LEGO Modular Buildings Collection 10278 Police Station [Review]

With last year’s 10270 Bookshop, LEGO returned to a more traditional style of architecture than the 1950’s style of the previous couple of years. With this year’s 10278 Police Station, LEGO continues a classic look that would not feel out of place on the streets of New York or London. The new Modular set includes 2,923 pieces with five minifigures, and will be available starting January 1st, 2021 ($199.99 US | $269.99 CAD | UK pricing TBD).

The theme of the set is not without controversy and some strong reactions from within the LEGO fan community. We’ll address this later in the review, but ask our readers up front to be respectful of differing opinions in the comments.

The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

The box & packaging

The key product line affected by LEGO’s new, adult-focused product strategy announced six months ago was the Creator Expert line, which LEGO cited as the primary example of separate branding that would be retired. Although the packaging is consistent with recent adult-focused sets like 75290 Mos Eisley Cantina and 10276 Colosseum, LEGO is apparently introducing new branding after all, with “Modular Buildings Collection” appearing above the name of the set.

We noted in our review of 71374 Nintendo Entertainment System that LEGO had apparently, finally solved the longstanding issue that forces builders to sort all the bags before beginning the build process, by including the first few bags in the inner box. Unfortunately, that solution seems to have been a one-off, as this set returns us to a totally random assortment of bags within the inner box. We keep harping about this issue because it detracts from the “premium” experience of a $200 LEGO set while creating a negative first impression for new collectors — neither of which is positive in light of the new branding that LEGO themselves have emphasized so heavily.

As with all sets of this size, the instruction booklet ships in its own sleeve. It includes a brief intro featuring LEGO Designer Chris McVeigh, followed quickly by the instructions themselves. As with nearly all Modulars, there is no sticker sheet.

Rare colors, new pieces, & printed parts

One of the most exciting aspect of any new Modular is the way that the LEGO design team packs it full of rare colors and interesting parts (though not all Modulars feature brand new parts). This set includes a wealth of violet and sand green, along with useful tan in light and dark shades. The set also introduces a new 1×3 inverted half-arch, which matches the curve of the 1x6x1 arch. In this set, it comes in two colors, with 12 grey and seven tan.

With no sticker sheet, even for large designs, there are quite a few brand new printed pieces. Two 6×6 tiles combine to form a large billboard, plus several smaller pieces. One of my favorites is the manual typewriter keyboard printed on a 1×2 cheese slope, accompanied by two rotary phone dials. Even the newspaper gets a new design, featuring a headline to support the set’s storyline.

The printed clock piece (the 2×2 round white tile) has been redesigned from the version that LEGO has included in countless LEGO sets since at least 2009. This is noteworthy in that neither the instruction booklet nor the official product photos include the new piece, using the older piece instead. While the older version was simply black printed on white, the new version has a thin gray border inside the circular black outline, and the second hand is red instead of black. Others have pointed out that their copies of the LEGO Ghostbusters 10274 Ecto-1 released just a few weeks ago also includes this new clock piece, though our review set included the older design.

All of that seems like a lot of words and pictures to discuss a single 2×2 printed tile, but it’s very rare indeed that there’s a discrepancy like this between the official photos, part inventory in the instruction booklet, and the actual set. Important? No, but mildly interesting, yes.

The build

Spanning 14 numbered groups of bags for the nearly three thousand pieces in the set, it’s no surprise that this new Modular is a substantial build that will take you several hours to work through. As always, the build begins on a 32×32 footprint — in this case a full baseplate of that size rather than two 16×32 baseplates. Take note of the escape tunnel (including a digging spoon!) in the top corner, as it’s difficult to see later on but certainly plays an important role.

The shape of all three structures emerge quickly, with the donut shop on the left, the news stand a corner on the right, and the police station itself occupying the remainder of the baseplate, raised a few steps up from the sidewalk.

Details abound on the ground level, with a counter for the donut shop, front desk and jail cell inside the police station, and the full news stand. We’ll return to each floor as we look at the finished model later in this review.

The corners of the central structure are especially interesting, each built as a column on a modified 1×2 plate with an inverted 2×2 surface on its side. More 1×2 bracket pieces create a brick pattern in two directions.

