Building Bombs, Defusing Bombs and Meeting Bomb Techs

National Law Enforcement Museum
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When my family returned from my dad’s military posting in Germany back in 1991, the Rodney King video and aftermath were well underway. Police brutality was no longer simply a rap song; it was an issue that was finally being addressed on a national stage. Nearly three decades later, though, it doesn’t feel like much has improved. If anything, thanks to mobile phones and social media, the issue seems to have gotten worse.

Being realistic and honest about it, I do believe that a huge majority of law enforcement officers are good people with good intentions. I have friends who are in law enforcement and I have friends who have been victimized by law enforcement. I know that it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch. Though I do feel know there are plenty of police officers who, intentional or not, prejudge those they are dealing with, I don’t want my daughter growing up fearing the police. When she’s in danger, I want her to call the cops.

So, to shed a little light on what’s not shown on the news, we took a trip to the recently opened National Law Enforcement Museum. They have an event called Science Saturday on the last Saturday of each month.

Before the event we strolled through the museum. It’s not a huge museum like on the National Mall, but there’s a lot of cool displays, interactive, educational and quite enlightening. Sometimes we forget about the heroics performed that get drowned out by the brutality of other cops. There was a short film that discussed how police officers are getting more involved in the community to improve relations. Nduku sat in on it and came away a bit more impressed. These are the types of things we don’t hear about that at least add ballast to the debate, but both sides need to be presented to have a conversation.

National Law Enforcement Museum

National Law Enforcement Museum

Now, though the goal was to balance the negative views Najwa seems to be adopting because of everything that we hear and see around us, I was disappointed that the museum didn’t seem to even address it. There was a tiny piece about Ferguson but it seemed to evade what the issue was really about. From Rodney King to Michael Brown to Laquan McDonald to countless others, you’d never know there was such a thing. Disappointing.

Anyway, it was time to head to the back for Science Saturday.

There were four activities. The first one was using a mobile app to control a bomb robot. You had to pick up the ball that represented the bomb and move it to a safe location. It took Najwa a while to get the mechanics down, but eventually, on her second attempt, she got it.

National Law Enforcement Museum

National Law Enforcement Museum

Then there was the rubber band car. As far as science, the lesson was in the way you roll up the rubber band and let the tension unravel to propel the car. But the kids just wanted to see it move without thinking about the physics.

National Law Enforcement Museum

National Law Enforcement Museum

National Law Enforcement Museum

Seems mixing baking soda with an acidic chemical is popular among science activities for kids whether it’s inflating balloons or building bath bombs.

National Law Enforcement Museum

National Law Enforcement Museum

National Law Enforcement Museum

The last activity was, well, less hands on. It was talking to a police officer. Funny, out of all of them, I liked this one the most. Najwa at first was shy, or maybe uninterested, but she had a good talk with the two bomb techs who were there. It was fascinating learning about how many calls they get in a week, more than we realize even if many are false alarms. And how understaffed they seem considering this is Washington, DC.

National Law Enforcement Museum

If anything, it puts the human being in the police uniform. The goal was to make sure Najwa understands that there are issues that need to be addressed in this country as far as the treatment of minorities by the police. But also appreciate that there are people who wear the uniform who aren’t our enemy. They actually dedicate their lives to protect us whether we know it or not.

Apparently the museum is struggling to pull in visitors. I’m not sure if it’s that people aren’t even aware of it [it’s way off the beaten path of the National Mall], it’s a bit pricey for such a small museum or what, but I do recommend Science Saturday and plan on doing a few more again.

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