Lawless became so bad that a mass meeting was held in Phoenix on April 3, 1872 to “Devise the best means of safety from lawless Sonorans and others.” A volunteer company of men of were appointed on a safety committee “to inquire into the character of strangers and to notify the evil disposed to leave.” On April 10, 1874 the president issued a patent for the present site of Phoenix. Phoenix also began its own law enforcement after incorporated as a city on February 25, 1881. Henry Garfias, the first city marshal, was elected by 2,500 residents in 1881 in the first elections of the newly incorporated city. For six years, he served as the primary law enforcement office. Marshal Garfias was an influential community member which most likely helped him get elected as the first Phoenix town marshal. Marshal Garfias staff consisted of his jailer H.C. McDonald.

Before an actual jail was built, the Marshal used a “jail rock.” The rock originated with the Maricopa County sheriff, until the sheriff no longer needed it with his new jail. The rock most likely was hauled from the Salt River just south of the valley by wagon. Then a miner would have painstakingly chiseled out the bolt hole for the handmade leg irons made by the local blacksmith. Prisoners were normally sentenced to a day outside on the rock or one dollar. Though this may seem harsh by today standards, people were much more conditioned to the desert environment and had more leathered skin from hard pioneer work. It’s been said that they also had a timber with a leg cuff but one prisoner was able to leverage it upon his shoulders and go to the local bar for a drink, ending the use of timbers or logs.

Later, Phoenix City Marshals transitioned into Phoenix police officers after a city adopted the City Manager-Commission form of government. The city at this time was only 3.1 square miles with a population of 11,134 people. The Merchant’s Police Patrol was founded to provide merchants with burglary and fire protection services which supplemented those provide by the department.

arizona rangers

Arizona’s reputation as the West’s last refuge for hard-bitten desperados was a major reason its admittance to statehood was delayed so long. The proximity to the Mexican border, bad roads, poor communication, and rugged terrain made pursuit and capture of outlaws almost impossible.

To make matters worse, rural residents were sometimes hesitant to assist peace officers because many of their neighbors were outlaws, and they didn’t want to incur vengeance. The hard men who rode the Arizona Territory were products of a lawless, and violent post-Civil War era characterized by range wars, feuds.

Apache fighting, and the lust for gold and silver. It was for the purpose of ridding Arizona of such individual criminals and criminal gangs that the Arizona Rangers were created. Modeled after the famed Texas Rangers, rugged men rode the Arizona Territory, breaking up the last of the large outlaw gangs.

The first regional law enforcement effort in Arizona when the 1901 Act authorized the territorial Governor to Raise and Muster one Company of Arizona Rangers. The Arizona Rangers were organized to protect the Arizona Territory from outlaws and rustlers so that the Territory could apply for Statehood.

They were picked from law officers, military men, ranchers and cowboys. With maximum company strength of 26 men, they covered the entire territory. “Every man is a guardian of the honor and reputation, not only of himself, but the entire [Ranger] organization.”- Capt. Harry Wheeler, in General Order #2, 1 June 1907

Their objectives were to hunt down and capture the lone wolves and members of the gangs, to clear the areas in which criminals congregated and make them safe for settlement by law abiding citizens and to discourage the riffraff of the rest of the country to seek refuse in Arizona. One of the prime targets of the Arizona outlaws was the stagecoach, which usually carried money or valuables and was an easy target.

The Rangers also acted as a state police force to help enforce law when local authority was overtaxed. And they supplemented the activities of the then inadequate United States Border patrol. By 1909, the Territorial Arizona Rangers had largely accomplished their goals and were disbanded by the Territorial Governor three years before Arizona achieved statehood.


Phoenix rises from the desert with the small town site. In the beginning, the town of Phoenix had marshals until the form of government changed. We went from looking like cowboys to actual uniformed officers with dress jackets, badges and hats. The city was relatively small when compared to it today with over 1.5 million residents and 550 square mile of area which is geographically larger than Los Angeles, California. The city was only a few square miles with farm fields surrounding the original town site surrounded by canal originally dug by the Hohokam Indians.

The first known people to live the area were the Hohokam Indians from 300-1400. They built an irrigation system of 135 miles making the land fertile. They abandoned the canals most likely due to drought conditions. Until the 1840’s, the valley was mostly Indians, European, mountain men, trappers, explorers and priest from the Catholic church of Spain. With the discovery of Gold in California, Arizona benefited with Gold and Silver rush from 1840-1860’s. Law and Order was necessary due to Indian wars and outlaws.

