I recently visited Police Station Eleven over in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles, the home of the Los Angeles Police Historical Society. Station Eleven (built 1925), also known as the Highland Park Station when it was an active police station (closed in 1983) now houses the Los Angeles Police Museum. History buffs will tell you that all museums have a historical story for the visitors. Since I love the history of Los Angeles, I mean all aspect of it, the good and otherwise, I decided to poked around the police museum. The museum told me the story about long history of the LAPD. But when you look at the history of police, you also have to look at the local crimes that rocked the city. That was part of the museum’s story also.
The Los Angeles Police Historical Society did a great job with their displays, starting right from the beginning when Los Angeles was just barely a fledgling city in 1869. It surprised me to learn the department started with only six officers in a community of almost six thousand citizens. (Today the total number of police officers exceeds nine thousand and our City’s population at more that four million.)
Now, if you’re like me, your understanding of police work probably came from watching movies or a cop sit-com. My modest understanding of police procedures came from early black and white TV shows such as Dragnet with the steadfast Sergeant Joe Friday and partner. Okay, I admit that for better or for worse James Ellroy and Joseph Wambaugh novels had some influence.
As I browsed among the antique equipment and artifacts I also saw displays of old major crimes.These were true local crimes, sensational and lurid, splashed on the front pages of our newspapers. The displays highlighted the real actions of the police officers involved and the investigations they conducted. This wasn’t fiction. Taking in the full scope of the story gave me an appreciation of the behind-the-headlines police work.
Another unique part of the museum really caught my interest. As I said earlier, the Highland Park Station was at one time an active police station. But when it closed, no one bothered to take out the jail cells. They were there, waiting, wide open. So, I thought, here was my chance to step into a real jail. I did. And even though I knew the door wasn’t going to clank closed behind me, my claustrophobia wouldn’t let me stay any longer than a few seconds. I leaped back out. When you visit the museum go ahead step inside one. Of course, if it’s not your first time (ahem) it probably won’t be as exciting.
The police museum is located at 6045 York Blvd, Los Angeles (see the map below). You’ll get a kick browsing the artifacts, equipment and vehicles. The building housed tons of police history as well as LA’s history- the lurid and sensational dark side that is.
Go visit. But, before going, be sure to go to visit their website: laphs.org for current information. The museum designated a Los Angeles Historical-Cultural Monument (#274) is also on the US National Register of Historical Places. That makes the museum an ideal location for movie and TV filming. Be aware that the museum closes during filming periods.
Oh yes. If you do step inside a jail cell- be sure that door doesn’t clank closed behind you.
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Here are posts of other Uniquely Los Angeles destinations you will enjoy. If you’re looking for a pleasant outing plan a visit and go enjoy yourself.
-Friends, Romans, and …Angelenos
-Bradbury Building-A Lasting Gem in Los Angeles
-The Last Book Store
-The Magic Castle
-Grauman’s Chinese Theater
-Page Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits
-Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
-Rose Bowl Stadium