Richmond Police Museum uncovers the department’s hidden history

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Exchanging patches is a camaraderie between police officers, and retired Richmond Police Captain David Martin started collecting them and other memorabilia since day one of his 40-year career with the department.

“This one especially, it’s the only one I know in existence,” Martin points to a particular patch on the wall at the Richmond Police Museum. “That’s the type of history we have.”

In 2011, Martin moved what he and other officers accumulated over the years to a space inside the Richmond Police Training Academy. An official grand opening came a year later for the museum, which goes back to the earliest days of the force.

“It’s a badge from 1865,” Martin shows 8News Anchor Amy Lacey the oldest artifact on display. “It would be the first civil police department started after the Civil War and a picture of the officer who wore it.”

The collection also includes arrest logs from that era, a time when stealing sugar to make moonshine was a common crime.

Binders are filled with stories from the day.

“He talks about seeing Lincoln step off the boat at Rockett’s Landing,” Martin summarizes one account.

At the front of the museum are generations worth of weapons and uniforms. A back wall holds a way officers could call for backup when walking their beats solo was standard practice.

“They would know to send a policeman to this call box where it was located,” Martin explains. “This was, I’d say, the first 911 system.”

There are more recent memories to revisit too, like a brick and key from the old Spring Street Penitentiary.

A relic from one of the most infamous killing sprees in Richmond history is a popular attraction.

“I actually have a bullet where James Briley was shot by one of our detectives,” Martin says about one of the brothers put to death for several murders over seven months in 1979. “It entered and went into his coat.”

A Wall of Honor is a solemn sight.

“It’s dedicated to the fallen officers, as well as the active officers and retired officers.”

Martin and other retired officers run the museum solely on donations and share what they know with visitors.

 

One of his most memorable encounters was with an 85-year-old woman who stopped by looking for information about her uncle who had served.

“She sat in the chair touching his picture and crying, just bringing back memories,” Martin remembers. “That’s what this is about.”

The Richmond Police Museum is located in the Nancy White Thomas Library on the second floor of the Richmond Police Training Academy, 1202 West Graham Road in Richmond. It is open to the public. Admission is free with a suggested donation.

Follow this link for more information on hours of operation.

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