National Law Enforcement Museum hopes to encourage dialogue, education

WASHINGTON — Saturday marks the grand opening of the National Law Enforcement Museum in the District. The celebrations kicked off with free activities for the community, including the Run For the Badge 5K, as visitors poured in to explore and engage with 12 new exhibits.

Saturday’s grand opening of the museum in Judiciary Square has been 20 years in the making, said Dave Brant, executive director of the museum and a former director of NCIS, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

“This facility, I think, will help us to educate, inform, create dialogue, around both the history of law enforcement, the current status of law enforcement, some of the tools law enforcement utilizes and really be a platform for discussion about some of the toughest issues that face our country where law enforcement plays a critical role,” Brant said.

Museum-goers can find everything from interactive forensics exhibits and a 911 call center to a hall of remembrance and a detailed outline on the impact of the officer-involved shooting in Ferguson.

D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham was also in attendance and says he hopes the museum will serve as a stepping stone to help bridge a gap.

“You look at all the folks who are in here enjoying the museum; if we continue to cooperatively work with our community, I think at the end of the day, we’re all going to be in a much better place,” said Newsham.

Dr. Kris Marsh,  a sociologist and professor at the University of Maryland who does implicit bias training with the Prince George’s County Police Department says the opening of the National Law Enforcement Museum is a part of a pivotal moment within the law enforcement community that encourages more dialogue.

“Officers have to understand they have biases, everybody has biases but how can you hold your biases in check so that whether or not the community is black, white, pinstriped or purple, everybody’s getting good customer service,” said Marsh.

She hopes the museum will keep the conversation between law enforcement and the community going.

For students like Nyara Sparks and Praise Robinson, both juniors at West Chester University majoring in criminology, the new museum is an opportunity to learn and explore their fields of study.

“This is a really great museum,” Sparks said. “I learned about how they’re training the K-9 units. There’s also a part where you can write a note to fallen police officers.”

Robinson said she enjoyed learning from the museum.

“It gives you hands on experience. A lot of people go into criminal justice not knowing what they want to do and this is a good touch,” said Robinson.

The museum is open Sunday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Here is timelapse video of the museum’s construction, from May 2016 to October 2018, courtesy EarthCam:

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