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“Famous cops, interesting stories, antique law enforcement memorabilia, air conditioned and free.”

Honolulu's Police Department Museum
Ranked #79 of 341 things to do in Honolulu
Attraction details
Reviewed January 28, 2013

While web searching for historic and free things to do in Honolulu, I came upon this museum listing. We went on the red trolley tour and ended up at the capitol building, in downtown, within 1.26 miles of this attraction, at the main police station. With extra time, we decided to investigate this well kept secret.

After signing in, everyone must go thru a security check, before entering the separate back room housing the museum. At the entrance hallway, the public is greeted by a large sign stating, “Honolulu Police”, on a drawn badge, embroidered with Hawaiian flowers on the sides.

Further down the hallway are artifacts from the infamous 1930s Massie case involving government corruption, adult themes, murder, beating, kidnapping, prejudice, etc. In other words, Hawaii’s own real life soap opera. Along the way are other beautiful Hawaiian bouquets and a confiscated slot machine.

Attached to the hall is a larger room with self- explanatory labels, in display cases, located against the walls. Every aspect of police work is covered. Here are some highlights:

Did you know that Charlie Chan is based upon an actual Honolulu police detective, Chang Apana? Like the fictional character, Detective Apana had many harrowing adventures, while on duty, in Chinatown areas called, “Hell’s Half Acre” and “Blood Town”. Chang was multilingual, which helped to develop a network of informants. Also like Charlie Chan, the real life detective had a keen awareness, sharp intelligence, was practical, cunning and precise with details, resulting in solving many cases. Chang’s picture, articles and signature horse whip are on display.

Then, there is another Honolulu police officer, who went on to have a career in show biz. Remember the original Hawaii Five O television series, which aired in 1968 to 1980? The character of Sergeant Chin Ho Kelly was played by retired officer Kam Fong, who had been on the force, from 1946 to 1962. He also starred in other movies and series, such as Magnum P.I. His picture as a young police officer on duty, in uniform, is on display.

Three badges used in a Hawaii Five O made for t.v. movie and the series are on view. Also, there is an article on Jack Lord, with his picture, who played Steve McGarrett, in the original series.

Read about the amazing tale of the shoot out, in Waipahu, involving a motor cycle cop with a service revolver versus a meth addict with an AK47. The officer, Stan Cook, was shot eight times and received 11 wounds, but lived to tell the story and go back on duty. The addict was killed on site. You can view a reenactment of this case, on youtube, by searching under, “Hawaii Police Officer Shooting Training Tape”, Stan Cook, #79, and I looked under: police shoot out, 1994, in Hawaii. Officer Cook’s uniform is on display by the wall of notables.

Another interesting read is about the surfing cop, Sergeant Edwin “Buddy” Adolphson, who was assigned to Safety Patrol. Most of his time was spent on the North Shore in a vehicle supplied with a surfboard, medical kit, resuscitator, rope and mountain rescue equipment. Officer Adolphson is a rescue mission legend, having saved over 100 lives including: swimmers, surfers, people fishing, boaters and hikers. He received the department’s flag for outstanding heroism and made the Police Hall of Fame in 1963.

Police history trivia includes, but not limited to the following:

The first traffic ticket was issued in the 1850s, to a drunken horse rider for speeding, recklessness and public intoxication. Fines started at $5.00 and went up to $100.00 and a six month prison sentence could be added on, depending upon the offense.

There is a display of 1800s thumb cuffs used to detain people, before the invention of more modern, adjustable-fit handcuffs.

During World War II, when the Japanese invaded by attacking Pearl Harbor, the United States government seized and burned all American currency. The new money had, “Hawaii”, printed on the back to make them worthless to use, outside the islands, as an economic asset to the Japanese forces. The Hawaii marked money is on display.

Due to the war effort, with copper materials being used for ammunition, the U.S. government starting issuing steel pennies, in the 1940s. They were the only coins which were magnetic in the currency. Often people mistook the pennies for dimes because of their size and color. These pennies would get stuck in vending machines and were considered a nuisance. But if you have a 1943 copper penny or an unimproved steel penny, they are valuable collectors’ items.

Officers wore ex-military fatigues as uniforms, until the late 1950s to early 1960s, when the standard dark blue uniforms were issued in Hawaii.

The first undercover body recorder, (approximately six inches long and four inches wide), was worn in Hawaii, in the early 1960s. It is thought that thin people hugged this device unto themselves with an elastic band. To me, this doesn’t seem possible without bulging. Maybe it was worn by a police woman pretending to be in an early pregnancy.

Out in open, by the side wall, is a 1970s moon shine distillery, found in the field, while police were looking for something else on a case.

On display is an obsolete switchboard and log in book. Hawaii’s Police were still using these, along with card punch technology, until the 1990s, when the departments became computerized.

Encased, towards the center of the room, are the more- than- average- malicious- looking weapons, smuggled onto the islands, thought out the years.

Oversized plastic information placards, standing in the back part of the room, depict the history of the police force, starting with the Kapu law in 1750 to the present millennium.

A Kapu cape, signified by red and yellow feathers, only worn by royalty, is on display, along with a wooden plaque, engraved with King Kamehameha‘s law of the splintered paddle.

There is a comparison of police hats and patches from other countries displayed. Some hats look more like they belong to checker cab drivers or airline pilots or the military than to police officers.

This free, indoor, air conditioned museum is open Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and closed on holidays. The website reads guided tours, but really, it is a self-guided tour and you can ask officers questions. If your group is larger than seven people or more, a form has to be filled out in advance. The largest maximum group allowed at one time is 25.

There is limited, metered parking in the back lot, behind the building and another parking garage on the corner of South Beretania and Alapai streets or go to the website called, “the bus”, for transportation. Although, I wouldn’t recommend walking from the Capitol building in the hot, humid weather for over a mile, the way we did, even if the department tells you it is close by and gives directions in real time.

There is much more to see, so plan to spend one to three hours here.

13  Thank catnewman
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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