From their website:
The Sheriff’s Museum consists of 6800 square feet of exhibit space, covering the entire history of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department from its inception in 1850 through today. The Museum contains cars, motorcycles, real life jail cells from various eras, and replica Sheriff’s offices from the 1850’s, 1940’s and present.
Children will love the Museum – they can sit on a real life motorcycle and use the siren, pick up a bullet proof vest, play with handcuffs, and sit in a real Sheriff’s Car! Adults will appreciate the rich history of the department reflected throughout the Museum. Ask the docent to take a picture of your entire family – locked in a jail cell!
The concept of a sheriff conjures up many romantic images of the Old West. The Sheriff’s Museum located in historic old town San Diego not only honors that tradition but also educates visitors about what it’s like to be in law enforcement today. Although it looks small from the outside, this museum is actually 6,800 square feet of room after room of crime-fighting equipment and history.
There are many interactive exhibits such as the convenience store robbery crime scene, which engages the visitor to look for clues, to the reconstructed courtroom, where you can sit in the judge’s chair and hand out justice. You can try on a bullet-proof vest, sit on a police motorcycle and turn on the siren, pretend to drive a sheriff’s vehicle, or get locked up inside the jail.
There are also specialized sections dedicated to subjects like women in law enforcement, K9 units, search and rescue and weapons, and walls of remembrance for those who have died in the line of duty. If you find yourself in Old Town San Diego, it would be a crime to miss it.
Personal Experience: I originally came here to see their Heaven’s Gate display, which is a perfect mock-up of the infamous mass-suicide that happened in Rancho Santa Fe. I didn’t realize how interesting this place would actually be though. It’s kind of like a PG version of the Museum of Death, meaning no gore, but plenty of grim and interesting collections related to crime.
Some of the more attention-grabbing displays include confiscated gang-related items, household objects used to cook meth, a helicopter you can sit in, jail-made tattoo kits & weapons, the Heaven’s Gate display and a jail cell you can go inside. Obviously this type of place isn’t for everyone, but I know some of you out there will appreciate it! Learn more on our site
Common household items used to make meth:
A helicopter you can go inside:
Jail-made tattoo kits:
Lifesize doll made by inmate on right: