Reform Era | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee


Course: Introduction / Policing

The Reform Era was a period beginning in the early 1900s when police professionalism became the dominant paradigm of policing in the United States.

The Reform Era was a pivotal time in the history of policing in the United States. Prior to this era, policing was characterized by political influence and corruption, as seen in the Political Era. However, with the advent of the Reform Era, the focus shifted towards professionalization and modernization of policing practices.

One of the key figures in this movement was August Vollmer, who advocated for the education and professionalization of police officers. Vollmer believed that police officers should have formal education and training in criminology and should adhere to a code of ethics. He also believed in using technology and scientific methods in policing.

The reforms advocated by Vollmer and others were taken up by police departments across the country, leading to the establishment of police academies, the adoption of standardized training programs, and the development of professional standards for police officers. These reforms helped to raise the status of police officers and improve the quality of policing in the United States.

An important development during the Reform Era was the implementation of civilian oversight of police departments. This was done to increase transparency and accountability and to ensure that police officers were held to the same standards as other professionals. Civilian oversight can take many forms, such as citizen review boards, ombudsmen, and independent police auditors.

The Reform Era also saw the development of modern crime-fighting techniques, such as fingerprinting and ballistics analysis. These methods have been instrumental in solving crimes and identifying suspects.

In recent years, there has been a growing movement to re-examine and reform policing practices in the United States. This movement has been driven by concerns about police brutality, racial profiling, and other issues. As the country continues to grapple with these challenges, it is important to remember the lessons of the Reform Era and continue to strive for a professional and community-oriented approach to policing.

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Last Modified: 04/10/2023


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