America has thousands of local, state and federal law enforcement officers. These men and women are well-trained professionals who make daily sacrifices in the service of their communities. They put their lives on the line protecting society and go to work daily with prayers from their families that they come home safely at day's end.
In 2000, Colorado Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell was sponsor of enabling legislation for the establishment of a National Law Enforcement Museum to honor professionals in law enforcement. Presidents Bush and Clinton served as co-chairs and funds were raised from police organizations and corporate sponsors. The museum was authorized by Congress in the year 2000.
When completed, the new museum will be available for all visotors at Judiciary Square on E Street in Washington, D.C. One part of the mission of this museum will be to preserve historical artifacts, books, manuscripts and oral histories documenting the collective experiences of law enforcement officers.
I was recently humbled and honored to have one of my most famous cases, the Lemuel Penn civil rights violation, accepted by the Society of Former Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for inclusion in the museum's exhibitions. Before receiving this honor, I had little familiarity with the new museum, which will honor fallen heroes, recognize outstanding service, build a legacy, grant recognition and provide a place where people can gain an understanding about the role of law enforcement in their own lives.
Children, and others as well, can go to this special place and walk in the shoes of a typical policeman. They can learn about the training, tools of the trade, crime fighting and what it takes to make good cases against criminals. Visitors will learn how their police officers keep America safe and about their personal sacrifices and dedication to duty.
After visiting and viewing the exhibits, Americans will better understand law enforcement and learn from lectures, conferences and classes about the history of this important profession. Those who wear, or have worn, the badge consider the National Law Enforcement Museum a special place of honor.
Public support is still needed where law enforcement and their stories of heroism will be preserved. The Associated Press reports have indicated that the recession has caused a cutback in funds for the museum and several years may be added to the original completion date of 2011. In the meantime, contributions are still being made to ensure the opening of this new national museum.
Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.