Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween from the National Law Enforcement Museum & the Sprinkle Brothers!

Who doesn't like a good ghost story on Halloween? Thanks to the blog, Ghosts of DC (GoDC), we've discovered one that involves a couple of former Metropolitan (DC) Police officers—including J.L. Sprinkle, pictured below, with his brother, J.F.

Brothers J.L. and J.F. Sprinkle wearing their DC
Metropolitan Police Department uniforms, 1904.
Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum, 2006.166.1

According to GoDC, it started on a dark and stormy night a few years ago with an officer on desk duty at the 1D-1 Substation in Washington, DC's historic Capitol Hill neighborhood. While monitoring the closed-circuit TV camera, he noticed another officer on his screen. But he was sure he was alone in the building…

Well, local legend goes on to explain who the officer on the screen might have been. On March 5, 1909, Officer John W. Collier called in sick to work. He was known for laziness and tardiness, so his commanding officer, precinct commander Captain William H. Mathews, ordered that Collier show up to prove just how sick he was.

Collier walked into the Fifth Precinct station house (today’s 1D-1 Substation) and shot Captain Mathews (whose name is engraved on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial wall). Mathews’s Deputy, J.L. Sprinkle, and two other officers, fought with Collier, but it was too late. Captain Mathews had been killed.

Did the deceased Captain Mathews somehow reappear at his old station? I guess we’ll never know for sure. Read GoDC’s whole account of these events.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Artifact Spotlight: The Bicycle Craze in America

Museum staff has had bicycles on the brain, as we gear up for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund’s annual Ride & Run to Remember, on October 12-13, in Washington, DC. Sifting through the collection, the question of when cycling gained popularity got our wheels turning.

In the early 1890s, people were caught up in a new trend—bicycle riding. Although the bicycle had been around for a while, innovative designs, better roads, and the discovery of new materials produced a machine that was lighter, smoother, and faster to ride. Growing public acceptance of this social and health-boosting activity encouraged people to try it. Even fashion was influenced, as new skirts were designed for women to ride modestly in public.

Print from an 1893 edition of Judge Magazine.
Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum,
As with any new trend, this two-wheeled contraption faced its share of critics. An 1893 edition of Judge Magazine spoofed the craze, creating cartoon vignettes of all the silly developments that could come from it. One such scene (see left) pictures two portly policemen trying to balance on the spindly wheels of turn-of-the-century bicycles, with a caption that reads, “it would not do.”

Ignoring the ridicule, the NYPD forged ahead with a Bicycle Squad, and with great success. After its 29 officers made over 1300 arrests in their first year, the Squad was soon expanded to 100 officers. Before long, these squads became the norm within urban law enforcement agencies, which surely left the critics backpedaling on their anti-bicycle stance.

This month, 120 years after this cartoon was published, riders will cycle up to 50 miles to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, to honor the sacrifice and celebrate the service of our law enforcement officers. Fundraising events like this one help keep the long tradition of cycling in America alive—and support a worthy cause, too.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Event Recap | Witness to History: The Investigation of Robert Hanssen

Hosted by the International Spy Museum and sponsored by Target, the National Law Enforcement Museum's event, Witness to History: The Investigation of Robert Hanssen, took place last evening. About 170 guests attended—the largest crowd at a Witness to History event to date—and Peter Earnest, the Founding Executive Director of the International Spy Museum, welcomed the nearly full auditorium, saying, "the government is closed, but the Spy Museum is not." He then introduced the moderator, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund Chairman & CEO Craig W. Floyd, to begin the discussion with panelists, Section Chief Mike Rochford, FBI, Russian Overseas Espionage, Ret.; and David Wise, Author of Spy: The Inside Story of How the FBI's Robert Hanssen Betrayed America.

The panelists—with help from audience members such as Dr. David L. Charney, who was Hanssen's psychiatrist—shed light on what motivated ex-FBI agent and Russian spy, Robert Hanssen, to sell high-level U.S. secrets to the former Soviet Union and Russia for over 20 years.

Hanssen was the son of a Chicago law enforcement officer (who specialized in catching suspected communists), and went on to become a Russian spy, just three years after joining the FBI. He was a family man and devout Catholic, who also became involved with a stripper. Mr. Wise summed it up, "Robert Hanssen is a very complex man, and a bundle of contradictions." Dr. Charney, who was given permission by Hanssen to convey his medical findings to the intelligence community as a teaching opportunity, agreed with this assertion. He said "compartmentalization" was a factor in Hanssen's ability to function in starkly contradictory roles.

Mr. Rochford described the process of finally pinning Hanssen as the culprit who had leaked hundreds of highly sensitive documents to the Russians for a long period of time. He referred to some clues that, in hindsight, may have led the FBI's investigation to Hanssen, as "puffs of smoke" that, at the time, did not amount to any significant proof of his guilt. He also confirmed that Hanssen was never polygraphed until he was caught, and that the FBI now polygraphs upon employment—one of the improvements that resulted from this case.

Thanks to the collective efforts of the FBI, CIA, Department of State, and the Justice Department, Hanssen was arrested in 2001 and convicted of espionage. He is currently at the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, where he is held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day (with one hour of exercise permitted).

Learn more about the National Law Enforcement Museum's Witness to History panel discussion series, and check out recaps and photos from past events.