do a lot of work and “reel” police get a lot of work done.

The Gala, sponsored by A&E, BAE Systems, and the Police Unity Tour, among others, was teeming with fun and captivating video clips, poignant remarks, and rousing musical tributes and performances [by United States Park Police Honor Guard; LaPorte (IN) Police Det. Brian Phillips; and Port Authority of NY & NJ Police Department Pipes & Drums Pipe Major Steve Butterbrodt and Metropolitan DC Police Officer Chris Jackson (ret.)].

The Gala also featured a very exciting announcement. National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund Chairman & CEO Craig Floyd updated guests on the latest in Museum progress, announcing a landmark gift from Motorola Solutions, Inc. and Motorola Solutions Foundation for $15 million, in addition to their earlier $3 million donation to benefit the Museum and sponsor the 911 Mission Critical Communications Center.

Gala dinner chair, Motorola Solutions Chairman & CEO Greg Brown, recalled the long and rich tradition of law enforcement in this nation and the promising future ahead, highlighting Motorola’s continued involvement with the Memorial and Museum—both deeply special to their corporation.

Philadelphia (PA) Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey delivered inspiring keynote remarks after a heartfelt introduction from Shirley Gibson, former National President of Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS)—a survivor herself, who said Ramsey befriended her when he was Chief of Police in DC, soon after her son was killed in the line of duty. Commissioner Ramsey stressed the importance of the Museum in preserving the history and legacy of law enforcement service. The beloved former DC Chief received a standing ovation at the close of his remarks.

The Gala—at once touching, informative, thrilling, and playful—gave guests a taste of what’s to come when the one-of-a-kind Museum opens in 2015.

Check out more photos from the Gala here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Witness to History: Washington, DC-area Sniper Attacks, 10 Years Later

Last evening, the National Law Enforcement Museum’s Witness to History panel discussion series re-examined the 2002 Washington, DC-area sniper case 10 years later. Panel members included Chief Charles Deane, Prince William County (VA) Police Department; Mr. Josh White, investigative reporter for The Washington Post; Chief Charles Moose (ret.), Montgomery County (MD) Police Department; and Lieutenant David Reichenbaugh (ret.), Maryland State Police.

As many of us recall vividly, for three weeks in October 2002, the DC metropolitan area lived in fear of what was believed to be a single serial sniper who killed 10 people and wounded others in a series of random shootings in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Ultimately, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were convicted of several of those murders. Investigating and arresting the two perpetrators, who came to be known as “The Beltway Snipers,” involved hundreds of law enforcement officers from multiple local jurisdictions, as well as agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the U.S. Secret Service; and the Virginia Department of Transportation. Representatives from these agencies were in attendance at last night's event, along with two surviving family members and a victim of the sniper attacks. Additionally, pieces of evidence from the DC Sniper Task Forcenow part of the Museum's collectionwere on display, including bullets, tarot card, and letters left by the snipers for police.

Sponsored by Target® and held in the Pew Charitable Trusts Building in Washington, DC, Witness to History: Washington, DC-Area Sniper Attacks, 10 Years Later shed light on a case that involved one of the biggest manhunts in recent history and required the complicated coordination of multiple law enforcement agencies under intense media scrutiny and a barrage of misinformation, rumor, speculation, and criticism. The panel discussion, moderated by National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund Chairman & CEO, Craig W. Floyd, presented expert analysis and firsthand accounts from those closely tied to the investigation. A Q&A session allowed audience members to interact with the panelists at the end of the discussion.

As the public face of the investigation, Chief Moose discussed his strategy for informing the public throughout the investigation, explaining why he held press conferences every four hours. “We insisted on maximum disclosure with minimum delay even when there wasn’t much to report,” said Chief Moose.

“We didn’t know whether this was a 9/11 situation or an anger issue targeted at specific individuals,” said Lieutenant Reichenbaugh. All the panelists stressed the teamwork needed to solve the case. “We worked closely together and shared information with other jurisdictions,” said Chief Deane.