The shape of the awning over the double doors at the front of the police station is achieved by one of the most interesting construction techniques in the set. “Espresso filter holder” pieces (modified 1×1 round plates with a bar) connect to brackets set atop wedge plates to hold the angle in place.

Stairways in LEGO modular buildings have never been particularly interesting, until now. Rather than a single large staircase piece or being built studs-up from bricks, angled corner pieces are stacked, then placed on their side and attached to the wall. This allows a surface on the side where triangle tiles can create a great-looking edge.

The middle floor begins with plates in two colors to reflect different floor colors for the two parts of the building. Following the pattern of previous Modulars, the floors above the ground level are not tiled, leaving studs exposed. A nook near the back of the police station features a mugshot photo setup with a camera and backdrop.

The shape of the floor plan for the middle story doesn’t change from the ground floor, and the corner design continues up from the lower level. In fact, you can remove the middle story and fit the upper floor directly onto the bottom floor.

Several of my favorite furniture details appear in the middle floor, including a pair of desks with a rotary telephone (there’s another on the ground floor desk) and manual typewriter. Relying on the printed cheese slope for the keyboard detail, the simple typewriter nevertheless looks perfect.

The top floor caps the donut shop at the middle level, with only the police station continuing up to a third level.

Although the donut shop only has two floors, the roof above the upper floor does include its own details, with a water tank built from stacked radar dishes.

The roof is mostly plates with a bit of an edge, but the cornice at the front includes a repeated motif of inset detail built from, of all things, unprinted versions of the Minecraft wolf head.

The finished building

The level of detail in recent modular buildings puts the bare middle and attic floors of the original Cafe Corner to shame. There’s so much detail packed in every corner that describing it in a review would triple its length. Let’s focus on the overall effect and some of the most interesting details, and we’ll encourage you to pore over all the detail in the gallery at the end of the article.

With lots of extra parts consumed by double-thick walls between the two distinct buildings, 12070 Bookshop only had two full floors, with reduced depth. The extra 500 or so parts in 10278 Police Station plus parts saved by shared walls between the station and the donut shop mean that more parts can go to height, resulting in three full floors for the police station.

Two of my favorite details are on the right side — the small, self-contained news stand and the large billboard on the side of the building.

In a cheeky nod to the infamous laundromat that launders more than just clothing, the billboard advertises Soap N Suds from 10251 Brick Bank, which coincidentally looks great positioned right next door.

The news stand looks exactly like the stands you find in many downtown areas, covered with magazines and newspapers, but where you can also buy a bouquet of flowers on your way home. Its roof lifts off to let you place its owner inside.

On the left side, the donut shop provides a colorful contrast to the conservative color scheme of the police station. Its striped awning and lavender wall color combine to remind us of the orange, brown, and magenta color scheme of a certain donut shop chain popular in cities like Boston.

Inside, a small counter features a cash register, and behind that are the racks of baked delights for us to agonize over.

The central area with the police station has a front desk and water cooler, with a dummy staircase from the raised floor down to a non-existent basement.

A jail cell (complete with toilet) fits in the area behind the news stand. Raising the bed reveals a hole in the floor. Removing the cell door pulls up the attached floor, further revealing what appears to be the beginnings of an escape tunnel. We know from building the foundation that the tunnel extends all the way to the crack in the foundation on the building’s rear, so it surely won’t be long before the prisoner makes their escape.

Continuing upstairs, above the donut shop is a studio apartment accessible from a fire escape on the back of the building. The apartment includes a kitchenette in the front window, as well as lovely little record player.

And this is where the plot thickens. The bed raises on hinges, revealing a hole in the floor, which the news stand owner can use to fish up donuts. We’re told in the instruction booklet that this confectionary crime caper is designed to sell papers.

Meanwhile, the police have set up a full-on murder board to investigate. This seems like overkill for a few donuts, but maybe it was a slow crime day as well as a slow news day. The wonderful desks with their phone and typewriter appear here.

The investigation apparently leads inevitably to the person living above the donut shop, and the top floor includes an interrogation room, complete with old-style tape recorder.

Back on the middle floor, the suspect gets his mugshot taken.

One of the most amusing details of recent modular buildings is that they all recognize the reality of human existence, and provide the necessary facilities. Counting the prison toilet in the jail cell, this Modular features not one but two loos.

