Although there is often a collective sigh of “not another museum” it is worth making an exception for the Queensland Police Museum in Roma St.
It’s not exactly huge, but it is an arresting display and will take at the very least an hour. It could be longer if you have the time, patience and curiosity to find the evidence at a simulated murder scene.
And, like many other of Brisbane’s great attractions, it is free.
Entry is through the front doors of the Roma St Police HQ almost opposite Roma St station.
Turn right and follow the signs and from there it’s a neat chronological sequence starting with Sir Robert Peel who, in 1829, established London’s Metropolitan Police Force at Scotland Yard.
A re-creation of a magistrate’s court, complete with a prisoner in the dock, has furniture from a regional court dating from about 1912.
The story of Queensland policing then unfolds, starting from separation in 1859 and continuing through to modern forensics and the various branches of the police, from the stock squad, to the dog squad, to photography, a specialist underwater dive team and the water police (which have been around since 1875).
Queensland, we learn, inherited a policing system badly in need of reform and this job fell to Lt David Seymour of the 12th(East Suffolk) Regiment of Foot, who was made acting commissioner at the inauguration of the Queensland Police Force on January 1, 1864.
Displays tell the story of city and regional policing through photographs, original uniforms and hats, handcuffs and batons, models of bush police stations and even a motorbike with lights that flash if you sit on it.
One photo shows a tree with a pair of handcuffs attached. It was how police in remote areas made themselves a watchhouse.
There’s the fuel can that was produced as evidence after the infamous Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub firebombing of 1973, believed to be Australia’s second largest mass killing after Port Arthur.
There’s Peter, the dog of a killer which, after its untimely death by a tick bite, was sent to the taxidermist. He then became an important piece of evidence at Arthur Halliday’s trial for the murder of a Southport taxi driver in 1952.
There’s a big fat “bite suit” used by trainers teaching police dogs about controlled aggression. And gas masks from when police were responsible for internal security during World War II.
There’s also a display dedicated to “policing on foreign shores” and in particular the Queensland Police Service’s role in peace keeping for the UN in Cyprus. The Australian Federal Police called in manpower from the states 1964-71.
And of course, there’s crime – the cases solved and unsolved that have baffled, fascinated and horrified Queensland.
A simulated murder scene issues a challenge to anyone who fancies themselves a detective, to find the 28 pieces of evidence. Thankfully, explanations are provided if you’re not much of a sleuth.
And there’s plenty more at this little gem of a museum quietly tucked away in the Roma St Police Headquarters.
It’s open Monday to Thursday, 9am-4pm and the last Sunday of the month 10am-3pm.
After leaving the museum, saunter back down Roma St towards City Hall and at the Turbot St intersection you’ll find the stone marking the site of the first police headquarters 1879-1968.
Great stuff. Well done and thanks.
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