M7D1: Degree Requirement for Officers

The idea that police officers should have some form of higher education is a long-standing one. As early as 1973, the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals “called for the establishment of a national minimum education level of a four-year college degree as had the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice in 1967, stating the ‘quality of policing will not improve significantly until higher education requirements are established for its personnel'” (Mayo 2006). The hope is that “officers who have received a broad general education have a better opportunity to gain a more thorough understanding of society, to communicate more effectively with citizens, and to engage in the exploration of new ideas and concepts” (Mayo 2006). A multicultural understanding of the needs of different communities in a more diverse society can be facilitated by advanced education.

Empirical evidence suggests that officers with higher degrees have higher ratings regarding “behavioral and performance characteristics;” fewer injuries, assaults, citizen complaints and disciplinary actions against them; use less sick time; and manifest a “greater acceptance of minorities” including a greater likelihood of promoting minorities (Mayo 2006). However, this evidence merely establishes a correlation, not a causal link between higher education and improved job performance — it could merely be that more dedicated officers are likely to pursue advanced degrees, but higher education does not necessarily make better officers in and of itself.

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Another problem with requiring advanced degrees is that it actually might deter minorities from applying, given that historically-underrepresented groups have struggled to gain college degrees at comparable rates as non-minorities in the U.S. There could even be EEOC concerns if requiring four-year degrees resulted in a more homogeneous composition of the police force. And, of course, a critical component of community policing is recruiting representative officers from the communities they are serving. A better policy to pursue might be to offer greater financial support to officers to pursue higher education once they are accepted into the force, and make promotions continent upon pursuing a degree. This would encourage underrepresented groups to apply, yet enable them to add to their credentials in a meaningful fashion in a manner they could afford.

Reference

Mayo, P. (2006). College education and policing. The Police Chief, 73(8). Retrieved from:

http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_id=955&issue_id=82006

M7D2: Formal Assessment or Community Selection

The fact that most law enforcement agencies are appointed by politicians remains a curious and archaic practice, given that most other appointments are based upon the rules of the civil service. The civil service requirements are designed…

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