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John Ben Shepperd: First Model Library of Criminology in the State of Texas

September 23, 1957

First Model Library of Criminology in the State of Texas (Abilene, Texas)

 

When prehistoric man first conceived the idea of law enforcement, the process was not complicated. Those who performed this function did not need to know about the law of evidence, the psychological processes of criminals, or the use of the polygraph. They did not worry about their public relations. They didn’t have to. All this primitive law enforcement agent needed to know was that his club was bigger than that of his opponent, and that he could swing it harder than his opponent could.

Since that time, however, our demands for ability in those who enforce the law have become as elaborate as one of Einstein’s mathematical formulas. Our modern law enforcement official may be called upon for knowledge of everything from handling explosives to identification of jewelry—from court room demeanor to chemical tests for intoxication—from medico-legal autopsy to psychiatric motivations of juvenile offenders.

He needs to be part lawyer, part social scientist, part psychiatrist, part laboratory technician, and part Sherlock Holmes.

This is not an academic demand we make on the profession—it is an everyday demand which is continually growing.

Many people will never experience a burglary, a race riot, or other situation involving violence. But if during their lives such an emergency arises, there will be an urgent cry for instantaneous and efficient help from law enforcement agencies. These are the people who furnish us our property “assurance” and perhaps our life “assurance”.

Where do we get the kind of people who are qualified to give us this service? Even a recruit who is willing to learn is hard to come by. Dallas, for example, has been under-strength of some time, and a recent recruiting campaign in an area of unemployment in Texas was totally unsuccessful.

Fortunately, however, a few people are willing to make law enforcement their life’s work—willing to learn and willing to accept the responsibility and sacrifice. These are the people who need our help before they can help us. They need a system by which they can acquire the complicated skills and comprehensive knowledge necessary to deal effectively with those who understand no law, only superior strength and intelligence.

How is the law enforcement official to acquire this status? First of all, he may acquire it through a lifetime of experience, a slow and expensive process. He may also attend some of the few training schools in Texas—if and when he can get away from his job, and if he can afford it.

The Foundation is working to bring about more training schools on a regional basis as well as a four-year college course in criminology. The Department of Public Safety frequently offers excellent courses, and the Institute of Law Enforcement in Dallas offers bright promise of making a tremendous contribution to law enforcement in this state. However, training afforded by all of these falls far, far below the demand.

Such schools are invaluable and will be increased, but they can touch only a small minority of those who have already chosen law enforcement as an occupation and who are sadly in need of further training. Added to this spotty picture of law enforcement training is the fact that for certain specialized training it is still necessary to travel as far as 800 miles out of the state. In short, training schools are of extreme importance, but they alone can do only a small part of the job.

A final method whereby the law enforcement official can learn what he needs to know—or have it available at his fingertips—is through the knowledge and experience of law enforcement accumulated since the beginning of history and boiled down into readable, fact-studied books.

Thus we have the problem, the solution, and our reason for being here today.

The importance of this gathering is focused on these facts: this is the first time anyone has thoroughly appreciated the need, arrived at a realistic solution, and put this solution into effect.

This is the first model criminology library to be established in this manner in Texas. Others will follow, for this is one of the most important projects of the Texas Law Enforcement Foundation. Eventually, carrying out the Foundation theme of citizen support for good law enforcement, the project will be complete with such a library located in every county of the State.

The library itself is carefully chosen. Each of the 25 volumes has been selected so as to be complete, yet not too technical, for use by the policeman, prosecutor, sheriff, and all other law enforcement personnel.

The man on the street perhaps would not realize the significance of this occasion. He might understand it better upon getting an ineffective response from his law enforcement agencies to his call in distress. Then, he might ask himself why he did not get the caliber of aid he needed. And, if he did not kid himself, he might realize that as a citizen he had some responsibility for anticipating his needs and that he had failed in that responsibility. He might appreciate that through his government he had provided for someone to do the job, but had not provided the tools or necessary training.

Fortunately, the man on the street may never understand this because he may never be placed in the urgent position which would prompt him to ask about it. He may not face this situation because of the foresight of others who helped solve his problem in advance.

This man on the street may never have occasion to thank those who anticipated his need and provided a method whereby his help came a little quicker, a little surer, and with a little more professional ability and competence.

So it is entirely appropriate that on behalf of the man on the street as well as our own behalf we are here today to express thanks to those who are responsible . . . Texas Law Enforcement Foundation Directors of Abilene . . . J. E. Connally, Morgan Jones, Jr., and French Robertson.

At this time, I would like to call upon Chief of Police, Warren Dodson, for the presentation.

Chief Dodson, on behalf of the Texas Law Enforcement Foundation and its local directors, I am placing this first Model Criminology Library in the State of Texas in your custody to be kept at an appropriate location in Abilene so that it will be available for the maximum intended use.

[Note: The views expressed in this speech were those of John Ben Shepperd, and do not necessarily represent the views of the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute or the University of Texas Permian Basin.]