Influence of Vollmer and Wilson on Modern Law Enforcement

Concepts like crime prevention, authority, professionalism and discretion have evolved in modern law enforcement since the twentieth century. August Vollmer instituted university training as a tool for young officers in training and under Vollmer’s teachings; O. W. Wilson pioneered the use of advanced training for officers and is also known for the start of criminal justice as an academic field. Wilson was also instrumental in applying modern management and administrative techniques to policing.

Vollmer’s drive for educational innovations and improvements has changed policing tremendously and is still practiced heavily upon in today’s modern law enforcement society. August Vollmer Contribution to Modern Law Enforcement August Vollmer, the leading figure in the development of the field of criminal justice in the United States in the early 20th century was born New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1876. His only formal education, beyond grade school, was a vocational course in book-keeping, typing and shorthand that he took at New Orleans Academy.

His family moved to Berkeley, California, in 1891 when he was fifteen and was active in the formation of a volunteer fire department. Upon Vollmer’s erection of the Berkeley police department, Vollmer learned that police officers had very little literature and education on policing. Within Vollmer’s program for modernization, he established bicycle patrol and created the first centralized police records system, designed to streamline and organized criminal investigations, the utilization of patrol vehicles, radio communications, crime labs, lie detectors, fingerprints, computerized records systems, beat analysis, and community relations.

He also established a call box network and provided his officers training in marksmanship. The effectiveness of Vollmer’s programs grew and effected surrounding police departments. In 1908 Vollmer started the Berkley Police School, taught by himself and an Oakland police inspector; subjects included first aid, photography, and course in sanitation laws and criminal evidence, far ahead of its time. Vollmer and the “college cop” program began around 1919 when Vollmer placed an ad in the campus newspaper inviting students to earn extra money by becoming Berkeley police officers.

This was a period of economic recession and many students responded, perhaps also attracted by the challenge of passing the intelligence tests that the department was using to screen recruits. Nationally, Vollmer worked through such forums as the International Association of Chiefs of Police, serving as President in 1922. He served as a police consultant in cities like Kansas City, Missouri (1929), and he directed the police study for the 1931 National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement, better known as the Wickersham Report (Smith, 1960).

He condemned the corruption and ineffectiveness that prevailed in most American police departments and urged professionalization of the police function, removal of political influence from routine police operations, and the adoption of modern technological methods. After his retirement from the Berkeley force in 1931, he was appointed professor of police administration in the Political Science Department at the University of California, retiring in 1937. August Vollmer worked for police reform throughout the first half of the 20th century.

His ideas were dispersed through the police executives he trained; through professional groups like the International Association of Chiefs of Police; through scholarly journals and societies; and through government surveys and reports, most notably the Wickersham Report. Both the regional and national press publicized the advanced practices of the Berkeley Police Department, and urban crime commissions and police departments requested Vollmer s services as a resource.

Vollmer s professionalism was rooted in the freedom of the police from political interference; it stressed technical innovations in patrol, communications and investigation, and required a skilled, dedicated police officer. Not only was Vollmer concerned with the policing techniques and strategies, but he also wanted to improve the well-being of his police officers. He emphasized improved wages, modern facilities, and the dignity of performing an important service. The police field was rich Vollmer and Wilson 5 ground for the application of new technical advances which met the needs of Americans living in an urban environment.

Modernization of Policing Bicycle patrolling was one institution of Vollmer’s modernization. Bicycle patrols were more common in urban areas. The use of bicycles instead of cars can make police officers more easily approachable, especially in low-crime areas. Bicycles can also be issued to police officers to enhance the mobility and range of foot patrols. Bicycles are also effective crime-fighting tools when used in densely populated urban areas. The bikes are nearly silent in operation and many criminals do not realize that an approaching person on a bike is actually a police officer.

Furthermore, if the criminal attempts to flee on foot, the riding police officer has a speed advantage while able to quickly dismount if necessary. The bicycles are custom designed for law enforcement use. Centralized police records systems and computerized records systems preserve data integrity and enhance departmental efficiency. By establishing an integrated system for police records management, police departments can update, share, and access critical data via one centralized database, enhancing communication and improving the efficiency of processes across the entirety of police departments.

The records include case management records, and information on incidents and offenses. Crime labs, lie detector test and fingerprinting are all very well known type of policing introduced by the Berkeley Police Department under August Vollmer. Vollmer’s enthusiasm for scientific lie detection was a natural outcome of his stand against the third degree, and he never lost faith that new breakthroughs would eventually correct the inadequacies that plagued the use Vollmer and Wilson 6 of the lie detector in criminal investigation.

John Larson, a “college cop”, student of Vollmer, who built the first lie detector in the Berkeley department, later said that he felt the technique had been turned into a form of “psychological third degree,” and confessed that he sometimes regretted having had a hand in its development (National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement). Community relations also play a major role in the modernization of policing. The interactions among different police departments and communities allow for effective policing.

Many of Vollmer’s ideas came from his associates, from police experiences in other countries, and from academic sources. Vollmer recognized the potential of these ideas and unified them into a working whole, using his energy and dedication to set a pattern for police reform that continues to this day. O. W. Wilson Contribution to Modern Law Enforcement Orlando Winfield Wilson (O. W. Wilson), an influential leader in policing was born May 15, 1900 in Veblen, South Dakota and moved with his family to California.

There Wilson enrolled in the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in criminology and studying under August Vollmer. While at Berkeley, he also worked as a police officer with the Berkeley Police Department. Such education for a police officer was rare at the time, so Wilson was far ahead of his colleagues. In 1925, O. W. Wilson became chief of police of the Fullerton Police Department for two years. He then spent two years as an investigator with the Pacific Finance Corporation. In 1928, at age 28, he became chief of police of the Wichita Police Department, where he served until 1939.

In Wichita, he led reforms to reduce corruption. There he instituted professionalism in the department, requiring new hires to have a college education, and Vollmer and Wilson 7 introduced innovations, such as the use police cars for patrol, mobile radios, and use of a mobile crime laboratory. He believed that use of two-way radio allowed for better supervision of patrol officers, and therefore more efficient policing. Wilson also was the first to establish the first police science degree at Municipal University of Wichita (WSU) which is often said to be the start of criminal justice as an academic field.

Wilson’s police professionalism is widely implemented in police agencies across the United States. These ideas remained popular until the advent of community policing. Wilson believed that preventive patrol and rapid response to calls would be effective, creating a sense of police omnipresence among criminals. Like Vollmer, Wilson’s ideas and innovations have been exchanged though out police departments around the country and are still being implemented today. Conclusion

For Vollmer, control of crime was the first role of the policeman, and was to be accomplished by giving him better organization and techniques than were available to the criminal elements. Both Vollmer and Wilson’s policing strategies and knowledge along with many of their students have changed the way modern policing is viewed today. The technologies and support systems envisioned by these two pioneers have heavily influenced modern law enforcement. A 2008 polygraph (lie detector) report done by the National Academy of Sciences showed a median accuracy of 85 percent for polygraph tests which are still used by law officials today.

Not only is the polygraph test still a tool for policing, but police departments still heavily rely on computerized databases and record systems for management. Both Vollmer and Wilson were not only successful in their own venues of policing but their policing strategies and Vollmer and Wilson 8 techniques branched off to other police departments in surrounding areas and around the country. Vollmer and Wilson will continue to go down in police history as educators, police administrators, criminologists, consultants and influential leaders in policing and modern law enforcement.