Herman Goldstein: 1931-2020

Professor Herman Goldstein died early this morning at Meriter Hospital surrounded by his family. It is a great loss to those of us who worked with and followed him over the years. The following is a eulogy for him — a most dear friend.

Herman Goldstein

Prof. Herman Goldstein

Herman Goldstein was my mentor, colleague and friend. I know we all will miss him deeply because who he was.

I first met Herman almost 50 years ago. He, along with Frank Remington, his colleague at the UW Law School (Frank died in 1996), were responsible for me coming to Madison in 1972.

We remained friends and colleagues — a small, activist group in advocating and facilitating the way police in a free society should act and the importance of police and citizens working together in solving community problems.

When you’ve been friends with someone for half a century, you not only share the high peaks, but the desert as well. The mark of a true friendship is being open and vulnerable, being able to share the inevitable losses and times of grief that we encounter along our journey.

Herman and I had days in which we talked (and often moaned) about family life, our medical system, the current state of politics in our nation, and, yes, our eventual last days, and the “cop shop.” That’s what makes a lasting friendship — openness and vulnerability.

As we aged, we never fully moved beyond policing. I wanted Herman to continue writing because he always was the bright light in the often-dark world of policing. From his days as a young assistant to the legendary O.W. Wilson, Chicago’s legendary reform police commissioner to teaching three generations of law students (and my police recruits) about the proper role of police in our society, the pursuit of justice, policy development, and the necessity of rule by law. His voice was strong and unwavering. But most importantly his life’s body of work was that police in a democracy matter —- and they matter greatly.

Some years ago, he visited Lithuania and shared his thoughts with me. His grandparents resided in a small rural town before the Shoah. They did not survive. He saw what the Holocaust did and came to understand the role local police had in fostering anti-Semitism throughout Europe. He worked to make sure that never would happen here in America.

For years, in his office at the university and later at home, he had a triptych of three photos on his wall showing an elderly woman fallen down on the street, a police officer helping her stand up, and a final picture of the elderly woman hugging the officer (see below). No shoot-outs, SWAT teams, or high-speed chases, just a police officer helping a person in need. That was the message he taught year after year. And, most appropriately, two years ago, he was rewarded the coveted Stockholm prize in Criminology.

As Christian and Jew, we were brothers in faith. We knew and shared the same God, the covenantal God of loving kindness. When I brought members of my congregation to Beth Israel a few years ago, Herman was our enthusiastic guide. With great pride he talked about this congregation and how it sustained him. Last year, I attended Shabbat at Beth Israel with Herman and met members of his congregation. He, with great pride, introduced me to his new rabbi, Betsy Forester. His first woman rabbi and I could tell she lit up his life.

Herman now rests in peace. His ailing body healed. We shall not soon forget him, his legacy, or the man he was.

He loved his family, his children and grandchildren and he continued to love Shulamit.

He will always be a brother to me. A man whom I deeply love and respect — and now greatly miss.

He was truly a mensch; a man of integrity and honor.

I would like to close with this quote from Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. from a sermon he gave in February, 1968, two months before his death.

I would apply this to how I came to know and love Herman — also a drum major for justice and a committed life.

“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice.

“Say that I was a drum major for peace.

“I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.

“I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind.

“But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that’s all I want to say.”


Here are the three pictures I mentioned above:

Herman and I in Washington, DC in 1993 shortly before my retirement from Madion.


  1. Thank you for your beautiful tribute to Herman. The three pictures of the elderly woman being helped and hugging the police officer will always be relevant. Unfortunately his concerns about local police fostering anti-Semitism in the 30’s may be more relevant than ever. One of my favorite memories of Herman was when I would have the privilege of attending one of his Law School classes and engage students about issues in policing. The discussions were challenging, valuable, and a lot of fun. Simply one of the classiest individuals I met during my police career.


  2. Herman was a very good man. He and I have spent many hours together in the past 40 years sharing thoughts and feelings about policing and more recently about life in general. My attempts to contact him these last few months have gone unanswered, I now know why. I will miss you forever, but I will never forget you.


  3. I’m sorry for your loss, David. I’ve heard so many god thinks about Herman over the past 8 years and like you, he was often referenced in our advocacy. I’m so grateful for his work and yours, and your bravery to do what was right.

    We should get lunch!

