National Law Enforcement Museum
The National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, DC is somewhat confusing to locate even though it is adjacent to the National Police Memorial Wall. The museum is not a stand-alone building. Instead, there are two glass pavilions that mark the entrance to the museum. Once inside, you’ll go downstairs to the museum front desk and then down another set of stairs to the museum.
With over 20,000 artifacts, the museum covers US police history from 1611 to present. Learn how law enforcement techniques, technology, social needs, and national security have developed over the years.
The bulletproof vest that Al Capone wore, J. Edgar Hoover’s desk, and the first phone to ever receive a 911 call in 1968 are part of the 7,000 items on display. An additional 14,000 items will rotate in during the coming months and years.
Exhibits explore all aspects of law enforcement.
911 Emergency Ops
This interactive display allows you to answer calls, assess the situation, and dispatch officers. Your goal is to see how many emergency calls you can field in 3 minutes. Or you can listen to
A big highlight is the Cop Training Simulator where kids aged 12+ can learn about how to make split-second decisions.
Tour a cell set up with the cell grates and furnishings from former Lorton VA Correctional Complex.
Learn about dog K-9 training and what it’s like to be a K-9 officer handler. K-9s and their handlers train together for up to two years before going out in the field.
“You get a partner who is always glad to see you, is a hard worker. All you have to do is praise it, and it will do anything for you.”– Armando Salazar, K-9 Officer
View a real bomb suit and the tools technicians use.
Watch a video showing a real SWAT team entering a building after being called on scene.
Negotiation, Interrogation Techniques, Investigations
Watch a short video explaining interrogation techniques used to help investigators know if someone is telling the truth and how to encourage confessions.
Evidence and Forensics
The Take the Case exhibit lets you explore evidence collection and forensics as you complete a series of interactive stations. Real case evidence information is used to teach the concepts.
Honor the Fallen
Law Enforcement is a dangerous job with many officers killed every year. (Please note that the above video display shows the shooting of an officer with the shooter on screen and officer off. It may be too much for your children.) The Hall of Remembrance is a solemn room displaying images of those who have died in the line of duty.
If you have kids interested in Law Enforcement, there are many interactive screens covering the subjects above. Check out the Family Programs available to further enhance your visit. Programs include guided museum tours, monthly programs, and activity carts with hands-on activities.
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial
Across the street from the museum is the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Since we visited in February, the reflecting pool did not have any water and the nicely shaped trees were hibernating too.
The memorial is beautiful during the summer and fall. I recommend this memorial even if you don’t go to the museum.
The names of more than 21,000 officers who have been killed in the line of duty are carved on two curved marble walls. New names, unfortunately, are added each spring.
Although the National Law Enforcement Museum is well put together and educational, I do not recommend a visit for big families. The admission price and time to cover are cost prohibitive. Admission prices are Adult (12-64) $21.95, Youth (6-11) $14.95, Under 5 – free. (We think the museum is best for those over age 9.) Discounts are available for Law Enforcement Professionals and Military. Museum admission can be included in a GoCard attraction pass.
A family of six with two teens and two in the 6-11 range would pay $117.70 for admission. That’s a steep price for a couple hours, especially when DC offers so many free museums. This mindset might be common as the museum recently defaulted on payment due.
I highly recommend that you instead, support your local law enforcement agency. Take advantage of public open houses with possibly more hands-on activities for younger kids. For adults, look into Citizens’ Academy or Ride-Along programs. If you have older teens interested in law enforcement, contact your local agency to inquire about their Explorers program.