The minifigures

In addition to three police officers for the police station, the set includes a donut shop owner and news stand owner.

The two male officers (the instructions call them constables) feature identical uniforms for their torsos, though they have unique heads. The dark blue torsos for the officers are reminiscent of the double-breasted jackets worn by many police departments through World War II, after which they were steadily replaced by military-style shirts and ties, and more recently by full tactical gear. The chief inspector’s torso features rank insignia, and she wears a tie rather than the double-breasted tunic.

The donut shop owner wears a bowtie over a striped shirt. Although it’s similar to several previous striped designs, it appears to be new. The news stand owner wears a flat cap and a red letterman-style jacket first released with the Jack Davids minifig in the Hidden Side theme.

All of the male minifigs wear hats that expose the backs of their heads, so they don’t have alternate expressions. The hairpieces on the female minifigs cover the back of their heads, allowing them to feature a second expression.

Conclusions & recommendation

10278 is a worthy addition to the Modular Buildings Collection, with excellent architectural design and fun interior details. The corners of the central tan structure are particularly well-designed, and the contrast with the lavender donut shop and dark green newsstand is wonderful. Foliage also plays a prominent part in the design, with ivy climbing up the recess between the police station and the donut shop, as well as well-groomed shrubs built from green “splat” pieces.

From a bank and bookshop to a movie theater and diner, the Modulars line has featured numerous types of businesses (of which my favorite remains the pool hall, barber shop, and detective agency in 10246 Detective’s Office from 2015), as well as key civic institutions like City Hall and a firehouse. A police station was inevitable, and has been one of the building types that many LEGO fans have requested over the years. LEGO always features its latest modular alongside the ones from just the last two to three years, so here’s the Police Station alongside 10251 Brick Bank (2016) and 10260 Downtown Diner (2018) instead. The bright pops of color surrounding the more traditional central structure make the new building fit nicely with both styles.

With such a strong reaction from the LEGO fan community, we can’t avoid addressing some of the issues that emerged in the discussion about the set’s announcement recently. 2020 has been a challenging year, with unprecedented environmental catastrophes like wildfires and storms, a global pandemic with deep economic and social impacts, and a growing movement calling for a faster path to meaningful social justice, including police reform. Here at The Brothers Brick, we take the standpoint that LEGO does not exist in an idealized void apart from the real world in which we all live — avoiding this reality is, in itself, a political statement. Nevertheless, speaking personally, I genuinely believe that LEGO as a company and certainly design staff like Chris McVeigh have no overtly ill intention in releasing a historically oriented police station — the architecture and uniforms clearly indicate that it’s inspired by a fictional bygone era that is no less a fantasy than the Star Wars universe, Wizarding World of Harry Potter, or any LEGO Castle theme. A less naive — and politically charged — take on the same LEGO product might argue that it reflects an era when people of color were simply invisible to the dominant, homogenous population for whom police were (and remain) friendly helpers and protectors.

Ultimately, despite my personal ethics and political viewpoints, my only significant criticism is that LEGO’s timing feels unfortunate. This was certainly the case with the LEGO White House released with the June 2020 LEGO set assortment, which, along with LEGO City police sets for 2020, LEGO themselves chose to pull back from advertising and promotions (and we chose not to review). At the same time, a world free of racism, state oppression, and violence are no more likely to be achieved within the next year or two than easy solutions on hunger, poverty, rising sea levels, species extinction, cancer, or war. From that standpoint, no time is any better or worse than another for the release of a LEGO police station — there may even be a degree of merit to the argument that LEGO provides an escape from these realities. But for me personally, it’s hard to see in the all-yellow minifigs, the architecture, and the uniforms anything other than the 1930’s or 1940’s — a troubled era before the Civil Rights Movement that I would never want to escape to. Confronting and acknowledging those historical realities is part of how I feel we move forward as a society.

Thematic issues, sociopolitical complexities, and timing aside, if you love modulars but don’t want to add a police station to your collection, it’s easy enough to convert 10278 into something else. Simply replace the 1×4 tile printed with “POLICE” above the door with another sign, take down the murder board, and replace the barred windows with regular windows, and you have a building that gives no inkling that it was originally a police station. Perhaps it’s a mental health practice or substance abuse recovery facility — you can redirect that law enforcement budget to the community focus of your choosing.