Representing the media, which played a major role in the investigation and trial, Josh White described the news room at the time as "bedlam." He described the attacks as "scary, unexplained, and continuing," and went on to say that it was the "scariest thing this country has seen outside of an organized terrorist attack."

This public event was the fifth in the Museum’s Witness to History series, which focuses on significant events in law enforcement history that shaped regional and national identity, told through narratives and accounts from those involved. Stay tuned for more events to come.

For more information about the National Law Enforcement Museum’s Witness to History program, visit

Monday, September 17, 2012

Back-to-School: Law Enforcement Academy

September means back-to-school for many Americans, including some future law enforcement officers. In 1888, the first centralized police academy began in Cincinnati, Ohio. Since then, academy training continues to prepare individuals for one of many professional careers in law enforcement, as peace officers, corrections officers, detention officers, communications officers, coroners, and more. Academy students learn the necessary tactical skills and academic knowledge to carry out their duties as law enforcement officers.

Check out these items from our collection that offer a snapshot of Academy life from the 1920s to the 1990s. 


2006.70.1 Collection of the
National Law Enforcement Museum

This book is the Syllabus and Instruction Guide for The Police Academy of the New York City Police Department. It was published in 1925 by then police commissioner, Richard E. Enright.

In the 1920s, the Police Academy of New York City was organized into eight departments, including one for instructor training. An article in The New York Times on April 23, 1925 announced the opening of the Police Academy in the Commerce Building of the College of the City of New York and stated that the college would help in planning new courses for the police school.


2007.10.1a Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum

The First Basic Police Class of the Essex County (NJ) Police Academy is pictured here. Their class ran from October 10 to November 25, 1955. These officers went on to serve in various departments throughout New Jersey including the Chatham Police, Park Police, Irvington Police, Bloomfield Police, Montclair Police, and the Essex County Sheriff’s Department.


2011.40.63 Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum

Elizabeth Coffal (front right) with her Indianapolis (IN) Police Department recruitment class, including friend Betty Blankenship (front, left of Elizabeth). This class graduated in 1967. Elizabeth and Betty were the first women assigned to patrol in Indianapolis.

2011.40.83a Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum

Elizabeth M. Coffal (later Robinson) was born May 10, 1952 and died April 8, 2009. She was a policewoman, patrol officer, and eventually Sergeant of the Indianapolis (IN) Police Department from 1967 until her retirement in 1989. This snapshot was taken of Elizabeth after her graduation from Police Academy in 1967.


2012.19.66 Collection of the
National Law Enforcement Museum

Graduating class photograph of Los Angeles (CA) Police Department Academy, May 17, 1968. Included in this class was Arturo Placencia, the officer who arrested Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, who assassinated then presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968. Placencia was 21 years old at the time and only three weeks out of Academy when he was called to the scene and made the arrest.


2011.47.958 Collection of the
National Law Enforcement Museum
2011.47.982 Collection of the
National Law Enforcement Museum
Donald “Keith” Johnson began his law enforcement career as a part- time dispatcher for the University Police Department at Central Missouri State University. His goal was to join the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and although he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, attended many training schools, and held various law enforcement positions, he was unable to get into the patrol because of his eyesight. In the late 1970s, Johnson underwent a procedure called Kerontology. The surgery was uncomfortable, but well worth it: Johnson passed his physical and was accepted into the 49th recruit class, becoming a member of the Missouri State Highway Patrol on January 15, 1979.

The two photos show Keith Johnson holding a “MSHP 49th” class flag and Keith with others outside the Academy on graduation day, June 8, 1979.

c. 1997

2006.452.13-.14 Collection of the
 National Law Enforcement Museum

This t-shirt belonged to Officer Scott Stewart from his time at the Detroit (MI) Police Department Academy in the late 1990s. Officer Stewart was killed in the line of duty on August 11, 2002. You can read Scott’s story here.

