Skip to main content
Skip to main content
MenuSearch & Directory

Law School Loses Longtime Professor and National Police Reform Advocate

by Jessica Ciccone

Longtime law professor, law school administrator, one time interim dean and national police reform advocate, Roger Goldman, passed away on July 29, 2023 surrounded by family.

A beloved colleague and professor, Goldman was known for his wit, advocacy, and ability to make people smile even discussing the most difficult of topics. Ever the cheerleader for those who knew him well, Goldman created longstanding connections across the University, the state, and the nation.

Professor Roger Goldman lectures in Scott Hall during the Millstone Lecture

Professor Roger Goldman speaks in the John K. Pruellage courtroom during the Millstone lecture, a series that he helped create in conjunction with local journalists.

“The many kindnesses Roger showed us when we first arrived at SLU are without number,” said Professor Emeritus Alan Weinberger. “He gave me my first opportunity to serve in law school administration the year he served as interim dean. He had a real gift for helping people out, and I don’t think anything brought him more joy.”

Goldman, the Callis Family Professor of Law Emeritus, was named faculty member of the year three times, served twice as associate dean and once as interim dean. He taught constitutional law, civil rights, and civil procedure.

Best known professionally for his scholarship and advocacy work regarding police decertification, Goldman worked for decades researching the issue of problem police officers who moved from city to city. He quickly became the nation’s leading expert on the subject, quoted frequently in publications across the country. He can be credited for legislation in 10 states that created registries and police decertification processes and dozens more that strengthened existing laws since he began his work nearly 40 years ago.

“Roger Goldman’s scholarly work on police accountability had widespread impact because his analyses were well-reasoned and his solutions were practical,” said Goldman’s longtime colleague Dean Emeritus Michael Wolff. “Roger didn’t just publish and sit back and wait for admiring reviews. He persisted, making his scholarship into a movement that changed the laws as to police licensing and decertification in many states.”

Roger Goldman speaks with a reporter

Roger Goldman speaks with a reporter in the John K. Pruellage courtroom regarding police decertification.

Goldman was integral in such legislation in Missouri, which since its passing, has seen more than 1,000 problem police officers off the force. Following the deaths of Michael Brown and George Floyd and the nationwide attention on police procedure, Goldman actively worked with policy makers in Massachusetts and Hawaii to create centralized bodies tasked with decertifying law enforcement officers. As of his passing, all but two states have such regulations. Additionally, his work was referenced in President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

Of his lifelong dedication to this pursuit, Goldman once said to a group of students “What counts as public interest work needn’t be limited to litigating on behalf of individual clients. I view my role as working on behalf of the unknown client, who will hopefully never become a victim of a ‘repeat offender’ officer. The thought of the unknown client is what motivates me to keep going, pursuing decertification law state by state. And I’m in it until all the states have done it.”

In 2017, Professor Goldman was inducted into the School of Law’s Order of the Fleur de Lis, the highest honor bestowed upon any member of the law school community.

Roger Goldman on stage with Dean William Johnson to receive award

Roger Goldman on stage at the Missouri Athletic Club with Dean William Johnson and then law student Kwamane Liddell to receive his Order of the Fleur de Lis Hall of Fame award.

Additionally, as Michael Wolff noted, “he also published biographies of two heroes of the Supreme Court’s civil-rights era, Thurgood Marshall and William J. Brennan, reminders of what makes great Supreme Court justices great.”

Goldman was also an active member of St. Louis’ Jewish community. He was a founding member of the Central Reform Congregation and served as its first president in 1984. From 1974 to 1976, Goldman also served as the president of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri.

The son of prominent physician, Dr. Alfred Goldman and his wife Miriam, Goldman graduated from John Burroughs School. He received his bachelor’s degree in English from Harvard University, and his J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He leaves behind his wife Stephanie Riven, two sons Sam and Josh and his wife Sarah, and two grandchildren, Jacob and Lily.

A black and white of photo of Roger Goldman and his family

An undated photo of Roger Goldman and his young family.

Read more about Professor Goldman's police decertification advocacy

Read Professor Goldman's interview on his work