The American Society of Criminology, the premier U.S. organization promoting the study of crime and justice, is dominated by academics, so it may seem odd that its first president back in 1941 was the police chief of Berkeley, Ca., August Vollmer. It seemed to some members that the study of policing had been marginalized among criminologists lately, so the society moved Thursday to reverse that trend by establishing its first Division of Policing to join other units on topics like victimology, corrections and sentencing, and race and crime. Leading the new group is criminologist Dennis Rosenbaum of the University of Illinois at Chicago, who called the division “long overdue.” The vice-chair is Anthony Braga of Rutgers and Harvard universities.
The Policing Division’s kickoff event yesterday was led by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, a former police chief, who urged criminologists to help establish the “next generation of policing” by producing research, for example, that produces a better understanding of how aspects of “social evolution” like the school dropout rate affect future criminality. Other criminologists cheered the new division. Lorie Fridell of the University of South Florida said one police chief welcomed more research on crime and policing, telling her, “I can’t manage what I can’t measure.”