Obscura Day 2017! Join our global celebration of exploration and discovery.
May 6

Seattle, Washington

Valor and Vice

Explore the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum and discuss the region's gonzo history of crime and law enforcement.

As Seattle evolved from a frontier town into a modern metropolis, so too did a poorly paid coterie of part-time cops and thugs become a thoroughly modern law force.

The story of both the "valor" of the region's police and the bountiful forms of "vice" that came to life here will fill this uniquely Seattle-centric event. Join us for a special tour of the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum in Pioneer Square, followed by a discussion about the complicated history of law enforcement in Seattle and King County—and the intractable layers of vice that continue to make such protections so necessary. There are few better locales for a discussion of both "valor and vice" than in the neighborhood where both found a home.

Seattle's early history made a serious business out of vice: gambling and prostitution, boozing and violence. Seattle had more than it's fair share of them all; Seattle's cops did what they could, including looking the other way. This behavior was especially pronounced during the "tolerance era" that lasted all the way through the 1970s, as cops dealt with a burgeoning population of vice-seeking citizens. We'll look at Seattle's eras of explosive growth, the added challenges of Prohibition that started earlier and ended later here in Washington state than on a national level, and a long list of self-induced calamities that presented great challenges for Seattle's Police. We'll also cover some of the region's most notorious law enforcement stories, such as the pursuit of the Green River Killer and the response to the WTO protests in 1999. 

Attendees will also have a chance to see part of the Museum's popular vintage police cruiser fleet. A portion of your ticket's cost will go to support the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum, which will (hopefully) celebrate its 20th anniversary in Pioneer Square this fall.

Expect to look at the history of Pioneer Square, and the Seattle and King County Police Departments with new angles in mind after this peek into both the darker and thankfully heroic-by-design elements of our region's history. Let's case the joint together!


  • This event is for all ages, but there will discussion of adult subjects. Please use your judgment about the appropriateness for any minors you consider bringing.
  • Meet at the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum. The doors will open just prior to 12pm.
  • Street parking is available; please read signs carefully and park at your own discretion. 
  • Rain or shine. This is Seattle, after all.
  • Photography is encouraged, but please be respectful in places of business. Tag #atlasobscura for anything especially interesting.


Email Eric Magnuson at eric.magnuson@atlasobscura.com.

Advance ticket sales only. All ticket sales are final. No refunds or exchanges. 

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