Tag Archives: August Vollmer

Made in Berkeley: ‘Officer 444,’ featuring August Vollmer

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One of the most progressive lawmen of the early 20th century, Vollmer was instrumental in establishing the nation’s first motorized police units, encouraged the hiring of women and African-Americans into police ranks, eliminated use of the ‘third degree’, and considered drug prohibition a waste of police resources. He was, in sum, the answer to the question How Berkeley Can You Be? before the question was ever posed.

All this, of course, is no news to local history buffs, who are already well aware of Vollmer’s importance to both the city of Berkeley and to the development of modern law enforcement. Less, however, is known about his small but fascinating role in the motion picture industry. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Police Department’s past continues to influence the officers of today

Pictures of ears used to identify suspects
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On Wednesday, Berkeleyside published the first part of a two-part interview with Berkeley’s new Police Chief, Michael Meehan. Today we give you Part II.

Deep in the bowels of the Berkeley Police Department is an L-shaped hallway that is a shrine to the department’s past.

There is an old lie detector encased in a wooden box, a scale to weigh inmates, and an autographed picture of President John F. Kennedy, probably signed when he came to UC … Continue reading »

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Remembering August Vollmer, the Berkeley police chief who created modern policing

Berkeley police officers in 1925
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As Berkeley gets ready to swear in Michael K. Meehan on Thursday as the city’s new police chief, perhaps it is appropriate to take a look back at the city’s very first chief. After all, he is credited with modernizing American policing.

Not many people know about August Vollmer, but when he was alive he was one of the most famous men in the country. While serving as Berkeley’s chief of police from 1909-1931, (he was marshal from … Continue reading »

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