Do you have Academy stories, memories, objects, or mementos that you would consider sharing with/donating to the National Law Enforcement Museum? Please contact

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thank You, Montgomery County FOP Lodge #35!

Recently, Memorial Fund Director of Law Enforcement Relations & Development, John Shanks, had the honor of visiting Montgomery County FOP Lodge #35, where current Lodge President Torrie Cooke and immediate past President Marc Zifcak presented him with a $25,000 check made out to the National Law Enforcement Museum.

Three years ago, John Shanks met with Marc Zifcak, then-President of FOP Lodge #35, to share his excitement about the forthcoming National Law Enforcement Museum. Marc Zifcak and Lodge #35 soon began working with the Montgomery County Administration to organize an innovative way to donate to the Museum project: a payroll deduction program that would accrue funds to support the National Law Enforcement Museum. The program was implemented and has been a great success. Over the past two years, Montgomery County law enforcement and support personnel have been donating to the Museum through payroll deduction. With an $80 million campaign goal to build the National Law Enforcement Museum, every little bit helps, and Lodge #35 went above and beyond to do their part.

Everyone at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and the National Law Enforcement Museum extend our gratitude to Lodge #35, President Torrie Cooke, and immediate past President Mark Zifcak, for their dedication to helping us build this Museum.

If your agency would like to look into setting up a payroll deduction program to support the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund or National Law Enforcement Museum, please contact John Shanks directly at or 202.737.8529.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Congratulations to Donald Hadix, Winner of the Memorial Fund’s 2012 Harley-Davidson Raffle supporting the Museum!

This morning, Don Hadix of Johnstown, PA, winner of the Memorial Fund’s 2012 Harley-Davidson raffle, claimed his prize at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC.

In March, the Memorial Fund launched its annual Harley-Davidson raffle to raise funds and awareness for the National Law Enforcement Museum, currently under construction adjacent to the Memorial.

For $25, each participant received a raffle ticket and the chance to win a 2012 Harley-Davidson Ultra-Classic® Electra Glide® Peace Officers Special Edition motorcycle, plus a free co-branded Harley-Davidson/Memorial Fund t-shirt.

To say Don and his wife Debra were excited to receive their shiny new Harley-Davidson is an understatement. Debra and Don, wearing his co-branded Harley-Davidson/Memorial Fund t-shirt, marveled at their new Harley and posed for a few photos. “I feel like I could cry … I just can’t believe it,” Don said. Debra was just as incredulous, “I can’t believe he actually won!”


Back in 2002, a good friend of the Hadix family, Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Joseph J. Sepp, Jr., was shot and killed in the line of duty. Don explained that they have supported the Memorial Fund ever since. “When I bought one $25 raffle ticket, I thought of it as a donation to the Memorial Fund,” Hadix said. “I never thought I would win.”

Four thousand tickets were printed and the raffle completely sold out, helping to raise over $102,000 for the Museum campaign. With this sixth raffle, the Memorial Fund has raised more than $373,000 for the National Law Enforcement Museum, thanks to Harley-Davidson.

"The Memorial Fund is honored to have Harley-Davidson as a Museum partner," said Chairman & CEO Craig W. Floyd. "Not only does the raffle raise funds for the Museum, it helps raise awareness and build support for the Museum campaign," he added. The combined total of raffle proceeds plus the value of the motorcycles donated bring Harley’s contribution to the Museum campaign to nearly $500,000.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Witness to History: Sirhan Sirhan and the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy

On the night of June 5, 1968, then-presidential candidate Robert Kennedy was making his way through the crowded Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on his way to the ballroom to declare victory in the California Democratic primary. But before he could, he was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan.

