Tuesday, December 12, 2017

History Time Capsules: A Window into the Evolution of Law Enforcement

When the new National Law Enforcement Museum opens its doors next fall, visitors will get an in-depth understanding of how American law enforcement has evolved over the years through a series of time capsules along the Museum’s south wall.

Summer Police Uniform Helmet ca. 1880, Collection of the
National Law Enforcement Museum, 2006.488.76
History Time Capsules will provide snapshots of different eras in American law enforcement history, from its earliest inception to present day. Some of the oldest artifacts in the Museum’s collection are housed in the first capsule, which covers the influence of English jurisprudence, or the philosophy of law, on the origins of American law enforcement, including a Sheriff’s writ from 1703.

Visitors will also discover the development of municipal police forces during the 19th century, including early uniforms, equipment and some of the first department-issued firearms. Some of the greatest stories from the Wild West involved law enforcement too, like New Mexico Sheriff Pat Garrett who killed Billy the Kid, and Deputy U.S. Marshal Louis Eichoff who tracked down the infamous Dalton gang.

The time capsules will follow law enforcement history through the professionalization of the field, featuring early training materials and methods for standardizing policing. Visitors will see what it was like for the officers who were tasked with enforcing prohibition, including the one and only Eliot Ness of the Untouchables fame and his personal credentials. IRS Agent Mike Malone’s gun will help tell the story of how he infiltrated Al Capone’s network, leading to his eventual arrest. The time capsules also capture social changes that took place during the Civil Rights era; the clashes between federal and local agencies and the overzealous tactics employed by some of the local law enforcement departments. In addition, more women were entering law enforcement and beginning to take on roles that had never been allowed previously.

Indian Police Belt, Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum, 2013.19.6
The capsules also capture the traumatic events of the 9/11 terror attacks and how they changed law enforcement, in ways that still impact people today. Compelling objects will represent stories of rescue, including a flashlight and safety helmet worn by Port Authority of New York & New Jersey officers as they sought to save lives.

The History Time Capsules exhibit is just one of the many ways the National Law Enforcement Museum will educate, fascinate and engage visitors when the doors open next fall.

Monday, December 11, 2017

History Blotter: Arresting the Cincinnati Strangler

"They were terrified. The locksmiths and the hardware stores couldn't keep locks in stock.”

In December 1966, residents of Cincinnati, Ohio were frightened. Over the course of more than a year, a serial killer had raped and strangled seven women, most of them elderly. The first murder took place on December 2, 1965. On December 9, 1966, police found the body of Lula Kerrick in the elevator of her apartment building. Her death by strangulation resembled that of other victims; however, Kerrick had not been sexually assaulted.

By now the serial murders had terrorized the city. A police hotline received 800 tips per day. Officers checked out more than 15,000 cars and Halloween trick or treating was moved to daylight hours so residents could be safely in their homes by dark.

The Cincinnati (OH) Police Department assigned a special squad of 22 men to investigate the murders. They quickly logged over 100 hours of overtime and investigated more than 1000 leads. One of those leads included reports of a brown and cream-colored car seen near the locations of several of the murders. A man jotted down the license plate of a car as an unfamiliar man fled his apartment building.

Posteal Laskey, Jr.
Acting on that tip, Cincinnati police arrested Posteal Laskey, Jr. just four hours after they found Lula Kerrick’s body. The 29-year old former cab driver was only charged with the murder of one victim, Barbara Rose Bowman. Police determined Laskey stole a cab and picked up the 31-year old Bowman. Police said Bowman was struck by the cab, then fatally stabbed and strangled when she tried to get away. Several witnesses indicated they’d seen Bowman get into the cab Laskey was driving.

Cincinnati Patrolman Frank Sefton was the first officer to arrive at the scene of Bowman’s murder. ''They were terrified,'' Sefton said of the public after Bowman's killing. ''The locksmiths and the hardware stores couldn't keep locks in stock. There was a huge demand for them. ... Because of the hysteria, everybody was absolutely petrified.'' 1

Laskey’s arrest sparked racial tensions in Cincinnati. Laskey was African-American; all of the victims were white. Five witnesses stated Laskey was at home at the time of the Bowman murder, but much of the evidence against Laskey was based on witnesses who placed him in the vicinity of the murders as well as the description and license plate of the car. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made a special trip to the city to plead for calm.  Hundreds of National Guardsmen were deployed to Cincinnati as protests became violent. Police were certain they had the right suspect, citing that the murders stopped after his arrest; Laskey’s family was convinced he was a scapegoat.

Laskey was sentenced to die in the electric chair but his execution was commuted to life in prison when the death penalty was abolished in Ohio. Laskey remained incarcerated until his death in 2007. He was buried on the grounds of the prison.

1 From the The Cincinnati Post, March 1, 2002

Secrets of the Museum

A year ago today, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund President and CEO Craig W. Floyd braved frigid temperatures to complete a special mission.

Carrying a wooden box strapped to his back, he climbed 65 feet below the surface, down several ladders and into the construction site of the new National Law Enforcement Museum. Protected inside the box were rubbings containing the names of fallen officers from the Memorial.

The rubbings were part of a project from National Police Week in 2014. Visitors were asked to make extra rubbings of their loved one’s names so they could be placed in a capsule and embedded into the Museum.  Hundreds of rubbings were collected. On December 15, 2016, these treasured rubbings were carefully placed and sealed in the Museum’s foundation beneath the Museum’s Hall of Remembrance.

Visitors to the Memorial are encouraged to use the paper and pencils provided in the directory stands to make rubbings of fallen officers’ names. The Visitors Center & Store features a number of frames and holders for displaying rubbings from the Memorial.

As a member of the Honor Alliance, your benefits include a lifetime membership to the National Law Enforcement Museum, which opens next fall.  Share this valuable experience by purchasing an individual or family gift membership for a fellow active duty or retired law enforcement officer for just $100.

An Amazing Opportunity and an Amazing Intern

National Law Enforcement Museum Intern Shelbi Stovall
This month, the National Law Enforcement Museum says farewell to fall intern Shelbi Stovall. A graduate student at George Washington University, Shelbi has been instrumental in helping standardize and catalog a large amount of objects and information for the Museum.

"I appreciate the diversity. You get the chance to get a lot of things under your belt, not just data entry, and of course Lauren is wonderful," says Shelbi.

Museum Collections Manager Lauren Sydney has been supervising Shelbi throughout her internship and has been pleased to have someone so dedicated to the Museum to assist her efforts to manage an extensive collection of more than 18,000 artifacts.

Splitting her time between the Museum office and the Museum’s storage facility, Shelbi has concentrated her work on preparing exhibit installations. Among her many responsibilities, she has gathered information on objects slated for display, such as the locations, dimensions and conditions of each item. She has also cataloged new acquisitions, uploaded photos to the Museum’s collection database and helped with the de-installation of a small exhibit in the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund Washington, DC administrative office.

Shelbi recently put a great deal of effort into standardizing a huge catalog of information and evidence related to the DC Sniper collection. On long-term loan to the Museum from the Prince William County (VA) Police Department, the collection includes more than 1,000 records. Additionally, Shelbi cataloged and photographed a collection of nearly 300 law enforcement badges that were donated to the Museum last month.

"In 50 years, because of the things I’m doing right now, we’ll have these objects – it’s really powerful," says Shelbi.

The Museum operates regular internship programs that provide students with work opportunities in various aspects of non-profit organization and operations, as well as museum programs. For more information, contact Colleen Ludgate, at cludgate@nleomf.org.