Phoenix Police Museum shares history of men and women in blue

By Julie Carlson

Did you know the Miranda Rights given to a person when they are placed under arrest were the results of a real case based in Phoenix? Learn all this and more at the Phoenix Police Museum, located in the historic City Hall on the northeast corner of Second Avenue and Jefferson Street.

So, what’s the Miranda Rights case? In 1963, a young Arizona man named Ernesto Miranda was arrested by Phoenix Police on suspicion of kidnapping and rape and was later convicted. Miranda and his lawyers believed his rights were violated during police interrogation. In 1965, his case was taken to the Supreme Court and overturned in a landmark decision.

Since 1966, law enforcement officers have had to read suspects their Miranda Rights (“the right to remain silent” and “the right to an attorney”) prior to being in custody or in a custodial interrogation. The story of these rights is one of several fascinating things visitors will find at the Phoenix Police Museum.

On June 6, 2012, the museum had its grand reopening after moving to its current location in City Hall. This transition allowed extra space for the exhibits and for curators to create a more three-dimensional educational experience for visitors. The museum spans over 130 years of Phoenix’s law enforcement history.

Other exhibits include a jail and marshal’s office complete with a mannequin of Marshal Enrique “Henry” Garfias, Phoenix’s first marshal. Check out rifles and six shooters from early law enforcement days and learn how the Arizona Rangers got their start. Another exhibit showcases law enforcement in Phoenix during 1900-1920 and the basic tools officers used when they walked the beat during this time. There’s also early radio and switchboard equipment that was used to take calls. An exhibit on how technology has changed over the years, from computers to Tasers, is also showcased.

Another important display illustrates how police work changed after World War II. Visitors can view the first police helicopter from 1973, police cars from the 1950s and 1960s and motorcycles. There’s an exciting exhibition on the Special Assignments Unit (SWAT) and visitors can see what it takes to train for this highly specialized field to handle threats to the public. There’s also a colorful display of police badges and patches from around the world, and an exhibit on how women broke barriers in law enforcement, from their early history on the force to the first female Phoenix Police Chief. Visitors can also view retired bomb robots up close in the Red and Blue Wire exhibit.

“We change our displays, but most of the exhibits are long-term,” says Robert Demlong, assistant curator for the Phoenix Police Museum. “Our newest display is on Crime Scene Investigations and the various technologies and methods used in solving complex crimes.”

The Phoenix Police Museum also has a section of the cross member I-beam from one of the towers from the World Trade Center in its 9/11 Remembrance exhibit. They also have a special Memorial Room with stained glass windows. This area is dedicated to Phoenix Police employees who were killed in the line of duty. The centerpiece is a gorgeous bronze sculpture of an angel dressed in uniform raising a sword and shield and a stricken officer kneeling at his feet. It was created by retired Phoenix Police officer Todd White.

A highlight of the museum is where children and adults of all ages can be “sworn in” as a police officer during their visit to the museum. Try on a real police uniform and sit in an actual police car and hear stories from active and retired duty officers and 9-1-1 operators who volunteer their time for tours. Researchers can also peruse the museum’s historical archives on a person or topic for historical or genealogical purposes.

The Phoenix Police Museum is a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) organization supported by generous donations. One such fundraiser is the Hometown Heroes Collection. It allows current and former retired employees to purchase custom Phoenix Police rings similar to college rings.

“Our free museum offers a unique experience to learn about the Phoenix Police Department’s rich history, from our early time as town marshals to our current department,” Demlong says. “We have period-specific exhibits. We also have a gift shop for visitors to get a unique souvenir.”

The Phoenix Police Museum is located at Second Avenue and Jefferson Street in Phoenix. It’s open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and closed on weekends and City of Phoenix holidays. For more information, call 602-534-7278 or visit  

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