Staff Profile: Howard Hickman, UCPD

by Julia Sommer

Stationed in Saigon during the Vietnam War, Army Sgt. Howard Hickman kept abreast of events on the Berkeley campus via reports from the Daily Cal.

Hickman had come to Berkeley as a freshman in 1967. He volunteered for the Army in '69. But fascinated by the student demonstrations in Sproul Plaza and the efforts to establish People's Park, he subscribed to the student paper and had it mailed to him in Vietnam.

After three years in the Army, Hickman returned to campus to complete his degree in computer science, paying his way as a campus community service officer and reserve officer with the Berkeley city police department. Graduating in 1975, he decided police work was more to his liking than computers and joined the force. He celebrates his 20th anniversary in May.

With a career that began with a history-making era on campus, it's fitting that Hickman has become the department's archivist, collecting photos and memorabilia of days and demonstrations gone by.

During a driving rain while observing a student demonstration outside California Hall last month, several drenched campus police officers remarked that it could be worse. "At least it's not snowing," said Capt. Bill Foley, and the officers nodded in agreement.

Snowing? Seems they'd all seen Hickman's latest history exhibit in the department's hallway. It featured a police assignment covering an event on the hill behind campus years ago when a March snow storm blew in and surprised everyone.

While they don't make his history wall exhibits, there are moments of Hickman's own time on the force that stand out for him.

Like the time he responded to a call of a rape in progress. He had knocked on a door at the former Berkeley Inn on Telegraph Avenue. The man who opened the door came at him with a buzzing electric drill.

"You have to react in a split second in those situations--you don't have time to think," says Hickman. "But you may end up thinking about what happened and how you reacted for years afterward. I'll never forget the music that was playing in that room--'Foxy Lady' by Jimi Hendrix."

Hickman also recalls one of the saddest experiences he has had--trying to bring a campus custodian who'd suffered a heart attack back to life using CPR, to no avail.

When Hickman joined the UCPD as a community service officer in 1972, there were no women on the force. Today, 14 of the 79 UCPD police officers are women, including the chief.

"At first, women police officers were stereotyped as being good at certain types of jobs and not so good at others," notes Hickman. "Some officers were concerned that they wouldn't be as effective in physical confrontations, say, as male officers. But now there are so many women officers with different attributes that the stereotypes are dying out."

Hickman himself prefers people to paper so much that he asked to return to his rank of sergeant after two years as a lieutenant. It was too much of a desk job for him.

Even though Hickman doesn't like desk work, he has managed to get an MA in public administration with an emphasis on the administration of justice from Golden Gate University.

He credits the program, largely taught by police chiefs and captains, with helping him develop a "consensus decision-making" management style. "Group decisions are always better than individual ones," he finds.

Twenty years into his job here, Hickman said what still appeals to him is "the challenge of each day--the different kinds of problems and people, especially in Berkeley. The fact that people challenge your authority here adds to the challenge. I might be bored in suburbia, where everyone supports the police."

And besides, he gets to play a part of the history that continues to be made on campus. Recently, Hickman served as personal bodyguard for the Dalai Lama and Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams when they visited campus.


Copyright 1995, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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