Review: #10278 Police Station
A beautifully detailed 1940’s era police station, a tone-deaf product release on the heels of BLM protests, or maybe both? Let’s take a closer look at the latest addition to the Modular Building Series.
My very first impression of this set was not charitable, as I was instantly appalled to see a police station released in the midst of Black Lives Matter movement in the United States. After acknowledging my disappointment with the timing of this release, I gave it the much closer look it deserves… And I was quite pleased with what I saw when I pored over the set photos which were released on Black Friday.
Specifically, I appreciated the ornamental architectural style of the central Police Station building, which features a prominent brick edge that stands out on either side, called ‘rustication’ in architectural terms. The building on the right isn’t architecturally interesting, but when I saw the photos of the interior it became clear that it was a recent addition to the older police station building.
On the left, we find a nicely detailed donut shop and small apartment building, with a delicious 324Medium Lavender exterior that evokes the brightly colored donuts inside. I was confident that these older architectural styles would look great next to classic sets like the Parisian Restaurant, or the more recent Bookshop.
The nearly 3,000-piece set comes in a surprisingly large box that features the new “Adults Welcome” packaging which debuted in early 2020. Stylistically, the black background and custom logo is a massive departure from previous sets in the series which featured bright, welcoming colors and more familiar LEGO packaging design. While I understand the desire to differentiate these products which are designed for Adults, I do not think it works as well in these City-themed sets as it works in the Architecture series.
It’s the second largest set in the Modular series after the 4,002-piece #10255 Assembly Square, which is the only set wider than a single 32×32 baseplate.
The box is the same width as 2020’s #10270 Bookshop set but taller and deeper. The better comparison is the older #10232 Palace Cinema set which is the same width and height, but shallower than the Police Station.
After opening the box, it becomes clear why it is so much bigger than some other sets in the series—LEGO included a second box within the outer box to store some of the parts bags, the instruction booklet, the large 32×32 baseplate, and a few other loose large plates.
What’s loose in the main set box?
- Stage 1: 1x Large bag (marked 243S0), and 1x Medium unmarked bag.
- Stage 4: 1x Large bag (marked 343S0), and 1x Small unmarked bag.
- Stage 5: 1x Large bag (marked 443S0), and 1x Small unmarked bag.
- Stage 7: 1x Large bag (marked 643S0), and 1x Medium unmarked bag.
- Stage 8: 1x Large bag (marked 443S0), and 1x Small unmarked bag.
- Stage 9: 1x Large bag (marked 743S0).
- Stage 13: 1x Large bag (marked 443S0), and 1x Small unmarked bag.
- Stage 14: 1x Large bag (marked 243S0), and 1x Small unmarked bag.
- A smaller white box (marked 6345538), containing the parts/bags listed below.
What’s in the smaller box?
- Instruction manual (in a sealed bag marked 6353629).
- 1x – 32×32 Baseplate in [dark gray].
- 1x – 16×16 Plate in [dark gray].
- 2x – 8×16 Plate in [Dark Tan].
- Stage 2: 1x Large bag (marked 542S0), and 1x Small unmarked bag.
- Stage 3: 1x Large bag (marked 742S0), and 1x Small unmarked bag.
- Stage 6: 1x Large bag (marked 642S0).
- Stage 10: 1x Large bag (marked 642S0).
- Stage 11: 1x Large bag (marked 343S0), and 1x Medium unmarked bag.
- Stage 12: 1x Large bag (marked 143S0), and 1x Medium unmarked bag.
Stages 1-6: First Floor
The bottom of the model from the first bag starts off like other models in the Modular Building Series; by carefully positioning a lot of gray tiles! While the donut shop floor is flush with the street, we quickly see that the ground floor of the police station is actually two bricks above street level. While somewhat uncommon within the Modular Building series, this is not the first time where the ground floor of a building is above street level. (In fact, the apartment in last year’s #10270 Bookshop is about 4 bricks above street level.)
Two noteworthy details in the first bag include an unexpected sideways technique for the rear staircase to the Police Station (which results in steps that are 5/6 of a brick tall). The other highlight is the small cavern beneath the police station, which includes a metal spoon. (A not-so-subtle reference to a fantastic Morgan Freeman film.)
The second bag continues where we left off, with a focus on the tiled floor of the Police Station, and a few more details in the donut shop. We also build a simple newspaper stand, which I think will become more important to the plot of the overall set as we continue building. The most delicious addition is the inclusion of our first two doughnuts!
