August Vollmer | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee


Course: Introduction / Policing

August Vollmer was a police reformer known for his strong support for higher education and professionalism in policing.

August Vollmer (1876-1955) was a pioneer in the field of American law enforcement and policing. He is known for his work as a police reformer, advocating for higher education and professionalism in policing. Vollmer was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and grew up in Berkeley, California. He was the son of German immigrants and worked as a blacksmith’s apprentice before joining the Berkeley Police Department in 1905.

Vollmer was appointed the first Chief of Police for Berkeley in 1909, where he began implementing a number of innovative policing practices. He was a strong advocate for education and required his officers to attend college courses in addition to their police training. In 1916, Vollmer founded the School of Criminology at the University of California, Berkeley, which was the first criminology school in the United States. The school emphasized the importance of education and training for police officers and provided a curriculum that included courses in law, psychology, and sociology.

Vollmer was also an advocate for the use of technology in policing and introduced a number of innovative policing techniques in Berkeley. He was one of the first police chiefs to use police cars and was an early proponent of fingerprinting and ballistics testing. In addition, he helped to establish the first crime laboratory in the United States.

Vollmer’s contributions to policing did not end with his work in Berkeley. He served as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Justice and helped to establish the International Association of Chiefs of Police. He also helped to develop the first police training program for the state of California.

Vollmer’s legacy in American policing is significant. He was instrumental in professionalizing the field of law enforcement and advocated for education and training as the key to effective policing. His emphasis on the use of technology and innovative policing techniques helped to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of police work. Vollmer’s contributions to policing continue to influence the field today, and his ideas about the importance of education and training for police officers are still relevant.

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Last Modified: 04/10/2023


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