Ritter is a recruiter of the Seattle Police Department and operates the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum (317 Third Ave S, 748 9991), a private, nonprofit organization committed to the preservation of our law enforcement history. Its displays range from a sketch of an early public hanging, complete with mob violence, to a revisionist look at the WTO "riots" that features a foam head adorned with a black ski mask.
How many visitors do you have a day? "About 30--we're a pretty small museum. We're only open 11 am to 4 pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays."
Who makes up most of your visitors? "We have a lot of tourists in from out of town. We have a lot of schools that come down and we have education seminars. Police officers come down to learn more about their history. Not from Seattle, really, but from King County and around the region."
Given the political mood of the city and its residents toward policing, does the museum still have relevance for ordinary citizens? "That's primarily why it was designed. It was an education tool designed to educate the public about the transitions in Seattle policing through history. It talks about the good things we've done, the not so good things we've done. It gives an objective view. The museum is not designed as a public-relations spin facility for the police department. Obviously we talk about a lot of things there, some that are not so flattering to the police."
What do you think is the most interesting display? "I think [the display] of the technological changes that have occurred over the last 100 years, how the dynamics of policing have changed, and the civil unrest that has gone on in this city since before that last century and how policing has evolved."
What do people usually comment on when they leave? "It opens their eyes as far as how the police have changed, and how they do what they do. It shows how we've changed from just a job to a profession that is really unique. In the old days it used to be that anyone could walk in and be hired, often times at the public's expense. That's not the case now, thank goodness."
Interview by Matthew Preusch