The third bag is probably the sweetest in the set. It’s time to fill the donut shop with donuts, cookies, swiss rolls, muffins and more—Yum! This is also the stage where we assemble the donut shop employee, which I am happy to report is holding a second pot of hot coffee. It’s also worth pointing out the excellent brick-built water cooler which we add to the lobby of the Police Station.
The highlight in the fourth bag is the staircase which continues to use the SNOT technique we saw a preview of in the second bag. Since the staircase bends as it goes up, we need two assemblies that attach to studs on the walls. It isn’t a complicated trick, but it isn’t something I’ve seen in a set before and is done to good effect. The rotary phone on the front desk is great for placing the set in a particular era, in this case around the 1940’s.
With the sixth bag, it’s finally time to finish the first floor. This includes tiling the top edge of the model, an easily removeable wall including the gate to the jail cell which gives access to the crawlspace below, and the top half of the newsstand. Lastly, we build cute bushes on either side using a stack of the new 6-tooth splat gears (part 35442) in 28Dark GreenGreen. (With the color shifting from purple to tan to green, at a glance you might think we were building the recent Diagon Alley set, although strong color shifts are common in a retail environment so this is quite realistic.
Build time: 2 hours and 40 minutes. (Bag 1: 30 minutes, Bag 2: 25 minutes, Bag 3: 25 minutes, Bag 4: 30 minutes, Bag 5: 30min, and Bag 6: 20 minutes.)
Stages 7-10: Second Floor
In the first half of bag 7, we build a rigid base for the second story of the model. This is fairly involved as it has an oddly shaped profile which includes several holes for play features and stairways. In the second half, we start building the interior and exterior walls, as well as a small room in the green adjunct building on the right which is used to take photos of suspects. The newspaper man is assembled with an accessory which he appears to be using to steal donuts from the shop.
The eighth bag is straightforward, bringing the walls up to their final height. This is followed by interior details including a compact kitchen in the apartment above the donut shop—perhaps the smallest living quarters ever featured in the modular series.
The ninth bag is also quick, but adds a lot of fun details to the second floor. We start with another one of these clever SNOT stairway assemblies, which is identical to the floor below. The two desks in the front of the police station are particularly well done with a typewriter on one and a rotary phone on the other. The 151Sand Green lampshades help with the period feeling to the room.
The last bag for the second story starts with an incredibly clever wall featuring a crime scene map, with a 21Bright RedRed Rubber Belt, Medium (part x37) used to connect points on the map. It’s abstract, but instantly recognizable to anyone who has seen a detective drama set in this period.
The police station’s front façade continues to impress, with ornate details achieved using some clever SNOT building techniques which expose the underside of a 1×2 jumper to represent decorate carved stone working. The same technique was used on the first floor to achieve strongly rusticated left and right edges for the central building. The detailing continues on the second story, with a longer section of decorative ivy stretching the full height of this floor. This is a satisfying conclusion for the second story of the building.
Build time: 95 minutes (Bag 7: 30 minutes, Bag 8: 25 minutes, Bag 9: 20 minutes, Bag 10: 20 minutes.)
Stages 11-13: Third Floor
Moving on to the third floor, we build the base and walls for the left side of the model in Bag 11. This includes the rooftop for the donut shop and apartment on the left side of the model since it is shorter than the police station building. As for the interior, we only get a few small details in this bag, including a plater, wall hangings, and a reel-to-reel tape recorder.
In Bag 12, we add yet another bathroom (minifigures must have bowel issues!), plus a small room on the top of the right-side of the building. At first, I thought this was a darkroom, but I remember from the designer video that the model includes an evidence locker, which is clearly what this is. Since it has a shorter roof, it is removeable to see the evidence stored within, which includes references to several prior Modular Buildings as Easter eggs.
The last detail I wanted to highlight was a continuation of the cutaway interior walls, which use the new 1×3 inverted curve to create a smooth edge to reach in and manipulate minifigs. This is evidently the solution that the designers have come up with to include smaller rooms while maintaining a degree of playability.
The second-to-last bag finishes the front half of the building. This includes the windows and venetian blinds which re-introduce 1×2 with Ladder (part 4175) in [white] after a 30-year hiatus in that color. We also see a bunch of smaller details including a table and chairs which confirm that the rightmost room in the front is meant to be used as an interrogation room. Another fun detail is the addition of a roll of toilet paper, which is attached in an unexpected place in the build process.