    Sent from my iPhone



  4. David,
    Thank You so much for sharing this beautiful memories of Herman. I knew him thru the many classes and writings. Chances for visits were over lunches and work opportunities. I cherish those times we had and know how much I value our friendship.
    Our industry is losing such creditable leaders daily, sharing our combined experience and leadership is slipping away.


  5. Dave,
    I remember meeting him in Washington. He was close with Don Manson. I think Manson went to school in Madison. Anyway, he was definitely Don’s North Star. When I think how far away we are from Herman’s ideals…it is such a shame. Hope you and Sabine are doing well. May Herman’s memory be a blessing.


  6. He was such a giant in the policing field one would only mention the name “Herman” and others instantly knew who you were talking about. He was a great teacher both in the classroom for thousands of students who attended his classes but more importantly as a teacher and mentor for people like me. I consulted with my friend for ten years I served as chief and despite being retired, always offered to read my papers and offer questions and comments. He made me a better person and leader and it will be hard not to pick up the phone and call him for lunch when I visit Madison. Rest In Peace my friend. You made a difference in your community, your nation and the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sad news, but what a legacy. His influence is still growing, often subtly and without recognising that it was Herman who planted the seed. And he was a man of huge warmth and kindness. Thanks, Herman.


  8. Chief, thank you for a beautifully written eulogy, written by someone who knew Professor Goldstein better than most people. I was saddened to see about the passing of this kind, gentle person, a person who helped you change the face of Madison Police Department for the better. Hope Sabine and you are enjoying retirement.


    1. Thanks, dear Administrative Assistant! Herman is a great loss to the field. A real gentle-man! Thank you for your support during the years. Yes, I might think of retirement in the next decade if so! Peace and blessings!


  9. I was so saddened to learn of Herman’s death. Like all the people I love, I expect them to go on. As I age I am learning that is not true.
    Herman was my husband Gary’s teacher and mentor and later colleague and close friend. Gary believed Herman was the truest, finest human being he had ever met. I was lucky enough to be brought into Herman’s life through Gary.
    Herman brought the best to policing, believing that the police were an instrument for good and instrumental in building a civil community.
    I know Gary and I add our names to a long list of those who respected and loved Herman.


    1. Susan, so nice to hear from you and your ( and Gary’s) comments. Herman was the real thing and I don’t think he will ever be replaced. Blessings to you! Gary, too, will always be in my heart.


  10. Totally unexpected, but quite the thrill to receive the following letter from Professor Goldstein back in 2011. What a class act to take the time to praise a ‘stranger’ working toward improving policing.

    Herman Goldstein
    February 2, 2011
    110 Nautilus Dr.
    Madison. Wisconsin 53705

    Sgt. Norman Jahn

    Dear Sgt. Jahn,

    I’m not sure if we have ever met, or if you know anything about my connection to the policing field. I have, for over fifty year. had an intense interest in policing, and have, with a base at the University of Wisconsin since 1964, been involved in research, training and writing regarding the police.

    In that period of time, I have worked on all aspects of policing, including efforts to clarify, for communication with the public, the complex nature of the police function in a democracy and especially the role of the police in the use of deadly force.

    I heard the interview with you on National Public Radio on January 27th. Very conscious of the difficulty in bringing about positive change in policing, I want you to know that I was extremely proud of you and what you had to say to a national audience. You accurately articulated, in very clear language, the role of the police in a free society and, especially, their role in the use of deadly force.

    I often get discouraged after working for all of these years on bringing about not only
    improvement in policing, but a better understanding of the police function in our society. You lifted my spirits, in that you so clearly conveyed that we have made enormous progress in internalizing the important values that go along with the police job. I hope your words inspire others working in the field. They contribute so much to the true professionalization of the police.

    Thank you for conveying your perspective to a national audience. It reflected very well on you, your training, your supervisors, and your entire department. I have directed many of my associates to the transcript of your interview – and cited it as an example of what is so desperately needed in policing- i.e., operating police officers at the street level articulating the complex nature of what is expected of them. We would be so much better off if others followed in your lead.

    Congratulations to you, your superiors and your department for articulating such a sophisticated understanding of the delicate nature, complexity and importance of the police role in our society.
    Herman Go stein
    Professor Emeritus
    Law School
    University of Wisconsin
    Madison, WI 53705

    Mailing Address: See above


  11. A beautiful tribute to a great theorist and genuinely kind man. I only had the privilege of meeting Professor Goldstein once, but his advice profoundly changed and impacted my approach to public service and conception of policing. His work on policing a free and open society is more relevant than ever in the present political climate.


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