To commemorate the 44th anniversary of Robert Kennedy’s death, the National Law Enforcement Museum teamed with Target® for Witness to History: Sirhan Sirhan and the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund Chairman & CEO Craig Floyd moderated the panel discussion. The panel included Arturo Placencia, LAPD (Ret.), arresting officer of Sirhan Sirhan; Evan Thomas, author of Robert Kennedy: His Life; and Steven Hughes, United States Secret Service Special Agent in charge of Dignitary Protective Service. Each speaker brought a unique perspective to the issue that captivated the audience.

Evan Thomas set the stage by describing the social, cultural and political landscape Bobby Kennedy faced in 1968. He described Kennedy as someone who was on the brink of “being great” when he was assassinated.

Officer Placencia’s vivid description of the emotions and confusion following the shooting that injured five people in addition to Kennedy brought those chaotic moments alive for the audience.  “I was a 21-year old rookie cop, only three weeks out of the academy when we got the call,” Placencia said.

The Witness to History Speaker Series focuses on significant events in law enforcement history, conveyed through the insights of those who witnessed them. Events may involve a lecture or panel discussion followed by question and answer opportunities for the audience.

The first three events focused on the 1963 shooting of then President John F. Kennedy’s alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald; the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; and the 1982 Air Florida Flight 90 crash in Washington, DC. Stay tuned for more events to come.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Museum Receives Corrections-related Collection from Grand Traverse County (MI) Sheriff's Office

As we celebrate National Correctional Officers and Employees Week (May 6-12), we’d like to share some interesting corrections-related artifacts the Museum recently acquired.

Last week, the Grand Traverse County (MI) Sheriff’s Office donated a unique collection, which includes a handcrafted contraband weapon confiscated from an inmate at the Grand Traverse County Correctional Facility in 1971; a makeshift bullet; other accessories and design sketches; and a print magazine with a bullet hole.

At the correctional facility, these items were voluntarily given up to corrections officers after an inmate test-fired the weapon into a magazine (an issue of Argosy, an American pulp magazine published from 1882-1978). After drawing up plans on scrap paper, the inmate crafted the body of the weapon out of paper, including cigarette paper and gum wrappers. A piece of his bed frame made the weapon’s barrel. The bullet is the metal, eraser-end of a pencil, and match-heads were smashed up to provide gunpowder. The bullet could be loaded into the barrel using a paper casing like a wad, similar to the way muzzles are loaded. When the inmate test-fired the “gun,” the “bullet” nearly punctured all the way through the magazine.

R0291.2 Pistol; handmade contraband weapon made mainly of paper 
R0291.3 Bullet; metal eraser-end of a pencil used as bullet in handmade weapon
R0291.1 Sketches; pencil drawings of weapon design
R0291.6 Serial: Argosy with partial bullet-hole at center
Officers tossed the weapon and related materials into a drawer where they remained until rediscovered in the 1990s. The items were then put on display in their academy training room, used to inform officers about how inmates may create contraband weapons using whatever time, tools, and materials they can get.

It is interesting to note that Grand Traverse County Correctional facility became a non-smoking facility in 2000; matches and cigarettes are no longer allowed.

This fascinating collection is one example of how the corrections profession will be highlighted in the National Law Enforcement Museum.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Inaugural Honor at the Castle Gala - Proceeds Benefit the Museum

Last week, the first Honor at the Castle Gala was held at Oheka Castle in Huntington, on Long Island, New York. The event, hosted by Memorial Fund supporters Stuart and Lisa Levine of The Zellman Group, LLC, was held to pay tribute to America’s peace officers and their families, and to raise funds for the National Law Enforcement Museum.

The Gala honored Nassau County Police Officers Geoffrey Breitkopf and Michael Califano, and ATF Officer John Capano, and their families, some of whom were in attendance.

"It's just nice to see after all the months that have past, to see my husband still remembered and honored and to know that he's not going to be forgotten ... that so much is being done for him," said Jacqueline Califano.

