The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund's Museum Project Is under Way

By Kelly, Michael | Corrections Today, July 2004 | Go to article overview
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The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund's Museum Project Is under Way

Kelly, Michael, Corrections Today

Police and corrections provide law enforcement services that are vital to all citizens. Without law enforcement, there is no law and order. Every day, these officers put themselves in harm's way to maintain peace and public safety. These are important--and dangerous--professions.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the public's appreciation for law enforcement and reminding them of the sacrifices that so many of these officers have made. The Memorial Fund's most visible effort to date is the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., completed in 1991 to honor law enforcement and correctional officers who gave their lives in the line of duty (see related story on page 96). The names of the fallen officers are inscribed on the memorial's marble walls. Of the more than 15,000 names there, 445 belong to correctional officers.

The Memorial Fund oversaw the memorial's development, design and construction but did not rest on these accomplishments. Visitors to the memorial expressed a keen interest in learning more than just the names of the officers honored there, and in 1993, a small visitors center was established near the site of the memorial. A year later, the Memorial Fund successfully lobbied Congress to pass a law requiring all American flags on government buildings to be lowered to half-staff on Peace Officers' Memorial Day (May 15th of each year). In 1996, at the Memorial Fund's urging, Congress authorized the U.S. Mint to issue 500,000 National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Commemorative silver dollars. Sale of the commemorative coins raised nearly $1.5 million.

Every year, the Memorial Fund presents its top award, the Distinguished Service Award, during a candlelight vigil preceding Peace Officers' Memorial Day. The award goes to an individual or organization that has made a lasting and exceptional contribution to the law enforcement profession and to the memorial cause. Those who have been presented the Distinguished Service Award include television host and victims rights/missing children's advocate John Walsh, former Attorney General Janet Reno and former President George H.W. Bush.

Still, the governing body of the Memorial Fund wanted to do more to generate public support for law enforcement and to honor the officers who make up its ranks. In 1997, they developed an idea for a brand new complex of exhibits to replace the visitors center that was built a few years earlier. The plan was to create a "Smithsonian-like" museum dedicated to the history, present and future of law enforcement.

In 2000, a law passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton authorized a national law enforcement museum to be built on federal property. The museum will be privately funded and, like the memorial, will be developed, constructed, owned and operated by the Memorial Fund. It will be located directly across the street from the memorial in downtown Washington, D.C. Construction of the museum is slated to begin in 2007, and its opening is scheduled for 2009.

The museum will present the history of American law enforcement from its origins in the early 1600s right up to the war against terrorism. Special topics will be included such as the taming of the Wild West, the response to Prohibition-era crime and drug trafficking, and the impact of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The museum facility will also include a research repository devoted to promoting law enforcement safety. In addition to the latest information on subjects such as less-than-lethal weaponry and bullet-resistant vests, case histories and statistical data showing the trends in line-of-duty deaths will be made available.

With that much information to cover, it is envisioned that this will be the largest and most comprehensive law enforcement museum and research facility in the world. The design calls for 25,000 square feet of predominantly underground exhibit space.

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The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund's Museum Project Is under Way


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