Information for Researchers
Scope and Content
Collection Title: August Vollmer Papers,
Date (inclusive): [ca. 1918-1955]
Collection Number: BANC MSS C-B 403
Vollmer, August, 1876-1955
Number of containers: 46 boxes, 7 cartons, 3 volumes, and 2 oversize folders
Berkeley, California 94720-6000
Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Abstract: Letters written to him; copies of letters written by him; biographical sketches and personalia; bibliographies and bibliographic
notes; financial records; MSS of his writings; copies of his articles and speeches, MSS and printed; copies of introductions,
statements and book reviews written by him; lecture notes; subject files; clippings and photographs.
Primarily re his career, after his retirement from the Berkeley Police Department, as professor of police administration at
the University of California, Berkeley; as consultant; and as author.
Information for Researchers
Collection is open for research.
Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts
must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft
Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which
must also be obtained by the reader.
[Identification of item], August Vollmer papers, BANC MSS C-B 403, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
Title: Berkeley Police Department records, 1909-1932,
Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 72-227 c
Material Cataloged Separately
- Photographs and snapshots - transferred to Picture Collection. (Many have been removed for separate cataloging.)
- Original cartoon by Chamberlain [for L. A. newspaper?] - transferred to picture collection
August Vollmer was born March 7, 1876 of German parents in New Orleans, and, when he was fifteen, the family moved to Berkeley,
California. At the age of eighteen he opened a coal and feed store and was active in the formation of the Berkeley volunteer
fire department. When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, he enlisted as a private and saw service both in Cuba and
in the Philippines. Returning to civilian life in Berkeley, he worked as a letter carrier and fireman. In 1905 he was elected
town marshal and subsequently organized his town patrol into the Berkeley Police Department.
In the years that followed he inaugurated a number of innovations that made his department the model of a scientific police
force which attracted national and international recognition. He introduced a police training program, a radio communication
system, a mobile patrol, a police records system, the use of the English modus operandi system, beat analysis, a scientific
crime laboratory, development of the fingerprint system of identification, and use of the lie detector. He established police
service on a career basis and introduced psychological and intelligence resting into the recruitment process. In 1919 he began
actively recruiting students from the University of California, the so-called "college cops, " many of whom went on to positions
of importance in police departments and penal institutions throughout the country.
Vollmer himself taught police administration courses at the University of California summer sessions, and, taking leave of
absence from the Berkeley Police Department 1929-1931, taught at the University of Chicago. After his retirement from the
Berkeley force in 1931, he was appointed professor of police administration in the Political Science Department at the University
of California, retiring in 1937.
His national reputation was such that police departments and municipal officials often requested his services as a consultant,
and throughout his career he conducted a number of surveys and helped reorganize police departments in some sixty American
and foreign cities. A prolific contributor to scientific journals in the field of criminology and social science, he became
the leading spokesman for the concept of a professional police force. His several books -
Police and Modern Society,
Crime and the State Police (written in collaboration with Alfred Parker) and
Crime, Crooks and Cops (again with Parker as collaborator) became standard works in the field.
Ill health plagued his later years, and Vollmer ended his life on November 4, 1955.
Scope and Content
The Vollmer Collection came to The Bancroft Library in 1956-57 as a gift of his estate. Professor V. A Leonard donated his
correspondence with Vollmer in 1963, and during the course of the tape-recorded interviews conducted in 1971 as part of the
August Vollmer History Project, several individuals (George Brereton, Thomas Hunter. Gene Woods and Willard Schmidt) contributed
supplementary letters and photographs. Comprising 46 boxes and 7 cartons (plus 3 volumes and one folder of oversize material),
the collection largely documents his career after his retirement from the Berkeley Police Department, as professor of police
administration at the University of California; as consultant; as author; and as advisor and mentor to dozens of colleges
and universities establishing police training programs, to the many young men, Berkeley Police Department "graduates" and
"college cops" who succeeded to responsible positions in the field, and to the general public interested in criminology. The
collection includes letters addressed to Vollmer; copies of letters written by him; biographical sketches and personalia;
bibliographies and bibliographic notes; financial records and royalty statements; MSS of his writings; copies of his articles
and speeches, MSS and printed; copies of introductions. statements and book reviews written by him; lecture notes; subject
files; clippings; and photographs. Most of the photographs, however, have been removed to the portrait collection for separate
cataloging. The papers as a whole are described in greater detail in the Key to Arrangement which follows.
Material in the collection antedating 1931 consists primarily of personal letters, personalia, clippings, and material relating
to his teaching position at the University of Chicago. Vollmer's career in the Berkeley Police Department is covered in a
collection of records transferred to The Bancroft Library from the Department in 1972. (BANC MSS 72/227)
Further documentation on Vollmer is available in
August Vollmer: Pioneer in Police Professionalism, which consists of typed transcripts of a series of tape-recorded interviews conducted in 1971 with twelve colleagues and friends