The U.S. Army arrived to dispense justice for a time later followed by U.S. Marshals who could not be tried for any murder or high crimes they committed. They were the forerunners of the state rangers. A majority territorial Arizona and the valley was a harsh, vast, arid, raw, cruel and unsettled wilderness as compared to the Eastern U.S.

From the 1850’s to 1880’s the territory became the “El Dorado” or a haven for every lawless element of robbers, murders, gunmen, cutthroats, thieves, cattle rustlers, gamblers, bandits, and men on the dodge. Money was needed for the war and with the discovery of Gold, Arizona got the attention of the government. As a result congress created the territory of Arizona on December 29, 1863.

After the war, many did not return home to their ruined lands. John “Jack” Swilling, an ex-confederate soldier and Indian fighter and had settled in the Wickenburg area. While riding on the mountains surrounding Phoenix valley he observed the ruins of the Hohokam irrigations canals. He inspected the ditches and later convinced a group of friends to renovate them to get water from the Salt River to the valley. Once completed the valley population began to grow and prosper with farm land. On May 4, 1865 the village of Phoenix was formally recognized and part Yavapai County. Around that time the population was more than 400.

Even before Arizona was granted statehood, counties were being established such as Maricopa County, established in 1871. Arizona was still a “territory” back then and, as such, had a territorial legislature which oversaw the creation of counties and their governments.
Local law enforcement began in Phoenix with the fist county election in 1871. Tom Barnum was elected the first sheriff of Maricopa County. A shootout between two other candidates for the office, resulted in one’s death and other withdrawing from the race.

As the years went by, of course, more governmental positions were added, more counties came into being and eventually on February 14, 1912, Arizona was named the 48th state in the United States. The state constitution then and now maintains that certain governmental positions are to be elected by the people rather than appointed by a governing board. One of those elected positions is the Office of Sheriff. There are 15 county sheriffs in Arizona today. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office was established in 1871 when a fifth county was carved out of the territory’s original four.

In territorial days, justice was swift and certain. Though for many years the sheriff had only temporary deputies and jailers, lawbreakers were eagerly pursued by the sheriff’s posse to administer justice. In the first decade of the county’s existence, there were six lynching’s and one legal execution. Handcuffs and leg irons back then were attached to river rocks or a nearby tree – either served well as an adequate jail site.

The Arizona Highway Patrol had state wide arrest autority. It was instituted in 1931 as a branch of the Arizona Highway Department due to the concern regarding the growing number of accidents and unlicensed vehicles on its highways. The initial force was limited to a superintendent, 14 patrolmen (one authorized for each county) and one desk sergeant. In 1967, the governor’s crime commission recommended creation of the department to “assemble state-level law enforcement activities into a single, effective governmental unit.” Two years later, on July 1, 1969, the Arizona Department of Public Safety was officially established.


In 1929, patrolmen worked six days a week and were paid $100 a month. The police department moved into the west section of the new city-county building at 17 South 2nd Avenue. The building included jail cells on the top two floors. The museum is located in what was the Phoenix Police Department from 1928 until 1974.

Before this time period, the department was located at 100 East Washington. The officers were housed in the basement of the buidling would later would be condemneded as it was unsafe. We recreated the front desk area based on old photographs with photo display of the small department in 1913. Just before this, the town had changed to a city form of government. We went from looking like cowboys to actual uniformed officers with dress jackets, badges and hats. The first police chief, A.J. Moore started with four officers and ended up with 15. Learn first hand about the beginnings on law enforcement in Phoenix and the basic tools of the trade that officers used walking a beat. In 1933 the city of Phoenix was only 6.4 square miles, with a population of 48,200. In the year prior, the first police radio system in Arizona was installed for the Phoenix Police Department with the call letters KGZJ.

Their heavy wool uniforms were not practical in the hot Phoenix sun months and most likely would not have been worn year around. Their guns were under the jackets on their belts which made it difficult to quickly draw a gun. Officers carried a wide variety of weapons from old colt six shooters, revolvers and one semi-automatic Colt 911. It is generally believed that the officer with the semi-automatic served in the First World War and brought the military issue gun home with him to later use on the job as a police officer. (Semiautomatic guns were uncommon for our department and did not reappear until the mid-1990s when the department began to transition fully to semiautomatic handguns). Officers also carried hand irons or handcuffs and a “nipper.” A nipper was an early non-lethal devise with two handles and a small chain designed to control a prisoner. The chain would be flipped around the wrist and with the two handles twisted to put pressure in nerves in the wrist to get a prisoner in compliance. Badges began to change styles from a star to a shield. The hat badge had two crisscrossed batons. Lanterns would have been used for lighting with candles.

