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2100 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 981-5900, TDD: (510) 981-5799, police@ci.berkeley.ca.us


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Our History

BPD Historical PhotoThe City of Berkeley was incorporated in 1878. The City was policed by a elected town Marshal. In addition the Marshal was assisted by elected Constables.

Through these years the Marshal and Constables mostly served papers and seldom arrested without a warrant. Crime increased through the turn of the century.

In 1905, August Vollmer was elected town Marshal. In 1909, he was appointed as this City's first Chief of Police.

Chief Vollmer was instrumental in organizing this department, creating what
we now call a "Code of Ethics", which included eliminating the acceptance
of gratuities, rewards or favors." 

Chief Vollmer demanded a high level of honesty, efficiency, interest and hard work by his officers. This has continued to this day, which has been the foundation for our world wide reputation in the law enforcement field.

Chief Vollmer is considered by some as the father of modern day law enforcement. His progressive thinking and use of new innovations in law enforcement became the foundation that our department has built on.

Some of the early innovations by Chief Vollmer and this department were:

  • In 1906, the department installed a basic records system (One of the first in the United States)

  • In 1906, installed the first Modus Operandi (MO) System

  • In 1907, first use of scientific investigation (Kelinschmidt case - analysis of blood, fibers and soil).

  • In 1907, the department's police school was established. It included instruction from professors on such subjects as the law and evidence procedures. This was the first school of its kind in the world and had a far reaching effect on law enforcement. 

  • In 1911, organized the first Police Motorcycle Patrol

  • In 1913, changed to automobiles for patrolling.

  • In 1916, Chief Vollmer established the first School of Criminology at University of California, at Berkeley. Chief Vollmer became a strong advocate of college educated police officers.

  • In 1918, began using intelligence tests in recruiting police officers.

  • In 1920, the first lie detector instrument was developed at University of California and used by our department.

  • In 1921, began using a psychiatric screening in recruitment.

  • In 1923, the first Junior Traffic Police Program was established.

  • In 1924, established one of the first single fingerprint systems.

  • In 1925, established our first Crime Prevention Division and hired the first Police Woman.

BPD Historical PhotoAs this site expands we will be placing additional photos, text and other information on our site in order for you to learn more about our department.

The Berkeley Police Department recently created the the Historical Unit made up of Police Employees who volunteer their time to catalogue and record the history of the Berkeley Police Department.


For more information and our photos visit these pages:

Memorial                                    Photos 1900-1930

Photos 1931-1960                   Photos 1961-present

For additional information on the Berkeley Police Historical Unit email  Sergeant Michael Holland  or call at (510)981-5802.