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Albanie Stoddard

Criminal Justice
Term Paper
April 17, 2015

Should Police Officers Have A College Education?


A controversial issue that arose in the early 1900s is making a come back, should police
officers be required to have a college degree? There are many characteristics that go into this
deciding factor such as; will there be more job opportunities, higher pay, is it honestly going to
benefit the police officer doing their job, will the community have more trust in an educated
police officer? A few of these topics are discussed in some studies across the United States done
by police officers themselves or researchers. This is a very debated issue and has many peoples
attention on which way the law is going to turn.
In an article by Melinda Burns, Cops and College: Do Police Need Book Smarts, it talks
about a study that was done in regards to police officer education, specifically when it comes to
searches or arrests of suspects. According to Burns the research found no difference between
officers who had higher education compared to officers who did not have higher education. She
does continue to say, But it found that in encounters with crime suspects, officers with some
college education or a four-year degree resorted to using force 56 percent of the time, while
officers with no college education used force 68 percent of the time. (Burns, 2010) When
speaking of force in this situation its meaning using pepper spray or mace, punching or hitting
with baton, verbal threats, handcuffing, pointing or firing their gun at the suspect, and throwing
them down to the ground.
As Gerald Lynch, from John Jay College of criminal justice, said, Such requirements

can make a huge difference. For example, of the police officers arrested for corrupt acts over the
last four years, 86 percent of them would not have even been hired in the first place under these
new standards. Not only is this a significant number that could be degreased by more education
but also its a hard fact to face.

In relation to Burns article there is another article with a similar study written by Mathew
Bostrom, a Chief of staff in Saint Paul, Minnesota, titled The Influence of Higher Education on
Police Officer Work Habits. Bostroms study talks about the work habits, disciplinary actions,
commendations, and time off of police officers that work in the Saint Paul police station. His
work covers many aspects and reasonings as to what a higher education can do for the police
officer. Bostrom explains his data as well as gives the results in charts (listed below) as to what
his findings were and exactly how they were determined. He says, Education by years of posthigh school education was examined in the following manner: a high school diploma was
measured as zero years of post-high school education; an associate's degree was measured as two
years of post-high school education; a bachelor's degree was measured as four years of post-high
school education; and a master's degree was measured as six years of post-high school
education. (Bostrom, 2005)

Bostrom writes, During a


three-year period, the average officer
will be in 0.25 vehicle collisions,
will be disciplined 0.37 times, use
111.4 hours of sick time, and receive

1.6 commendations. (Bostrom, 2005) For Figures 6 and 7 Bostrom states that the average
numbers of his police officers were are follows; 12.2 years of experience, 39.4 years old, and 2.4
years of a college education. The population for the study was 452 police officers and the study
took place over a three year time frame; September 1999-Septemer 2002.
A very rational reason these results were
showing that officers who had a
Bachelor of Arts degree were doing
so well is possibly because they can
recount or relate to the coursework
they experienced in college and
compare it with the coursework they
begin doing in policing. Another
reason, I believe as an outsider,
would be maybe they receive a
higher pay grade. I know that police officers among other professions such as teachers, or
firefighters dont make a whole lot. But with a degree in something I feel that they should and
maybe they are receiving that award so to speak.
I believe that college education would give police officers exposure to more modern
technology, humanities, ethical issues, psychological problems, and knowledge on cultures,
religions, and other nationwide crimes. It would give police officers the chance to interact with
classmates, society, and do internships rather than just jumping right into the work force and
gaining experience. I feel the experience they gain should be taught before hand, so they have
the proper knowledge on how to handle the situation and use precautions. For example I watched

a video on a police officer hitting a suspect with his car full speed. The reason you ask? Because
this suspect had stolen a car, robbed a 7-11, tried lighting a building on fire, and stolen a gun
from a local Wal-Mart. The police officer thought the only way to stop the man from doing any
other harm to society was to hit him with the squad car. The police officer wasnt charged, they
got the suspect and everyone walked away fine from the accident. The big question is if it was an
ethical thing to do. I do not think it was, the officer could have been more education on the
situation and could have handled it a different way without the violence or full force hit to the
man.

The article by Louis Mayo, College Education and Policing, he states many reasons as to
why institutions require a college degree. They are as follows; Better behavioral and
performance characteristics, Fewer on-the-job injuries and assaults, Fewer disciplinary actions
from crashes and force allegations, Less use of sick time, Greater acceptance of minorities,
Decrease in dogmatism, authoritarianism, rigidity, and conservatism, Fewer citizen complaints,
Promotion of higher aspirations, Enhancement of minority recruitment. (Mayo, 2006) It also
states that a more exact reason is to enrich the professions status and reputation.
My most favorite part of the College Education and Policing article was when is said,
Incidents of police misconduct and abuse of power concern everyone in the profession, because
these incidents directly and indirectly lead to loss of public trust and confidence. (Mayo, 2006) I
could not agree with what Mayo was saying anymore. I completely agree that any misconduct,
from police officers, around the USA can lead to thousands of people to lose trust in police
officers and cause riots and disrupt the country. One example in our world today would be the
shootings between police officers and African-Americans. So many people dont look at the facts

and they just assume that their race is always in the right and that police officers are pigs and
are in the wrong. This shows a prime example of what Mayo is stating in his article. Maybe if
these police officers had a better education they would have more respect and have more people
from all races paying attention to the good instead of the bad.
I definitely have come to the conclusion that officers should have a higher education with
at least a two-year degree up to a four-year degree. I not only think that they will become more
educated in many aspects of police work from tons of courses available in college. But they will
also have a longer time to prepare and study up on their job instead of just being thrown into the
wolves so to speak. Mayo had the best article on the subject from my point of view. He was very
informative with evidence and specific goals that these police officers that have higher education
would reach. Bostroms research on his own department was fantastic to read about. He gave
specific details and numbers for his research and explained that there is definitely more research
to be done and that anyone should be open to doing so. Everyone will have his or her own
opinions and not all of society will agree, but when it comes down to it educating ourselves is the
best way to be fully prepared for whatever we step into.

Works Cited

Bostrom, M. (2005). The Influence of Higher Education on Police Officer Work Habits. The
Police Chief, 72(10). Retrieved April 14, 2015, from
http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&arti
le_id=722&issue_id=102005
Burns, M. (2010, September 2). Cops and College: Do Police Need Book Smarts? Retrieved
April 13, 2015.
Collins, M., Bennett, S., & Truxillo, D. (1998). College Education and Police Job Performance:
A Ten-Year Study. Public Personnel Management, 7(2). Retrieved April 14, 2015, from
https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1G1-21000993/college-education-and-policejob-performance-a-ten-year
Mayo, L. (2006, August 1). College Education and Policing. The Police Chief, 11-11.

*Images found at http://www.policechiefmagazine.org*