Build time: 75 minutes. (Stage 11: 25 minutes, Stage 12: 25 minutes, Stage 13: 25 minutes.)
Stage 14: Roof
While I expected the final bag to be pretty quick, it was actually a bit more involved than anticipated. That’s in part due to the intricately decorated cornice which uses unprinted (Minecraft wolf head) parts upside down to give a distinct period styling. We also add a small transmission tower to the roof of the police station.
In addition to this, we also add two details that add to previous steps: a water tank on the roof of the apartment, and the massive 6×12 printed billboard for the town laundromat. (I’m sure that they are able to lease billboard space for a premium when the cheque goes to the sheriff. Kudo’s to the graphic designer for two well-placed circles that hide the center indentations on these 6×6 tiles!)
Stage 14: 15 minutes.
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We already talked about the great price-per-part in the set but haven’t had a chance to talk about the parts themselves. This set features both completely new parts, existing parts in new colors, and new printed parts, making it a treasure trove for MOC builders.
I know some folks are disappointed by the inclusion of so many parts in 5Brick YellowTan, especially after the Massive Tan Parts Pack (#10276 Colosseum) was released just two weeks ago. I’m actually pleased by this decision, as doubling down on a single color is a great way for The LEGO Group to quickly increase availability of critical parts in a single color, making it even easier for LEGO builders to use that color to create amazing MOC’s. Maybe next year we will see a similar explosion in parts availability in another popular, but less readily available color. (Here’s hoping for 151Sand Green, 138Sand YellowDark Tan, 154Dark Red, or 38Dark Orange!)
- 7x – 1×3 Inverted Bow w/ Notch (part 70681) in 5Brick YellowTan.
- 12x – 1×3 Inverted Bow w/ Notch (part 70681) in 194Medium Stone GreyLight Bluish Gray.
I have tried to highlight all of the recolored parts that are new in this set below… (Credit to New Elementary for identifying most of them.)
Existing parts in new colors:
- 3x – 2×1 45° Slope, Cutout w/out Stud (part 28192) in 312Medium NougatMedium Dark Flesh.
- 3x – 1×1 Tile, ½ Circle (part 24246) in 312Medium NougatMedium Dark Flesh.
- 12x – 6-Tooth 2×2 Plate Gear (part 35442) in 28Dark GreenGreen.
- 8x – 2×2 Bracket, Inverted (part 99207) in 138Sand YellowDark Tan.
- 4x – 1×1×1 2/3, 2 Studs 1-side (part 32952) in 151Sand Green.
- 3x – 1×1 Tile, ½ Circle (part 24246) in 192Reddish Brown.
- 4x – Minecraft Wolf Head (part 21098) in 194Medium Stone GreyLight Bluish Gray.
- 4x – Bar 7×3 Ladder w/ Clips both ends (part 6020) in .
- 5x – 1×4×3 Window (part 60594) in 308Dark Brown.
- 3x – 1×1 Clip, Horizontal (part 61252) in 324Medium Lavender.
As is the tradition in the Modular Building Series, there are no stickers in this set! While most of the details are achieved using unprinted parts, there are several existing printed parts in the set (including many donuts and cookies) and a few new ones.
New Printed Parts:
- 2x – 2×2 Tile (part 3068) with Newspaper print in 1White.
- 1x – 6×6 Tile (part 10202) with Soap Suds Billboard (part 1/2) in 1White.
- 1x – 6×6 Tile (part 10202) with Soap Suds Billboard (part 2/2) in 1White.
- 1x – 2×2 Round Tile (part 14769) with updated Clock print in 1White.
NOTE: The instruction booklet shows the older 14769pb001 part in the building instructions, and in the partlist on page 310.
- 1x – 2×2 Round w/ Hole (part 15535) with Pink Donut print in 5Brick YellowTan.
- 1x – 2×2 Round w/ Hole (part 15535) with Brown Donut in 5Brick YellowTan.
- 1x – 1×2 Double Cheese Slope (part 85984) with Rotary Phone print in 26Black.
- 1x – 1×2 Double Cheese Slope (part 85984) with Typewriter Keys print in 26Black.
- 1x – 1×4 Tile (part 2431) with POLICE print in 140Earth BlueDark Blue.
Black Lives Matter
I want to address some of the issues associated with releasing a prominent police-themed LEGO set at this moment in history before moving onto my final conclusion and recommendations for this set. While you’re welcome to skip this section to read the conclusion of this review based on the genuine merits of the LEGO set, please do take a moment to recognize (especially if you are a white American) that your ability to set these issues aside is essentially an act of privilege.
