So What CAN You Do With a History Major?–Part 56

simi_valley_badgeBe a police chief.

David Livingstone is pursuing a Ph.D in history at the University of California, San Diego. He is also the police chief of Simi Valley, California.

Over at History News Network, Frank Biess, Livingtone’s dissertation adviser, explains how his student uses his history degree to “save lives.”

David was chosen as chief of police not despite but because of his Ph.D. The skills that he acquired as a history graduate student proved essential to his success. His instinct as a historian has kicked in while managing the investigation of cold case murders. Because of his experience in historical archives, he has helped homicide detectives to follow paper trails and discover new evidence. When a young man was put in jail, the same historian’s skills allowed him to get him out by proving investigative missteps and errors in the testimony of a key witness. The boy’s parents, the Superior Court judge and local civil liberties groups commended him for his work. Like many graduate students, David also taught in an introductory course on the history of the world. His knowledge about the history of Islam now comes in handy in establishing relations with Simi Valley’s Muslim community.

If David’s experience in the ivory tower has followed him on the beat, his lived experience as police officer has, in turn, enriched his research. His dissertation asks a big question: What is the role of the police in a democratic society? David is writing a history of the West German Federal Border Guard, a paramilitary unit that was founded in 1950 and existed until 2005. His thesis reveals shocking continuities across 1945, with many former Nazis continuing their police careers in the postwar Federal Republic. But he also shows how the institution and the people within them slowly adapted to the different values of a democratic society. This process is one reason why today’s Germany has 1/100th the number of fatal police shootings as the United States — 10 versus approximately 1,000 in 2015.

Read the entire piece here.

Some of you may remember a similar interview we did with Colorado Springs police officer Brad Hart.