Actor Mark Feuerstein emceed the event and singer and songwriter Range performed his new song, “Lay it down.” When asked about the song’s meaning, he said, "It's about the police officers and soldiers that put their life on the line everyday to keep us free and keep us happy.”

A big thank you to all who attended the special event for their generous contributions to the Museum.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Recollections and Thoughts from Air Florida Flight 90 First Responders, 30 Years Later

At the National Law Enforcement Museum’s most recent Witness to History event, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus shared his experiences as a law enforcement first responder following the Air Florida Flight 90 crash of January 13, 1982, in Washington, DC. Chief McManus’s memories were featured in a Museum Insider article, “Witness to History: Air Florida Flight 90 Crash, January 13, 1982,” which sparked other first responders to share their recollections of this tragic event.

On January 13, 1982, shortly before 4:00 p.m. on a snowy winter day, Air Florida Flight 90 (called “Palm 90” by air traffic control that day) took off from National Airport, located along the Potomac River. Ice-clogged sensors prevented the Boeing 737 from reaching the proper altitude and about a mile after takeoff it slammed into the top of the 14th Street Bridge, ripping into pieces as it plunged into the ice-covered river. Only five people on board the aircraft survived; the other 74 passengers and crew perished, as did four motorists commuting on the bridge.

Don Usher, a United States Park Police (USPP) pilot, responded to the disaster in Eagle 1, a Bell single-rotor helicopter. Mr. Usher recalled the frigid weather as the biggest challenge the rescue operations faced. “The water temperature was very cold,” he recounted. “The passengers had been in the water 20 minutes when we arrived. The rescues took 10 minutes longer.”

The rescue operations were also hampered by the lack of appropriate rescue equipment available to the USPP. He wrote, “During the Palm 90 incident, our rescue equipment was limited to several ‘throwballs’ that inflated into small circular life rings, a tow strap from the helicopter, and a borrowed ring buoy and line we obtained from a fire unit on the scene along the Potomac.” Mr. Usher noted that, because of the Air Florida crash, the U.S. Park Police subsequently purchased—and used extensively—several rescue nets for water rescue operations.

In 1982, Jim Boyd, an officer with the District Heights Police Department in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and a volunteer underwater team rescue diver for the County Fire Department, joined the disaster response efforts. Like Mr. Usher, Mr. Boyd understood that the cold and threat of hypothermia for the crash survivors were their biggest challenges. As a rescue diver, he vividly recalled that what stood out to him “…was how cold you could get even in a dry suit after 10 minutes in the water and how difficult it was to warm up before doing it again.” Profoundly affected by the events of that day, Mr. Boyd said recovering the bodies of the airline passengers who lost their lives was life-changing and still haunts him today.

Through the reflections of these first responders, it’s evident that the Air Florida disaster deeply affected those involved in the rescue and recovery efforts. Chief McManus called it the “most horrific event” of his career, until the events of 9/11 and the plane crashed into the Pentagon. Mr. Usher regretted that neither he nor other rescuers were able to save the life of Arland Williams, the heroic “last passenger” who kept passing the helicopter life ring to other survivors in the icy cold waters of the Potomac River. Mr. Boyd said that if he could go back, he would have “prayed a lot more for the safety” of all those involved.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Collections Update: Museum Acquires Historic Railroad Policing Collection

The Burlington, Northern & Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway Company recently donated to the Museum historic archival records relating to their company’s law enforcement service. Personnel files, wanted posters, telegraph code books, photographs, railroad maps, and case reports from special agents dating from the late 19th through the mid 20th century, and many other items make up this eclectic and valuable collection.

Wanted Posters and Code Book, ca. 1920-1940. 2011.3. Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum, Washington, D.C.