With such easy replacements for those who prefer not to increase police presence in our idealized LEGO worlds, the fun build, interesting details, printed parts, new parts, rare colors, and beautiful architecture all lead to a strong recommendation from us.

LEGO Modular Buildings Collection 10278 Police Station includes 2,923 pieces with five minifigures, and will be available starting January 1st, 2021 from the LEGO Shop ($199.99 US | $269.99 CAD | UK pricing TBD).

The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

23 comments on “LEGO Modular Buildings Collection 10278 Police Station [Review]

  1. The Grizzlysnake

    Day 1 purchase. I love the design of it. I don’t mind about the controversy, as LEGO had no idea what would happen this year, and they could not change it, so they could either release or cancel. Either way, the design looks great, and I am looking forward to putting this alongside the other modular I have.

  2. William Poneck

    I would have liked to see a review of the White House set, but I understand why the decision was made.

  3. Chris Adams

    When this set was first announced, I wondered why there was no news vendor, and assumed that the donut shop lady lived above the shop. It never occurred to me that the donut thief is also the news vendor, and the occupant of the apartment. Thanks for clearing up that mystery! As to possible rebuilds, the police station could become a brownstone townhouse perhaps?

  4. Peter

    Hey! Thank you for your comments on this set being released in times of BLM protests. I think they are very appropriate!

  5. winstonheard

    Are the numbered bags really an issue? Admittedly, I don’t really converse with the community outside of this site, but I always thought it was the unnumbered technic bags that were the annoyance as opposed to all of the numbered bags being bunched together. Doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to me.

    The police setting being released now (and the other police sets earlier) raised my eyebrow, but I’m not bothered by it. This one even less so since it doesn’t have the Police Action Hero play pattern attached to it. I don’t know how flexible their release schedules are, but I imagine it was either this or no modular building at all.

  6. Vector

    Thank you for bringing up the place of Lego in regards to the real world. Very meaningful and insightful statements here. I definitely wouldn’t mind taking out the police minifigs/branding and treating this as a Detective’s Office v2.0. :) The thumbtacks-and-string would totally fit.

    I do wonder… what do non-English-speaking countries think of the English text everywhere?

  7. James Verhammelt

    Really nicely written review, both from the purely plastic-bricks side of things and the externalities of real life context for the set.

    @winstonheard: I believe the dig at the numbered bags was not their existence but the random way in which they fill the box. The box isn’t filled in such a way that bag #1 is on one end of the pile, proceeding downwards to bag # 1.

  8. Jimmy

    There’s at least a bit of humor in including a donut shop right next to the cop shop. Is that just an American stereotype (officers always eating doughnuts), or do other cultures have similar stereotypes about their own police forces?

    Like @winstonheard said above, I appreciate that this does not conform to the typical police-as-tactical-action-hero play scenarios that most Lego police sets have.

  9. Legoinsel

    Totally agree with the words of your conclusion. Wasn’t expecting this, though.
    All this aside – the build looks splendid. Thank you for the work and thoughts put into this review ????

  10. WemWem

    Very nice and thoughtful review. I appreciate addressing the timing of this release. I dislike the approach of “IT’S A TOY, DON’T GET POLITICAL” as this is little more than an attempt to stifle discussion. It also effectively says that Lego is frivolous and not worthy of serious debate, in which case… why would you even LIKE it?

    It does seem very easy to convert to a non-police building. That’s definitely an asset. Overall, the set is good but it won’t be my first modular purchase. Maybe the next release will really do it for me!

  11. Daniel S

    Nice review! Only one thing sticks out in my mind: the donut vendor’s torso isn’t new – as far as I can see it’s the same used by a hawker in the Fairground People Pack, and twice in the small accessory pack on the same theme. Also, that’s no bow tie but the collar tabs. :)

  12. Håkan


    Do you mean English text in regular sets? It has been business as usual for several decades now. On BrickLink, I can see bricks with the text “Police” dating back to at least 1972.

