2018 Tillman Scholar

Thomas Baker

University of Missouri
Ph.D., Criminal Justice

“Serving your community doesn’t always require a military or police uniform. As an academic I hope to serve by researching police use of force.”

Tom’s father, grandfather and great grandfather were all veterans, so it seemed natural to join the Army at eighteen. After completing his enlistment, Tom attended university then worked as a police officer for almost nine years. One night, while responding to a domestic violence call; he was forced to use deadly force to defend himself. This experience contributed significantly to his decision to leave law enforcement and pursue academic research dedicated to understanding police use of force.

Tom feels that the use of force by law enforcement officers is one of the most pressing public issues of our time. In recent years, several cities across the United States have experienced civil unrest and violence in the aftermath of controversial police shootings. As the public and policy makers grapple with this issue, high quality research will be necessary for them to make informed decisions. Tom is dedicated to contributing to this body of research as both a Ph.D. student and, eventually, as a university professor.

Tom also wants to help bridge the civil-military divide he has observed on campus, noting that in his six years of undergraduate and graduate education, he has never met a tenure-track professor who has served in the military. After nearly seventeen years at war, he finds this unacceptable and hopes to contribute to addressing this gap by stepping into this role himself. He believes that when veterans enter our institutions of higher learning they deserve the opportunity to see their unique American experience reflected in their faculty.