behind the blue line by feds by nleomf

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.

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.

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.


For more information about the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, please visit nleomf.org. For more information about the National Law Enforcement Museum, please visit nleomf.org/museum.

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