August Vollmer was one of the most extraordinary men ever elected town marshal and appointed police chief in American history. It was Vollmer who brought policing out of its wholly corrupt and often brutal era of politics, by professionalizing not only his own Police Department in Berkeley, California, but police departments across the country and around the world. He was instrumental in the creation of the polygraph machine (lie detector), patrol car radio communication systems, and, as the Los Angeles Police Chief, the first crime lab in America. His greatest legacy, however, was the higher education program he created at UC Berkeley, which developed into the disciplines of criminal justice and criminology that are so widespread today.
This riveting biography by Willard M. Oliver, ten years in the making, is the first single-volume, full-length biography of Marshal, Police Chief, and Professor August Vollmer. It is a profound work of both biography and history, and brings to life the man who forever changed American policing and police education, reaffirming Vollmer’s rightful title as “The Father of American Policing.” Meticulously researched, the book draws upon newly discovered material, interviews, and writings of Vollmer’s never before used, allowing Oliver to craft a richly detailed and fascinating narrative of Vollmer’s life story. This magisterial portrait of one of policing’s greatest leaders promises to reshape our understanding of both the man and his era and to rightfully restore August Vollmer as a household name.