    I’m Swedish, and I mainly see it as a sign of international pop culture in a globalized world. The alternative would likely be a multitude stickers…

  13. Exxos

    The issue I am seeing with things like the police station and the monkey kid sets is that it was launching these things to fail. I go to target or walmart and I see the shelves emptied of everything but police, ninjago (Japanese, but most parents are not differentiating apparently), and monkey kid themed sets. It openly appears that the political and social climate are making these sets anathema. So whether one agrees or disagrees with their content, saying they are tone deaf or whatever, to me it just seems like a bad business decision because it was apparent long enough ago that lego could see where things were going and change course.

    Many monkey kid and ninjago sets could have been quickly rebranded and tweaked into other lines. The police themed sets could have been changed into something else too — this building could have been apartments, a veterinarian, a small professional building, or such. There was enough time to use designs for sets already in the queue and tweak them to possibly not see as much as a hit to sales.

  14. Michael Wiviott

    please leave political and social comments out of the world of Lego – enjoy it for what it is!

  15. Mr Classic

    It’s sadly quite clear that the modular buildings no longer are intended for those of us who really appreciate detailed interiors – we better get sets such as 21324 123 Sesame Street and 21318 Tree House.

    The exterior is great though (love details such as the ivy, bushes and billboard), except the unsightly grey and white stripes that mark each floor of the main building – surely there’s got to be a large enough variety of tiles and plates in tan to avoid that?

  16. Chris Adams

    Reminds me somewhat of UNCLE’s New York City headquarters in The Man From UNCLE TV series.

    In one episode it is revealed that a young woman lives in an ordinary apartment, totally unaware that Mr Waverley’s office is on the other side of the (sound proofed) wall.

    And what appear to be two buildings actually have one interior. Why, this set even has a secret trapdoor and an escape tunnel!

  17. WT

    Thanks for the thoughtful review. I also intend on building this as something other than a police station, so I like that you addressed that option.

  18. Bill McQuown

    Regarding Exxos’ comment: Monkey Kid sets are not sold in US stores. Ninjago sets are, but it’s difficult to judge the overall success of a wave of releases unless looking at a much larger comparison across the country. Personally, I didn’t find this year’s sets as engaging as previous years, and bought less, but I still bought some, and I still consider it one of the most imaginative of LEGO’s themes. Given its longevity, I’d hardly call the theme a failure.

    As for the Modular Police Station, real world occurrences have no influence on my view of LEGO. LEGO is my escape from the negativity that permeates human society.

    Espousing an absolutist view, good or bad, towards a person, group, ethnicity, profession, etc is shortsighted, obtuse, and dangerous, and history proves this out over and over. There are a few bad apples on every tree, but don’t cut down the tree to spite the few.

  19. Berhagen

    I don’t understand the Ninjago comments in the comments. What I see (having younger boys) is that Ninjago is by far the most popular series still. The monkey kid seems a dud (at least here), but Ninjago is going strong.

    Regarding the Police I understand them still issuing it. BLM in its incarnation of being police oriented is a pretty American thing (even if racism is worldwide, the anti-police sentiments seem more US specific … well and other countries where wealth distribution is very unequal) and the last thing we need is to adjust even more to American sentiments/world views.

  20. Pilop

    I have to admit that the discussion here seems a little surreal to me right now. It wouldn’t have even occurred to me that there could be anything controversial about this set.

    While I can understand why this set might seem controversial to some people, there is one thing I would like to point out: There are over 190 other countries besides the USA. This set is not only released for the USA, but for the whole world. For just about all other countries that have different political and cultural backgrounds, this set is not controversial in any way. This aspect seems to me to be somewhat lost in the discussion here. While BLM has provoked reactions in other countries because of the political and cultural power of the U.S., the police there are not questioned to the degree they are in the U.S. (even in France, the controversy is different).

    Of course, this series of sets from Lego is based on the idealized-historical image of the USA. Nevertheless, the aspect I mentioned should not be disregarded when evaluating the set or the Lego company.

  21. Chris Adams

    How does the rear door work with the dummy staircase to the non existent basement? It looks like the door is under the staircase to the middle floor, but with a very narrow walkway between the handrail and the front desk?

  22. tott

    “LEGO does not exist in an idealized void apart from the real world in which we all live” – not sure if you Americans realize, but US is _not_ the world. It’s 1 country out of 195.

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