The New National Law Enforcement Museum

If you thought DC already had a museum covering every conceivable topic you would be wrong. The new National Law Enforcement Museum explores both the history and modern-day world of policing from police officers walking the beat to undercover work to the world of training police dogs to the importance of community relations. My kids (3, 8, and 10) all loved the museum and asked if we go back soon.

The museum is full of both exhibits and interactive experiences. Everything from old police call boxes to police-themed games and toys to real equipment used in modern day forensics labs is on display. My kids especially loved sitting in the real police car (yes, you can turn on the lights), going in the tiny jail cell (yes, you can lie down on the cot and no, you cannot use the toilet), watching a video about how police dogs are trained, and trying their hand at the interactive exhibits involving playing the role of a 911 dispatcher and monitoring surveillance equipment. My kids also loved the room dedicated to forensics and trying their hand at solving crimes by analyzing the evidence. They thought matching a shoe print to a real shoe was easier than matching two strands of hair.

The National Law Enforcement museum took a lot of care to make everything as realistic as possible. The police car visitors can ride in is real and the information accompanying the car explains all of the car’s many features as well as why that particular was selected for the museum. The museum also has many statutes of real police officers from various jurisdictions throughout the museum and each is a cast of a real police officer who has accomplished something noteworthy and whose story is told as part of the exhibit. Even furniture from J. Edgar Hoover’s real office is on display as is Robocop.

I was a little concerned that some of the museum might not be kid-friendly, but I was pleased to see that the museum was designed with families in mind. There are some exhibits you may not want your kids to see. For example, there is a room dedicated to officers who were killed in the line of duty. I found the Wall of Remembrance and exhibit with items left at the nearby Law Enforcement Officers Memorial very moving, but if you would rather your kids not see this it’s very easy to simply skip that room. My kids also loved a huge interactive board where they could tap on a crime to learn about how it was solved. Crimes that may not be appropriate for kids are clearly marked so it’s easy to steer kids away from those.

There are also several videos throughout the museum, including a 15 minute showing in the museum’s large theater about the history of law enforcement that my older kids and I really enjoyed. My kids also really liked the videos exploring a day in the life of a beat cop, a corrections officer, and the stories of two hopeful police dogs.

Also check out one of the museum’s many family-friendly events including STEM Saturdays, story times, and sensory-friendly mornings.

If you go:

  • Admission is: Adults – $21.95, Youth (ages 6-11) – $14.95, Children (ages 5 and under) admission is Free. There are discounts for law enforcement professionals and military, survivors, seniors, and college students.
  • The museum is open every day (except Thanksgiving and Christmas) from 10:00 – 6:00 pm with a later closing of 9:00 pm on Thursdays.
  • The museum is underground so it’s easy to miss. Look for two large glass pavilions just past the memorial to find the entrance.
  • The museum is very close to the Judiciary Square metro on the red line so metro is a really easy way to get to the museum.
  • The museum’s café will open shortly and serve sandwiches and salads. Until then, grab lunch at the Firehook café across the street in the Building Museum or walk a couple of blocks to Chinatown.
National Law Enforcement Museum