by Deborah Gushman
photos by Kent S. Hwang
Officer Croom at the
Law Enforcement Museum.
Retired Honolulu cop Eddie Croom is passionate about Hawaiian history, and about law enforcement. Those traits alone might seem like handsome qualifications for his present job—he calls it a labor of love—as curator of the fascinating Honolulu Police Department Law Enforcement Museum, tucked away in the vast, labyrinthine HPD headquarters on Beretania Street. But there’s another reason why Officer Croom is the ideal curator for the police museum: It was his idea in the first place, back in 1984.
Over the decades, Croom, a lifelong history buff, has painstakingly gathered artifacts—archaic uniforms, historical photos, cockfighting equipment, exotic weapons—and researched the history of law enforcement in Hawaii, going back to the precontact days when, if you violated a certain food kapu, you could be skinned alive as punishment. It all comes together in the well-organized, densely-packed museum, where famous local crimes are carefully documented, fallen heroes are remembered, and there is something new to be learned at every turn. Did you know, for example, that surfing legend and Olympic swimmer Duke Kahanamoku was a sheriff for twenty years, and ran the Honolulu jail? Or that the prototype for the fictional Charlie Chan was a 5’3" Honolulu police detective named Chang Apana, a former paniolo (cowboy) who carried a whip instead of a gun, and who once single-handedly arrested sixty men in a Chinatown gambling raid?
A visit to the police museum is a revelation and a grand entertainment, not to mention a sobering reminder of the darker side of human nature. If you call ahead, you can schedule a guided tour with Eddie, who is always happy to show off his impressive labor of love.
HPD Law Enforcement Museum