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Curator Mike Nikolin and his photo ops.

Phoenix Police Museum

Field review by the editors.

Phoenix, Arizona

Mike Nikolin is a no-nonsense Phoenix cop who retired after 32 years on the force. The Phoenix Police Museum is his creation. He founded it, manages it, runs the cash register, gives tours, and built all of the displays (including a replica jail cell). If people visiting the Museum get a parking ticket, he has been known to pay for it out of his own pocket. "I'm everything," Mike told us. "If I'm gone, it closes."

The museum has plenty of personal touches. Kids get a chance to sit inside a prowl car (restored by Nikolin) or straddle a police motorcycle.

Displays in the Phoenix Police Museum.

Displays include a plastic police shield punctured by bullet holes of various calibers (the .45 auto is disturbingly large) and the 19th century Phoenix "Jail Rock" -- the first prison in Phoenix -- to which lawbreakers were chained until their sentences had been served.

A separate room is a memorial to Phoenix police officers slain in the line of duty. Its centerpiece is a sculpture of a policeman, collapsed in grief over a coffin, out of which rises a grinning policeman angel, still wearing his cap and badge, raising a sword and a shield emblazoned with the word "Honor." It is partially made of melted badges and bullets.

Mike wishes us well, but cautions us that if we are sloppy in our reporting that he will hunt us down and kill us. "It's gonna be physical," he says with a smile. "It's not gonna be instantaneous. You're not gonna just go away." We get the sense that he tells this to everyone in the media -- his version of "Scared Straight" -- so we weren't too terrified. But we were extra careful in reviewing our notes.

Fallen officer memorial.

Update: The museum moved to a new, larger location in 2012. Among its new exhibits are Phoenix's first police helicopter; a hunk of I-beam from the World Trade Center; and "Leroi," Phoenix's first bomb disposal robot.

Phoenix Police Museum

17 S. 2nd Ave., Phoenix, AZ
Downtown, in Historic City Hall, which is between W. Washington and W. Jefferson Sts and S. 1st and S. 2nd Aves.
M-F 9-5 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
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