Arrest books from the late 1880’s to early 1900’s contained the suspects name, crime, personal property, and sentence. The term
“book ’em” no doubt came from the sergeant or desk officer repeating making the same statement to write the arrested person information in the arrest log to just “book him or book ’em”. Common charges were ‘drunk’ or ‘riding on the sidewalk’. Fines were generally $1 to $5 or similar days in jail. With inflation accounting for today, that might be equivalent to more than $100 today. Another charge in the arrest book has listing for ‘Vag’ or vagrancy. Many times, officers would meet the arriving passenger trains at the Phoenix depot. They would approach lone men with little or no suitcases and ask their purposes of visiting Phoenix. If they had no place to stay, job, or money they would have to get back on the train or be taken to jail.

Another arrest list is ‘keeping a disorderly house’ that had a $25 fine which would have been an extremely high bail. It wasn’t that Phoenix cared about your housecleaning abilities; it was a polite and less offense way to say a ‘house of prostitution’, therefore a higher fine which didn’t matter much since prostitution was a high cash business.


The Phoenix Police Department had convertible top police cars. One of the first cars to catch speeders doing 15 MPH in a 12 MPH was our 1919 Ford. In the early 1900’s, car dealers would try to create publicity for their new automobiles by hosting car races. In 1922, a championship race was held in Pikes Peak, Colorado. Entered as one of the contestants was Noel Bullock and his Model T, named “Old Liz.”

Since Old Liz looked the worse for wear, as it was unpainted and lacked a hood, many spectators compared Old Liz to a tin can. By the start of the race, the car had the new nickname of “Tin Lizzie.” But to everyone’s surprise, Tin Lizzie won the race. Having beaten even the most expensive other cars available at the time, Tin Lizzie proved both the durability and speed of the Model T.

Tin Lizzie’s surprise win was reported in newspapers across the country, leading to the use of the nickname “Tin Lizzie” for all Model T cars. The car also had a couple of other nicknames—”Leaping Lena” and “flivver”—but it was the Tin Lizzie moniker that stuck. The 1919 Ford model T or “Tin Lizzie” was one of only a few the department would drive. Most patrol was done by foot, bicycles, and horses, very similar to patrolling Today’s city streets throughout the U.S. The model T was a simple car with three doors and a inner skeleton made of wood. The wood rims were patterned after earlier horse drawn wagon wheels. Gravity feed gasoline line required it to be driven backwards when going up a steep hill. Henry Ford, who’s company manufactured them, said they were available in any color as long as it was black!


Many changes to police work occurred after World War II, from uniforms to weapons. The department began to become more standardized in its academy, training and policies. In 1933 the department started its first radio broadcast.

Officer wore tan and khaki uniforms in the 1940’s later to be replaced with blue uniforms. It’s unknown why the uniform color change but some believe it was so it not resemble Nazi soldiers uniforms. About this time the U.S. seal change by presidential order to have the eagle face the talons with olive branches of peace instead of war arrows. Police badges soon followed with the eagle at the top of badges changing directions. Again, it was unknown if the change occurred so the eagle would not face the same direction of a Nazi eagle design.

The department also had fully automatic Thompson 45 caliber sub machine. These would have been carried after WWII by just a few officers and supervisors. They would have been provided by the U.S. government after the war since the military would no longer need the large quantities of weapons. This program of donating used military equipment to police departments is still continued today. During this time period you find some officers notch the wooden grips of their pistol after killing a felon, a practice left over from the frontier days. Although acceptable then, it is not ethical to do so today. Nippers become more modern now without a chain and more of a clamp style, and nightsticks are unchanged Detective bullet proof vest were available but not readily used due to cost, heat and availability. Gun belts are simple with a 38, handcuff and nippers. The department reorganized in 1950 with four divisions, Traffic, Detectives, Patrol and the Service Divisions. Officers worked 44 hours per week for $288 per month.

Officers carried small but informative rules and regulations and wore “Eisenhower jackets.” Copied after military dress jackets it was used as formal jackets for our officers. Named Eisenhower after then General Eisenhower who later became president. The department also maintained a number of officers to serve as civil defense police officers to fill in for those officers that went off to WWII. Equipment was scarce and rifles that were used were donated from Yuma territorial prison.


Children of all ages can try on a real Phoenix Police uniform and get sworn in as a police officer while visiting the museum. Don’t forget to get your coloring book, crayons and your own sticker badge before you leave.


In the late evening hours of March 3, 1963, a young Phoenix woman was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and robbed while walking from a bus stop. Ten days later, on March 13, 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested by the Phoenix Police for the assault. This set in motion a series of court hearings which resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court decision that would impact interviews between law enforcement and those suspected of crimes.

