DENVER (AP) Denver police have seen the bad and the good of this citys life for 150 years, but many of the records and artifacts of their history have disappeared.
Soon there could be a museum that will preserve what remains for public viewing.
The nonprofit Denver Police Law Enforcement Museum, founded in 2008 to develop plans and collect material for the museum, seeks a place to house the facility and hopes to have it up and running in 2012, said Dean Christopherson, a police technician and member of the nonprofits board.
Christopherson envisions a museum similar to the Los Angeles Police Historical Society Museum, which can be found in a restored circa 1925 police station that is a registered National Historic landmark.
No budget for the project has been set, but plans call for it to be funded with state, local and regional historic grants, private donations and corporate sponsorships and whatever other resources are available.
Christopherson, a history buff who has worked for the Denver Police Department for 11 years, spends his free time researching the departments past.
I learn something new every day, he said. We need a museum to explain to people who we are and what we do.
There has been an official police presence in Denver since 1859, when residents elected the first marshal, Wilson Sisty. Before that, Christopherson said, there was miners camp law, and woe to those caught breaking it. They could have been run out of town, flogged and even hanged without a trial.
Enforcing the law then was and remains a dangerous job. The first Denver police officer known to have been killed in the line of duty was John Phillips, shot by a suspected burglar while on foot patrol in 1889.
The shooter was never caught.
Tracing much of the history, including line-of-duty deaths, is a challenge, Christopherson said.
Records and artifacts that havent been lost are spread throughout the city. Many officers retired and took their service weapons, personnel files and other items with them.
Some of those items remain with their families. Others are held in private collections or museums. A lot of folks are sitting on stuff and dont know what to do with it, Christopherson said.
When records have been lost, the stories of officers killed in the line of duty sometimes have escaped official recognition, often when the officers left few heirs to preserve their memories.
Christopherson was searching for information about one officer when he stumbled across the story of Willie O. Steam, a black cop shot to death in 1921 after he shut down a dance hall that had operated without a license.
Steam, 48, was playing cards when the gentleman (Keil ONeill) who ran the dance hall came up behind him and said Ive got you now, Steamboat, and pulled the trigger, Christopherson said.
Steam was broke on the day he died, and then-Chief H.R. Williams raised the $125 to bury him.
Steam and his wife had no children to pass on the story of his life and death.
Christopherson thought Steam was the first black officer killed in the line of duty until he found information on Stuart K. Harvey. Harvey died in a shoot-out with Arapahoe County sheriffs deputies, who sparked a political brawl at a Larimer Street polling station.
That wasnt the only gunfight at Denvers polls. Legendary lawman Bat Masterson was an Arapahoe County deputy when he was denied entry to check on a ballot box April 6, 1897.
He kicked in the door, gun in hand. Denver Policeman Tim Conners had his gun out, but Masterson shot first, striking Conners in the hand.
Soon after, Masterson traded his badge for a typewriter and wrote a sports column for The Denver Post until 1902.
Cops wont be the only notables who will be remembered. Crooks, lowlifes and other edgy characters, including Doc Holliday, a dentist known for his gunslinging, are inextricably linked in the cops history.
Holliday was taken into custody in Denver on a warrant for the murder in Arizona Territory of Frank Stilwell, a sidekick of Ike Clanton, one of the men involved in the O.K. Corral gunfight.