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August Vollmer Essay

1946 words - 8 pages

August Vollmer
Principles of Law
Michelle Buckner
Ned Watson
April 9, 2013

August Vollmer
August Vollmer was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Both of Vollmer’s parents were German immigrants. After the death of his father his mother took the family back to Germany. Two years later his family moved to San Francisco. When the Spanish- American war broke out Vollmer was old enough to enlist in the Army. He served one year. After he served in the war, Vollmer worked as a letter carrier. After years of working as a letter carrier Vollmer was approached to run for town marshal. He won the election. When Vollmer was elected the police department was is very poor condition. Crime was so bad ...view middle of the document...

In 1898, August enlisted in the United States Marines, fighting in 25 battles in the Spanish-American War in the Philippines. Vollmer left the military in August 1899. After returning home he was employed as a letter carrier for four years and was eventually approached to run for the office of town marshal. Vollmer's notoriety was enhanced when he leapt onto a runaway railroad freight car on Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley and applied the brakes. This made him a public hero and in April 1905, at the age of 29, Vollmer won the election 3 to 1 (Bennett, 2010).
At the time Vollmer was appointed, the police department was in shambles. Crime in some areas of Berkeley was so bad that the Southern Pacific transcontinental trains refused to stop at the stations. His belief was that the police force should be run, operationally, like the Army. He made it his goal to do just that. Vollmer demanded a high level of honesty, efficiency, interest and hard work by his officers. As an opponent of capital punishment and brutality against criminals, Vollmer believed in attacking the social roots of the problems. This has been the foundation for our worldwide reputation in the law enforcement field. Although he himself had only six years of schooling, he made education a top priority among his recruits. Vollmer felt this was critical. "The policeman's job is the highest calling in the world. The men who do that job should be the finest men. They should be the best educated. They should be college graduates. That's what policemen should be. And what are they? Dumbbells." (Bennett, 2010). In 1908 August Vollmer started the Berkeley Police School. The instructors were himself and an Oakland police inspector. Subjects included first aid, photography, and courses in sanitation laws and criminal evidence. Under the leadership of Vollmer the Berkeley Police Department went through many firsts. These firsts included the first use of scientific investigation, the first Police Motorcycle Patrol (1911), the first School of Criminology at University of California, at Berkeley (1916) and in 1920 the first lie detector instrument was developed at University of California for use by the Berkeley Police Department. (Bennett, 2010).
In 1919, when Vollmer was at the peak of his career, he placed an ad in the school newspaper at the University of California soliciting students to serve as police officers while attending college. Dr. John Larson, a 27-year-old medical student with a Ph.D. in physiology, joined the department that year and became one of Vollmer's first “college cops.” (Fisher). Two years after joining the department, Larson read an article in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology about the effects of lying on the deceiver’s heart rate and blood pressure. The article had been written by a Boston lawyer named William Marston. Marston had been studying the effects of lying on blood pressure since 1915 and had written other pieces on the subject. Marston...

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