Sociology professor emeritus Egon Bittner dies

Sociology professor emeritus Egon Bittner, who was best known for his studies of the relationships between police and society, died earlier this month in California.

Bittner, originally from a Jewish community in Czechoslovakia that was decimated by the Holocaust, received a Ph.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles before joining the Brandeis faculty in the late 1960s.

As the Harry Coplan Professor of the Social Sciences, he taught numerous undergraduates, mentored doctoral students and led the department on a quest for new approaches.

Bittner was active in the sociology profession and served, among other positions, as president of the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP). His presidential address to the SSSP in 1984, which reflected on the implications of computers for human futures, was a classic of the genre. Among sociologists, he was best known for studies of the relationships between police and society.

His contributions to police scholarship earned him the Police Executive Research Forum Leadership Award, and he served as commissioner in the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) from 1979 to 1988. In recognition of the importance of his work, CALEA established the Egon Bittner Award, annually presented to leading police executive officers in recognition of distinguished service in law enforcement. Bittner's sociological writings on police work remain a benchmark for today's scholars researching the police.

Bittner retired from Brandeis in 1991 and then moved with his wife Jean to the Bay Area to be closer to his children Debora Seys and Tom Bittner. He died there on May 7.

No memorial is planned at this time.

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