Downtown's Phoenix Police Museum

There are a lot of new buildings and businesses popping up in downtown Phoenix, especially around Central Avenue and Jefferson Street, where the CityScape project is about to open.

But there's a place on the corner of Central and Jefferson that pays homage to Phoenix's past. It's the Phoenix Police Museum, and there are some fascinating exhibits and displays for people to wander. And since the museum is free, there's no reason not to go.

There are plenty of reasons to check out the Phoenix Police Museum, including the 9-11 exhibit (complete with a piece of steel from the Twin Towers) and the old police cruisers and bikes, which museum docents will usually let you pose on for photos.

We had the good fortune of speaking with docent Sue Bell on our visit, who gave us an enthusiastic tour of the Phoenix Police Museum. One of the most interesting things we learned was that the Miranda Rights started here in Phoenix, because of a guy named Ernesto Miranda, who had his initial kidnapping, rape, and robbery convictions overturned because a judge ruled he was not informed of his right against self-incrimination during police interrogation.

Hence, "You have the right to remain silent..." (Miranda was convicted, without his confession as evidence, as a second trial.)

Miranda was paroled in 1972 and fatally stabbed in Phoenix in 1976. The stabbing suspect exercised his Miranda Right to remain silent. He was released, fled, and the case was closed without an arrest.

In addition to learning about Miranda, Bell also showed us what she said was the most important room in the museum, the tribute room to police officers killed in the line of duty. There are photos of officers dating back to the first line-of-duty death, Officer Haze Burch, who was shot and killed by two fugitives in 1925. There's also a beautiful copper, brass, and bronze memorial statue in the center of the room, partially made from melted badges and bullets.

As for history, there's plenty more in the museum. There's a 1980s police cruiser that kids love to play in, an old Honda police bike, and a 1919 Ford Model T police car. There are replicas of old jails, complete with wax mannequins, and even the first "jail" in Phoenix -- which is a pair of rusty shackles attached to a heavy rock. This was the system early Phoenix settler Jack Swilling and his party used to detain people who got out of line.

There's so much to see at the Phoenix Police Museum that we couldn't possibly fit it all in one blog. You really have to see it for yourself. One more must-see we recommend is the leger from the 1800s, chronicling who was arrested for what (most of the time, it was drunkenness and vagrancy).

The Phoenix Police Museum is located in the Barrister Place building at 101 S. Central Avenue. Hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Admission is free. Call 602-534-7278 or visit


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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea