Back-to-School: Law Enforcement Academy

September means back-to-school for many Americans, including some future law enforcement officers. In 1888, the first centralized police academy began in Cincinnati, Ohio. Since then, academy training continues to prepare individuals for one of many professional careers in law enforcement, as peace officers, corrections officers, detention officers, communications officers, coroners, and more. Academy students learn the necessary tactical skills and academic knowledge to carry out their duties as law enforcement officers.

Check out these items from our collection that offer a snapshot of Academy life from the 1920s to the 1990s. 


2006.70.1 Collection of the
National Law Enforcement Museum

This book is the Syllabus and Instruction Guide for The Police Academy of the New York City Police Department. It was published in 1925 by then police commissioner, Richard E. Enright.

In the 1920s, the Police Academy of New York City was organized into eight departments, including one for instructor training. An article in The New York Times on April 23, 1925 announced the opening of the Police Academy in the Commerce Building of the College of the City of New York and stated that the college would help in planning new courses for the police school.


2007.10.1a Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum

The First Basic Police Class of the Essex County (NJ) Police Academy is pictured here. Their class ran from October 10 to November 25, 1955. These officers went on to serve in various departments throughout New Jersey including the Chatham Police, Park Police, Irvington Police, Bloomfield Police, Montclair Police, and the Essex County Sheriff’s Department.


2011.40.63 Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum

Elizabeth Coffal (front right) with her Indianapolis (IN) Police Department recruitment class, including friend Betty Blankenship (front, left of Elizabeth). This class graduated in 1967. Elizabeth and Betty were the first women assigned to patrol in Indianapolis.

2011.40.83a Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum

Elizabeth M. Coffal (later Robinson) was born May 10, 1952 and died April 8, 2009. She was a policewoman, patrol officer, and eventually Sergeant of the Indianapolis (IN) Police Department from 1967 until her retirement in 1989. This snapshot was taken of Elizabeth after her graduation from Police Academy in 1967.


2012.19.66 Collection of the
National Law Enforcement Museum

Graduating class photograph of Los Angeles (CA) Police Department Academy, May 17, 1968. Included in this class was Arturo Placencia, the officer who arrested Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, who assassinated then presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968. Placencia was 21 years old at the time and only three weeks out of Academy when he was called to the scene and made the arrest.


2011.47.958 Collection of the
National Law Enforcement Museum
2011.47.982 Collection of the
National Law Enforcement Museum

Donald “Keith” Johnson began his law enforcement career as a part- time dispatcher for the University Police Department at Central Missouri State University. His goal was to join the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and although he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, attended many training schools, and held various law enforcement positions, he was unable to get into the patrol because of his eyesight. In the late 1970s, Johnson underwent a procedure called Kerontology. The surgery was uncomfortable, but well worth it: Johnson passed his physical and was accepted into the 49th recruit class, becoming a member of the Missouri State Highway Patrol on January 15, 1979.

The two photos show Keith Johnson holding a “MSHP 49th” class flag and Keith with others outside the Academy on graduation day, June 8, 1979.

c. 1997

2006.452.13-.14 Collection of the
 National Law Enforcement Museum

This t-shirt belonged to Officer Scott Stewart from his time at the Detroit (MI) Police Department Academy in the late 1990s. Officer Stewart was killed in the line of duty on August 11, 2002. You can read Scott’s story here.

Do you have Academy stories, memories, objects, or mementos that you would consider sharing with/donating to the National Law Enforcement Museum? Please contact