Fifty Years With the Force

A Brief History of the UC Police

by Fran Marsh

Born during World War I when night watchmen were hired for campus patrol, Berkeley's campus police force has come a long way from humble beginnings.

Today the systemwide force boasts more than 300 sworn peace officers and other officers and administrative staff numbering in the hundreds on the nine campuses.

The UC Police celebrated the 50th anniversary of their formal establishment Monday, Nov. 17, when Chancellor Berdahl presented a regental tribute to Chief Victoria Harrison in a California Hall ceremony.

The proclamation extended the UC Regents' "deepest appreciation for exemplary service and innumerable contributions to the university and the state."

Back in 1915, Berkeley campus's original watchmen were attired in full-length streetcarmen's coats.

Each was issued a small satchel with keys, a sidearm, a flashlight and a switch to chase errant dogs from the Greek Theatre stage during weekend concerts.

Shortly afterward, with the aid of the City of Berkeley Police Department, Walter J. Lee was appointed captain.

Lee led the department for the next 34 years, holding authority through the city and Alameda County Sheriff's Department.

In September 1947, the UC Regents formally established the UC police. Concerns of the day were hazing, fraternity pranks and the activities of a secret drinking group called Skull and Keys.

The department included 22 sworn personnel, with "big brother" duties to wayward students.

During this period, the only communications between the dispatcher and officers on beats were staggered hourly call-ins and, at night, the light stop the Campanile, used to summon officers in emergencies or to test their attentiveness.

A major incident in the mid '50s was a panty raid, but 1964 brought the beginning of large-scale political activity-seven years of protests, strikes, bombings, arsons, street battles and controversy, which the department survived with strong hopes for a better and brighter future.

An outstanding accomplishment of the '70s was a coordinated, systemwide, uniform policy in recruiting, training, personnel and performance standards.

The university had changed from a protected public institution of higher learning to an open, public place. The conditions of the '60s had required the rapid growth of sworn personnel to 100, although by the '80s that number was reduced to 73.

Today, 108 uniformed officers and support staff are on duty to protect the campus and environs.



Copyright 1997, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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