The Miami Police Museum
The Miami Police Museum
If you find yourself in Florida on Vacation be sure to leave space in your itinerary for a visit to one of the must see places in Miami, the Miami Police Museum. A visit to this museum will be time well spent.
This museum has over 10,000 items on show relating to law enforcement in Miami and America as as whole.
Do Not Touch?
The museum is full of interesting things to see, and contains many items that have been used in some of America’s most famous and infamous crimes.
One of the most pleasing things about the museum is that you are not faced with Do Not Touch notices plastered all over the place.
Visitors are allowed and even encouraged to touch and interact with many of the museum's exhibits. We took full advantage of this particular museum policy and we went in, sat on and held just about everything that we could and we all agreed that this added much enjoyment to our visit.
If they don't want you to touch....
If they don't want you to touch something then they place it behind glass so that you can't touch them. That way you are not tempted to touch what you are not supposed to.
There are many exhibits in the museum that have been placed safely behind glass but this does not stop you from enjoying them.
extremely interesting to see some of the actual articles used by villains during their life of crime. It is especially interesting to see
those items that use to belong to famous villains such as Bonnie and Clyde.
There are also, many items on show in the museum that detail the history and development of Law Enforcement and the Police in America and Miami. The overwhelming message you get from going around this museum is that crime does not pay except in wages that you would rather not collect.
Items safely behind glass
Police Vehicles outside in the parking lot
When we arrived at the museum we saw a variety of police vehicles parked outside the first one we saw was this old black and white classic.
I am not at all sure of the make and model of this car, but I would guess it dates back to the forties or fifties. The white walled tyres make the car look very smart and classy. Just look at the size of that siren on the roof of the car.
An Old Classic Police Car
Notice how the car has a running board in front of the car doors and that the door at the back opens the opposite way to the modern back passenger doors seen in most of today’s cars. Many years ago it was not unusual to have the back passenger doors open this way. In England this type of door was given the nickname of ‘a suicide door.’
Do you recognise either of these cars?
Some of the vehicles outside have been gifted to the museum by Hollywood and are vehicles that have been featured in films with some sort of law and order theme.
It is some time since we visited the museum and so I cannot tell which films these two cars were featured in.
If you recognise either of these cars I would appreciate you letting me know what film they are from. I seem to remember that one of the cars had been used in Blade (?)
New Information on the Red Car
Thanks to Steve I now have some new information on the red car at the museumbelow is the information Steve wrote in my comments
"the red vehicle is originally from the Barry Bostwick 1982 movie MegaForce. The TAC-COM vehicle was painted red for a Virgin commercial years ago."
New Information on the two cars below
What film were they used in?
A little over the top?
I think that this car has been fitted out just a little over the top with its weapons, even for the States .
A few more cars at the museum
On entering the foyer of the museum there were several large police motorbikes. They are very impressive looking machines, and much to our joy we found out that visitors to the museum are allowed to get on these machines.
Being long term fans of many an American television Cop Series we were used to seeing motorbikes like these. It was quite a thrill now to be able to get right up close to these real police bikes and not only be able to touch them but also to get on them.
They think they are starring in CHiPs
Out on Patrol?
As I took these photographs I could tell from the faraway look in their eyes that they were both off somewhere with Erik Estrada (from the TV series ChiPs) policing the highways of California.
Like most bikers, the opportunity to get on a police motorbike, even if it was only a static one, was one not to be missed. You can clearly see that they both enjoyed being able to sit astride these police bikes imagining what it would be like to be out on patrol.
From the look that is on their faces it is plain to see that they were very pleased with themselves as they sat astride these large impressive machines.
Prison Cell Mock-up
If you have ever wondered what a prison cell looks like or what it would feel like to be in a cell then wonder no more because here you can find out the answer to both of these questions.
Admittedly it will not give you any idea at all how it would feel to lose your freedom or what life inside a prison is really like.
A Typical Cell
However the mock up of a prison cell at the museum will give you some idea of the physical size and layout of a typical prison cell. The Cell was about 6ft x 9ft with bunk beds on the left as you look at the photographs along with a small sink and a toilet.
This small space is fitted out to house two prisoners, how much time a prisoner would spend each day in a cell this size I think would differ from prison to prison and also be affected by what level of security threat the prisoner posed.
In Britain we are use to having rooms in our homes that are much smaller than the average American home has but even by British standards a 9ft x 6ft space would be considered too small for a single bedroom.
There is no other furniture in the cell no chair or table or lamp to read by. How true this cell layout is to a normal prison cell I do not know, but I do know that I would not like to spend any time in a cell like this. The lack of privacy when using the toilet would freak me out.
The Human Cost of Policing
On the ground floor of the museum was a very powerful reminder that the policing of our cities comes at a very high price to some of the law enforcement agencies.
There is a roll of honour giving details of all the officers killed in the line of duty. Unfortunately, this roll of Honour is quite a long. Reading the names and ages, of the fallen officers and seeing some of their faces bring home the human cost of policing.
It brings you face to face with the fact that these fallen officers are not just a police statistic. Each fallen officer was a real person who had a family that loved and depended on him or her. They were much more than just a police officer they were also a part of a family in which they had many roles that they played.