You can view the copy of the signed confession. Details here……

Ernesto Miranda was arrested and convicted sexual assault and other related crimes based on a verbal and written confession. The court decision ruled that criminal suspects must be informed of their right against self-incrimination and their right to an attorney before questioning by law enforcement.

The case began in March of 1963. One victim was walking home after exiting a bus when approached by Miranda at knife point and forced in a 1950 Packard. He drove the victim to the desert and sexually assaulted her. Miranda returned her back to her neighborhood and asked her to “pray for him.”

After the assault, the victim would be met at the bus stop by a male friend and walked home for her safety. The suspect vehicle was spotted by the victim’s male friend and noted the license plate one evening while walking her home. Miranda was on the prowl for another victim. The information was provided to the police who were able to follow up on the information and contact Ernesto Miranda in Mesa, Arizona.

Phoenix Police Detectives Carroll Cooley and Wilfred Young contacted Miranda, who voluntarily accompanied them to the police station house and participated in a lineup. At the time, Miranda was a person of interest, and not formally in custody. During the interview Miranda asked the detectives how successful was the lineup. The detectives responded that it didn’t go well and Miranda responded that he that he would tell the truth. Miranda completed a handwritten confession.

The printed form that it was written on stated, “…this statement has been made voluntarily and of my own free will, with no threats, coercion or promises of immunity and with full knowledge of my legal rights, understanding any statement I make can and will be used against me.” Miranda was convicted of his crimes and sentenced.

His case was appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court. Miranda’s attorneys appeal was based on the position Miranda was not informed of his right to have an attorney or right to remain silent but the conviction was upheld. The case was sent to the United States Supreme Court and Miranda’s attorneys argued that Miranda’s Fifth Amendment rights and Sixth Amendment right to counsel had been violated.

In November 1965, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Miranda’s case, Miranda v. Arizona, along with three other similar cases to clear all misunderstandings created by the ruling of Escobedo v. Illinois. This addressed a situation where “a police investigation is no longer a general inquiry into an unsolved crime but has begun to focus on a particular suspect in police custody who has been refused an opportunity to consult with his counsel and who has not been warned of his constitutional right to keep silent, the accused has been denied the assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments, and no statement extracted by the police during the interrogation may be used against him at a trial.”

Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote the opinion in Miranda v. Arizona. The decision was in favor of the defendant Ernest Miranda. It stated that: “The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says will be used against him in court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him.”

The opinion was released on June 13, 1966. Since the opinion was released, law enforcement agencies around the United States began to give Miranda warning cards to officers to read to “in custody” suspects.

Miranda was not released from prison due to the ruling. The State of Arizona did successfully retry him for the second case against him. At the second trial, his confession was not introduced into evidence, but he was convicted based on testimony given by his estranged common law wife. Miranda was paroled in 1972, and shortly after his release he earned money by petty drug dealing. Due to his infamous name, he sold autographed Miranda Warning cards for $1. Miranda would approach officers on the street and agree to sign a card for the officer if the officer would give him additional Miranda cards that he could sign to sell.

On January 31, 1976, Miranda was gambling at a downtown bar called the Amabola Bar when a dispute occurred. Miranda went to the bathroom and upon exiting was stabbed and killed. The suspect was arrested and read his Miranda Rights for killing Miranda. There was not enough evidence to hold the suspect at that time due to conflicting witness statements so he was released and fled to Mexico. Currently, there is still an active arrest warrant.


Inside the museum you will see a 1919 Model T police car, police motorcycles, bomb robots, and even a full size helicopter. In 1974, the Air patrol unit was established initially consisting of one helicopter. A few months later, a fixed wing aircraft and two additional helicopters were added.

We even have a fully size police car for children of all ages to play in. See if you can guess how we got all those vehicles in our museum!


In the museum you will be able to see our first radio microphone used for one-way communication to the patrol cars as well as an early switchboard to take calls to dispatch the police.

In the museum you will be able to see our first radio microphone used for one-way communication to the patrol cars as well as an early switchboard to take calls to dispatch the police.


Check out our display of uniform patches from around the world. See if you can find your city or town in our collection. We also have an exhibit of the progression of our Police Departments patches and badges over the years.


The museum has many displays of how technology was incorporated into police work over the years, from computers to tasers. Just imagine what law enforcement will be in the future.


An exciting exhibit on the Special Assignments Unit (SWAT) is a must for all visitors to see. See why they are such a well trained unit ready to take on threats to the public.


Our Crime Scene Investigation exhibit allows visitors to view a sample crime scene (suitable for children) to learn about the various methods for gathering evidence and investigating a crime scene. See if you can discover the clues and solve the crime.