As I mentioned in the introduction, this set was released at a particularly charged moment in US (and international) history. Despite the existential threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of millions of Americans participated in the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. While the movement is broad in scope, the central focus of most protests has been many instances of police brutality against black and brown Americans.
The list of Americans that have been killed under police custody is too long to list here, but the flash point in this year’s movement is well understood; a police officer in Minneapolis killed George Floyd on May 25, 2020 by kneeling on his neck. Floyd was caught on video struggling to say “I can’t breathe” before he died while in police custody.
While there are clear institutional problems with policing in America, that does not mean that every (or even most) police officers are villains. On the contrary; there are countless examples where police officers have risen up as heroes when our communities are in trouble. Individual police officers can be heroes at the very same time that institutional racism prevents the system from serving all Americans equally.
Reflecting & Respecting
Because this is an active movement which remains in-flux, many within the LEGO community have expressed concerns that this is not an appropriate time to release a high-profile LEGO Police Station (though there has been vocal demand for a modular Police Station ever since the release of the Fire Brigade). I recognize that The LEGO Group is a global toy brand, but they should be sensitive to current events as they design and release new products, and the United States is their single largest market. (There is a precedent here; they re-designed the Las Vegas skyline Architecture set after a shooting at Mandalay Bay.) Besides, the Black Lives Matter movement has resulted in protests around the world!
As this set becomes widely available in January, I expect that we will see many more provocative images based on this set. The simple scene I created above is just the start… Given that this is an active protest movement, I expect that we will see LEGO depictions of elaborate protests, occupy movements, violent altercations, and more in the weeks and months to come.
Considering the long history of the LEGO Modular Building series, yes, of course it makes sense to add a Police Station. We already have a Fire Station and a Detective’s Office—but maybe in 2021 what we needed even more is a Hospital! That said, I understand that it takes more than a year to design a large LEGO set like this one, but maybe they should have fast-tracked next year’s model and waited until these issues of police brutality had settled before releasing this set.
I have already highlighted that this set should have been released at a different time. My closing comments are based on the merits of the set alone. Besides, the set doesn’t touch on serious topics of crime and violence, but rather on a lighthearted heist involving stealing a few donuts using a fishing pole when the shop is closed.
To be honest, while I have seen all of the sets in the modular series, last year’s Bookshop is the only other set that I’ve actually built myself. #10278 Police Station compares very favorably to that set for a number of reasons: the building techniques are more advanced, the size of the model is more impressive, and the interior is more complete.
I played with the order of the two 16-stud wide modules in the Bookshop and the one 32-stud wide module from the Police Station to see which combination looked best. While the 312Medium NougatMedium Dark Flesh of the Bookshop clashes a bit with the 324Medium Lavender of the Donut shop, the overall rhythm felt best with the Police Station in the middle and the Bookshop on the left, largely because the birch tree obscures the edge of the model it sits next to.
One of the reasons for the larger part count in this set is the higher level of detail, despite a similar price when compared to recent sets. It also helps that most of the footprint is occupied by the Police Station interior, rather than splitting the space between two similarly sized buildings like the Bookshop. This increased footprint allows for not just one, but two bathrooms; a massive improvement from last year’s set which didn’t include any!
I have to admit that the Police Station was a very satisfying build–it benefits from the vintage 1940’s crime caper vibe. The inclusion of a realistic water tank on the apartment roof and a billboard for the laundromat add a lived-in realism to this model which is not present in every set in the series.
The most common critique I’ve seen is that the left and right sides of the model aren’t very attractive. This is true, but in practice they will be displayed next to other sets in the series, and even when displayed by itself, your attention is drawn to the front façade or to the interiors when you open it up.
Overall, #10278 Police Station is a great set with thoughtful play features, a striking design, versatile new parts, and a great price point. That’s why it earns our highest marks; a “Must Have” (5/5 star) rating for fans of the Modular Building Series (awarded based on the set only, not the circumstances of its release). In fairness, it only barely earned that rating due to the somewhat sparse interiors, but was pushed over the edge by the great value.
I’m also pleased to report that it would be very easy to modify the model into any civic building due to the relatively open interior and limited Police branding on the exterior. If you decide to re-allocate police funding to establish stronger social services in your community, it will be easy to do it!