August Vollmer is one of the most important figures in police history. “The police chief for Berkeley, California from 1905 to 1932 and professor of police administration at the University of California Berkeley from 1932 to 1937”, he is responsible for many innovative ideas that reshaped the police functioning (O’Connor, 2005). Thus, he authored the Wickersham Commission Report of 1931, fought for introduction of women and Afro-Americans in the police workforce, and brought in stop lights, police car radios, and lie detectors.
His most important contribution, in my view, is the requirement for higher education and specialized training for police officers. Vollmer is credited with starting the “college cop” movement, requiring a Bachelor’s degree for every police officer. Although this movement was cut short by World War II, there were other efforts, including the drive to obtain Master’s degrees in the 1950s and Ph. D. ’s in the early 1990s (O’Connor, 2005).
Vollmer’s initiative helped broaden policemen’s educational background, equip them with knowledge needed to analyze complex issues of their profession, and develop critical thinking skills. Vollmer’s efforts also helped to create a kind of college curriculum that would best meet needs of police practitioners. Realizing that universities often substituted training in sociology for criminology programs, Vollmer established a police training academy in UC-Berkeley, with courses in bicycling, photography, law, biology, and chemistry (O’Connor, 2005).
His 1928 proposal finally led to the creation of the first “School of Criminology” of the university level in 1950 (O’Connor, 2005). These and other similar initiatives created an academic school that supported the police activities by researching important issues in the police professions. Criminal laboratories that appeared throughout the country helped the police to carry out their function drawing on scientific achievements of the time. Thus, Vollmer’s main achievement is the transformation police work underwent under his leadership.
Previously often regarded as a pursuit for uneducated, unintelligent tough guys, it turned into a fully-fledged professional area with both theoretical and practical sides. Incorporation of scholarly achievements into police work was made possible by the increased number of educated policemen and creation of specialised education. O’Connor, T. (2005, July 15). A Brief Guide To Police History. Retrieved on February 12, 2006 from North Carolina Wesleyan College website at: http://faculty. ncwc. edu/toconnor/205/205lect04. htm