Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Artifact Spotlight: Early Alcohol Testing with the “Drunkometer"

Historic image of a Drunkometer analyzing the contents of a balloon.
The National Law Enforcement Museum recently acquired a Drunkometer, one of the earliest tools that allowed police officers to conduct roadside breath tests on suspected intoxicated drivers. As more and more Americans began driving in the first half of the twentieth century, drunk-driving accidents increased significantly. Blood and urine samples could be taken to prove blood alcohol levels in impaired drivers after an arrest, but police officers needed a portable way to test drivers in the field and stop drunk-driving accidents before they happened.

Rolla N. Harger, a biochemist from the Indiana University School of Medicine, invented the Drunkometer in the 1930s. This relatively portable kit was essentially a small chemistry set. The police officer would have a driver breathe into a balloon; the breath from the balloon was mixed with chemicals from the kit, causing them to change color. The darker the color the mixture turned, the higher the amount of alcohol in the breath. A simple equation allowed police officers to determine the estimated blood alcohol levels and make an arrest.

The Drunkometer continued to be used into the 1950s, when it began to be replaced by the quicker and more accurate Breathalyzer, invented by Robert Borkenstein. The Woodbridge (NJ) Police Department used this Drunkometer through the early 1970s. Learn more here.

Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum, 2017.6

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Historic Acquisition for National Law Enforcement Museum

Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum, 2017.3.5
Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum, 2017.3.5
One of the first standard issue firearms for a law enforcement officer in America – Any guesses where it might be from? Boston? Philadelphia, perhaps? As far as we know, this .36 caliber Colt M1849 was one in a batch of about 200 firearms that were the first ever purchased for, and issued to, law enforcement officers in the US. This revolver was purchased by the City of Baltimore, Maryland, from The Sportsman’s Warehouse in 1857, and issued to Officer Charles Scott in 1861.

The National Law Enforcement Museum acquired this revolver along with several other artifacts related to the history of the Baltimore (MD) Police Department, including a Mexican war surplus musket (also purchased in 1857), an ivory police whistle, and a wooden walking stick given as a gift to Chief Myers in 1892.

The National Law Enforcement Museum collection is already home to some of the greatest artifacts in law enforcement history. We can’t wait to share these objects and stories in the museum when it opens next year.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

FieldTrip Zoom - Women in Law Enforcement

School Programs Manager Izzy Ortiz teaches students
at the Forensic Detectives Summer Camp about fingerprint patterns.

The National Law Enforcement Museum recently teamed up with FieldTrip Zoom, a company that hosts live broadcasts of educational programs to classrooms across the country. About 100 students from Virginia, Illinois, South Dakota, and Missouri, tuned into the museum’s interactive, 45-minute program on pioneering women in law enforcement, right from their classrooms. Students got to see artifacts in the museum’s collection dating back to the early 1900’s that related to the progress of women in law enforcement history and learned about how law enforcement policies have changed to include more women. The National Law Enforcement Museum will partner with FieldTrip Zoom again in April for DNA Week, and will host, “DNA and Investigations.”

For more information on FieldTrip Zoom programs please visit

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Puppy Love: Following a K-9 in Training

The National Law Enforcement Museum’s audio visual production team at Richard Lewis Media Group (RLMG) is hard at work filming much of the video that will be part of the museum’s exhibits. Sometimes that work involves getting to know an adorable puppy.

For the museum’s K-9 exhibit, RLMG has begun filming Wyatt, a Belgian Malinois, as he trains with the Boston (MA) Police Department. Filming began during Wyatt’s first training session when he was only 12 weeks old. Troy Caisey, head trainer for the BPD’s K-9 Unit, showed RLMG some of the “foundational” training exercises Wyatt is learning, including how to sit, stay, and pay attention. Over the next several months, RLMG will track Wyatt’s progress as he improves his concentration and basic skills. Hopefully, Wyatt will meet the requirements to move on to the core of his training – a 14-week patrol course.

Stay tuned to the Museum Insider for more updates on Wyatt’s progress in the coming months. To learn more about the job of K-9 officers, come visit the K-9 exhibit when the National Law Enforcement Museum opens in 2018.