August Vollmer  | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: 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 police chief in Berkeley, California, and a pioneer in the field of criminology and police science. He is widely regarded as one of the most important figures in the history of American policing, and his work had a significant impact on the development of modern policing practices. Vollmer was a strong advocate for higher education and professionalism in policing, and he believed that law enforcement agencies should be staffed by highly trained and educated professionals.

Vollmer began his career in law enforcement as a marshal in Berkeley in 1905, and he quickly rose through the ranks to become the chief of police in 1909. During his time as chief, Vollmer implemented a number of innovative policing practices, including the use of the automobile for patrol, the creation of a centralized police radio system, and the establishment of a training academy for police officers. Vollmer also pioneered the use of scientific methods in policing, including the use of fingerprinting and other forensic techniques to solve crimes.

Vollmer was a strong advocate for higher education in policing, and he believed that police officers should receive formal training in criminology, sociology, and other related disciplines. He was instrumental in the establishment of the first police science program in the United States at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1916, and he served as a professor of police science at the university for many years. Vollmer also founded the International Association of Chiefs of Police, an organization that still exists today and is dedicated to promoting professionalism and best practices in law enforcement.

In addition to his work in policing, Vollmer was also an important criminologist and contributed significantly to the development of the field. He believed that crime was a social problem that could be addressed through a combination of prevention, intervention, and rehabilitation, and he advocated for a more holistic approach to crime control that emphasized community involvement and social services. Vollmer also recognized the importance of addressing the root causes of crime, such as poverty and inequality, and he was a vocal advocate for social justice.

Vollmer’s legacy continues to be felt in the field of policing and criminology today. His emphasis on professionalism and education has become a cornerstone of modern policing practices, and his commitment to social justice and community involvement continues to influence the way that law enforcement agencies approach crime control. August Vollmer is remembered as a visionary leader who helped to shape the course of American policing and criminology, and his contributions continue to be celebrated and studied by scholars and practitioners alike.

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Last Modified: 05/04/2023

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