Now those families were without them. Some family was missing a husband or wife, son or daughter, father or mother, brother or sister, uncle or aunt. No matter what part these fallen officers played in their family they were now no longer there to play it, instead they were missing and missed.
This was the real and extremely high price that has been paid by these fallen officers and their families. This is the real cost of maintaining public safety.
Death Sentence 1881
Death Sentence 1881
There was an unusual exhibit on the wall in the museum that caught my eye. It was so unusual that I took a photograph of it which you can see here.
It is a framed copy of the words that the Honourable Judge Roy Bean used when he passed the death sentence upon the prisoner Jose Manuel Miguel Xaviar Gonzales in the year 1881.
Judges today would not use such flowery words when passing a death sentence.
This death sentence starts out almost like poetry but then at the end of
the first section the judge says these damming words 'but you won't be
It continues again like a piece of flowery poetry until the last line of this second section when the judge says to the prisoner “Still, you won’t be here to see.”
The third section starts like the previous two with the judge waxing poetic but this time these words “but you, you won’t be here to enjoy it” appear midway.
From this point onwards right up to the end of his sentencing the judge draws a very gruesome picture for the prisoner of exactly what lays in store for him.
The text that is in the photo 'Death Sentence 1881'
These are the words that are in the photograph above which were spoken by the Honourable Judge Roy Bean,when he passed the death sentence on Jose Manuel Miguel Xaviar Gonzales
“Jose Manuel Miguel Xaviar Gonzales, in a few short weeks, it will be spring, the snows of winter will flee away, the ice will vanish, and air will become soft and balmy. In short, Jose Manuel Miguel Xaviar Gonzales, the annual miracle of the years will awaken and come to pass, but you won’t be there.”
“The rivulet will run its soaring course to the sea, the timid desert flowers will put forth their tender shoots, the glorious valleys of this imperial domain will blossom as the rose. Still, you won’t be here to see.”
“From every treetop some wild wood songster will carol his matting song, butterflies will sport in the sunshine, the busy bee will hum happy as it pursues its accustomed vocation. The gentle breeze will tease the tassels of the wild grasses, and all nature, Jose Manuel Miguel Xaviar Gonzales, will be glad, but you, you won’t be here to enjoy it because I command the sheriff or some other officers of the country to lead you out to some remote spot, swing you by the neck from a knotting bough of some sturdy oak; and let you hang until you are dead.”
“And then, Jose Manuel Miguel Xaviar Gonzales, I further command that such officer or officers retire quickly from your dangling corpse, that vultures may descend from the heavens upon your filthy body until nothing shall remain, but bare, bleached bones of a cold-blooded, copper coloured, blood thirsty, throat cutting, chilli-eating, sheep- herding, murdering son of a bitch.”
United States of America Vs Gonzales (1881) United States district Court, New Mexico Territory Sessions, Taos, New Mexico.
Honourable Judge Roy Bean
United States Judge
The Means of Execution
The means of execution was the most chilling and gruesome part of the visit to the museum.
I visited the Police Museum quite a few years ago so my memory may not be 100% accurate, but I seem to recall that the means of execution in the museum were authentic not replicas.
The Electric Chair and the Gas Chamber had been retired from use. These had then been dismantled at the prison and then re-assembled in the museum.
The re-assembly of these two items had been done so true to life that the impact of these two items was very forceful.
From childhood I had been brought up on a diet of American films and TV shows. Because of this I was already familiar with the ways that prisoners are executed in America.
This however did not prepare me for actually coming face to face with a real life Electric Chair and a Gas Chamber.
The Gas Chamber
My husband went inside the Gas Chamber and sat on the chair but I could not bring myself to do that. The Chair still had all the leather straps used to secure the prisoner.
As I took this photograph I could not help but think of all those people in the past that had sat in that chair for real and had met their deaths choking on the fumes of the poisonous gas.
The Gas Chamber
The Electric Chair
The Electric Chair was much smaller than I imagined it would be. Behind my husband’s shoulder on the right of the photograph you can see the warning sign ‘Danger High Voltage’.
The Chair still had the restraining straps and the high voltage cables. Again it was difficult not to reflect on the fact that people had really been executed in that chair.
The Electric Chair
A Guillotine in America?
I cannot remember seeing a gallows at the museum. Surprisingly the museum did have a guillotine.
I can find no record of any executions taking place in America using a guillotine. In Utah in 1851 death by beheading was an option available. Because no prisoner opted for this method of execution the practice fell out of favour around 1888.
The Tramp Chair
The museum had a contraption called ‘The Tramp Chair’ which was used to punish vagrants. It looks like a most uncomfortable contraption.
The Tramp Chair
A good place to end this visit to the Miami Police Museum is here in the room which reminded me of the actor Michael Conrad who played the desk sergeant Phil Esterhaus in the TV series Hill Street Blues.
Often you would see the desk sergeant Phil Esterhaus talking to the new shift during Roll Call in a room that reminded me of this one.
"Let's be careful out there"
There are many more interesting things to see at the Miami Police Museum than I have managed to cover in this Hub. I hope that this taster has whetted your appetite because it is a place well worth visiting. I can’t think of a better way to end this hub than by having the actor Michael Conrad who played the desk sergeant Phil Esterhaus in the TV series Hill Street Blues say those famous words.
"Let's be careful out there"