Veteran Officer and Academic Optimistic About Future Police and Minority Relations

Despite protests that have highlighted tensions between police departments and minority communities across the country, Dr. Michael Bolton is confident things will get markedly better. That’s because he sees the future every day in his classes.

“We can’t remedy the problems overnight,” says the professor of criminal justice. “But when I see the dialogue, openness and interaction between the diverse students I teach, I’m very optimistic. They’re the future leaders who will take us past all this.”

It’s a far cry from the seventies, Bolton says, when campuses often suffered deep racial divides. He sees the same positive changes taking place in law enforcement, based on the nearly 30 years he spent with the Arlington County Police Department, which he considers to be one of the most progressive forces in the nation.

Bolton’s unique perspective as a veteran patrol officer who loved working the streets and a respected academic lends itself to teaching. He loves sharing real-life stories from his time in law enforcement, whether that means playing an audio recording of an enraged suspect during a course on deviant behavior or walking students through situations involving probable cause in criminal justice classes.

“I don’t just stand up and tell stories,” Bolton says. “I use them to illuminate a point.”

Though he always knew he would teach, following a stint in the U.S. Navy, Bolton – one of four faculty advisers to Marymount’s popular Student Veteran’s Association – became a police officer. While working full time, he took day and night classes at several universities.

During this time he began researching police encounters with persons suffering from mental disorders and writing journal articles and giving presentations to the National Mental Health Association, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, the Justice Department and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

He served in a variety of capacities with the Arlington Department, including working as one of the first youth resource officers in the country and serving as a hostage negotiator. He also handled crime scene searches, supervised communications and was assistant director of the criminal justice academy.

Dr. Bolton received his bachelor of science degree from American University, his master’s from The George Washington University and his Ph.D. from Virginia Commonwealth University. He has taught at Marymount since 1995.