Saturday, July 16, 2011

New York City Police Museum: Old Slip and Whitehall St

I didn't know there was a New York City Police Museum until I noticed it on a google map when I was searching for the location of the Museum of American Finance.  Of course upon reflection I should have guessed if there was a NYC Fire Museum there would be a comparable one for the Police....  ;)

I was impressed with the top (3rd) floor that was dedicated to 9/11 and the 27 officers who lost their lives to aid and save others in the tragedy.  They had some great videos, artifacts like flag fragments and parts of police cars salvaged from the landfill, and some touching memorials (see steel cross welded by an officer from a fragment of the World Trade Center at right). There was also an expansive wall that showed all the changes/advancement in the work of the police force in NYC post 9/11 to improve their preparedness and ability to react to any future.  It was all quite moving and made me proud (again) to be an American.

The second floor had many historical artifacts.  There were great historical uniforms, including one that was displayed a police matron uniform (see left).  This was of particular interest to me, as I had not known what the difference was between a police matron and a police woman (other than perhaps when the positions became available).  I was surprised to find out that the first police matrons came into being after a police officer was convicted of molesting a 15 year old girl at a station house in 1890.  Against a great deal of protest from policemen ranks, it was decided that the growth in the number of women going to jail (including the homeless--not prisoners) called for separate male and female cells and police matrons to oversee women.

There was also an amazing collection of weapons, both official as well as those confiscated from gangs (see baton sticks, spiked belt and cuffs, brass knuckles, etc. at  right).  There was an interesting history of the way the first gangs in New York were formed and how they operated.  I liked the authentic jail cell where you can experience how it is behind bars as well as the funny little place where you could take a picture alongside props as though you were getting a mug shot taken (a fun and easy way to get souvenirs of your visit).

On one side of the main lobby level, there are lots of old uniforms, weapons, and artifacts like a collection of the 8-pointed star badges and the "rattles" (see left) that were used by the first "police" of NYC (called the Rattle Watch, as they carried rattles to alert and call for help from nearby residents when they came across criminal activity).  It was amazing to me that in the early 1600s the "force" was originally a group of nine men who were not armed and not compensated.

The other side of the lobby had displays of some beautiful vintage motorcycles (this is the 100th anniversary of the first motorcycle police squads).  There is also a separate room dedicated to a learning and discovery zone for young kids called the Junior Officer's Discovery Zone (see left). 

So this museum has it all: artifacts from the early history of NYC, a memorial from 9/11 (as well as a room filled with badges from all of the officers who have ever lost their lives on duty, including those who died on 9/11), and a learning zone for young children. 

Tucked away on the east side of downtown, it could be overlooked, but it shouldn't be.  Take a peak and you'll find something to interest you.

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