The BNSF Railroad, founded in 1849 with rail lines laid in Illinois, expanded and merged with other railroads over the decades, and by the late 20th century provided rail service to the western two-thirds of the United States, as well as parts of Mexico and Canada.
Collections and Education Assistant Joy Veenstra examines a code book from the BNSF Railroad Collections.
If you have information, photographs, objects, or documents that will help expand this collection, or have anything to share related to railroad policing, please contact the Museum at

To read more about the history of railroad policing:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre: Chicago, 1929

Originally known as St. Valentine’s Day in honor of the early Christian martyr named Valentinus, the holiday that falls on February 14 each year has become a non-religious celebration of love, with such symbols as hearts and Cupid’s arrows printed on mass-produced greeting cards, boxes of chocolates, balloons and more.

But this annual day of love has seen its fair share of violence and brutality. One such occurrence happened 83 years ago today: the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929 in Chicago.

That day, four men posing as police officers entered a local warehouse where George “Bugs” Moran’s gang had been known to store liquor, presumably announcing a raid, which police routinely conducted during Prohibition. They entered the building and ordered seven men, six of them members of Moran’s gang, to line up facing the wall. The police imposters then uncovered machine guns and opened fire, killing all seven men.

The prime suspect was notorious Chicago gangster Alphonse “Scarface” Capone, who became known in the newspapers as “Public Enemy No. 1.” Law enforcement officials, however, could not prove Capone had anything to do with the massacre, since he was in Miami at the time. No one was ever tried for the seven murders.

The massacre launched a public outcry for law enforcement to put a permanent stop to the Chicago gang violence that had soared in the 1920s with the alcohol ban, an unusual reaction from a public numbed by the violence. According to a New York Times piece that ran shortly after the February 1929 events unfolded, local law enforcement officers reacted by taking an aggressive stance on smothering gang activity, gaining control and restoring justice. “It’s a war to the finish,” Chicago Police Commissioner Russell said. “I’ve never known of a challenge like this - the killers posing as policemen - but now the challenge has been made, it’s accepted. We’re going to make this the knell of gangdom in Chicago. ”

As a result of the massacre, federal authorities had reasons to begin investigating Capone, which moved the gang problem to a different jurisdiction than the local Chicago police. Capone eventually faced a string of arrests for other offenses (contempt of court, carrying concealed weapons, income tax evasion) until being released from prison in 1939, dying a recluse in his Miami home eight years later. Although his reputation as a ruthless gangster and his power over the city was clinched on Valentine’s Day, it also brought the beginning of law enforcement involvement that brought about his downfall.

(Pictured: the S.M.C. Cartage garage at the time of the Massacre, with a crowd of curious onlookers;
Museum visitors will be able to learn about this event and many others related to gangsters and law enforcement in the “Gangsters and G-Men” Time Capsule exhibit space, which will feature artifacts such as Al Capone’s bullet-resistant vest and other items belonging to the federal agents who tracked down mobsters of the era.

Friday, January 13, 2012

30th Anniversary of the Air Florida Flight 90 Crash

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the devastating Air Florida Flight 90 plane crash into the 14th Street Bridge in Washington, DC, that killed 78 individuals, including four motorists on the bridge.

The footage above from The Washington Post reflects on the crash and shows footage from the dramatic rescue from the icy waters under the bridge. The helicopter seen in the video, Eagle 1, manned by pilot Donald W. Usher, and paramedic Melvin E. Windsor, was crucial to the rescuing the five survivors of the initial crash.

The National Law Enforcement Museum is currently in talks with the National Park Service and United States Park Police to include Eagle 1 in the National Law Enforcement Museum. Eagle 1 would hang prominently near the Museum’s entry staircase, over the To Protect & Serve exhibit, near the entrance of the Hall of Remembrance.

While this crash captured Washington’s attention, there are many law enforcement agencies around the country with helicopter units that could share their own stories of harrowing rescues. The Museum salutes all those whose law enforcement service takes them to the skies under dangerous life and death circumstances and welcomes artifacts from other agencies related to their helicopter, search and rescue or disaster response units.

Follow the Museum's progress at

More information about the Air Florida plan crash and anniversary is available at: