A nonprofit in Central Texas is on a mission to honor police officers and to educate the public about the importance of public safety by opening a new law enforcement museum.
Former Waco Police Department Chief Brent Stroman, founder of the Heart of Texas Public Safety Historical Center, said he came up with the idea a while ago to start a museum about Central Texas law enforcement that the public could enjoy.
“We are now wanting to take that idea out into the community and actually put it into public venues to make it open to the community and easier access and expand the scope of it,” Stroman said.
The plan is for the center to have three sections: a museum that showcases the evolution of public safety in Central Texas, an educational section for children and visitors to learn about the jobs of first responders and a library with archives about local public safety.
“Then, the other thing, too, is just to pay tribute to our public safety servants in Heart of Texas,” the former Waco chief said. “We believe that’s important because they dedicate their lives and, in some case, their actual life in the service of community here in the Heart of Texas.”
Stroman partnered with Wilburn Willis, a former Waco Police Department officer, to make the idea happen. Willis has dedicated decades of his life to law enforcement and is a co-chair of the center.
He said he hopes the museum will be appreciated by the families and loved ones of officers killed in the line of duty.
“Show respect, honor them and their families,” Stroman added. “That’s the main thing. People don’t realize what the families go through. Because the night I went to work on Saturday night, cold, rainy December 22, 1968, the next thing, in an hour’s time, everything had changed, and that’s what police officers and their families go through. That’s what we try to get over to people.”
Stroman said Central Texas has had a fascinating law enforcement history.
“There’s a lot of really neat things that have good things that have happened and obviously sad things that have happened,” he said. “We had Bonnie and Clyde come through arrested by Waco Police Department, so stories like that that are just a lot of the public doesn’t know about that.”
Stroman and the board of law enforcement officers have been working on the project for years, and recently got approved to be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
The HOT Public Safety Historical Center has also launched an official website where people can donate funds or artifacts that can be featured in the museum.
The board is also looking for a location for the center.
“It’s going to be big,” Willis said. “We’ve got to have a large building because we’ve already had a fire truck that’s been donated to us. It’s an old one and then we’re supposed to have a refurbished ambulance.”