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Bradley Pinkston
Prof. Cupello
Criminal Justice 1010

College Education in Police Work

As we move further into the Twenty First Century life is becoming more and more complex.
Social institutions try to keep up with an ever changing landscape of new technology and norms. On
and individual level, people everywhere network their understanding of these new complexities
through social media and solidify their understanding through higher education. If we, as a society, are
to keep pace with the changes and keep a stride with the advancements and to keep our civilized world
moving forward we must do these things on all social fronts.

Now more than ever the world is in need of an educated workers force. The benefits of having a
college education prove to hold higher rewards than that of a high school diploma. On average, a
college graduate will make $17,000 per year more than their peers with no higher education. (Pew
Research Center, 2014 Feb.) Overall, the wellbeing of person over their lifespan is improved by a
college education. A higher income brings the benefit of better healthcare, safer working environment
and an overall better diet. Today, for the Millennial generation, the requirement for a college education
is much greater than past generations. With more degrees being earned in this generation the
competition is much greater, about 34% of Millennial generation have at least a bachelors degree.
(Pew Research Center, 2014 Feb) Many careers are requiring more out of its applicants. A college
education is now the standard. Technology and an ever complex way of life make the high school
diploma less and less valuable in the 21st century.

A college education has become a requirement for many positions. In present day economy
even careers that typically did not require higher education in the past are now shifting gears in favor of
degrees. Police work, as a career, has not adopted the idea that a college education should be a
requirement or benefit to its own performance. Currently 83% of U.S. police agencies only require a
high school diploma, whereas only 8% require only some college education. The lowest being 1% of
agencies requiring four year degrees for the applicants. (Melinda Burns. Cops and College: Do Police
Need Book Smarts?. 2010 September)

The current requirements for most local police agencies throughout the United States are pretty
basic. Requirements are a minimum age of 21 and be a citizen of the United States with no criminal
record. Most police recruits attend a police academy which typically last 4 6 months. The academy
prepares the recruits for active duty. The recruits are taught civil rights, laws and investigation skills.
Though college degrees are not required for most departments, it increases the chance of being hired
and for advancements in the career. As for State or Federal agencies a college education is more
relevant to the hiring process and work. (Bureau of Labor Statistics. Protective Service. Jan 2014)

Since 1970 the U. S. Federal government has offered and funded police curriculum programs to
be created in universities and community colleges. The funding for police departments to provide
college education for their officers has been established. With all the efforts from government and
local support the need for a higher education for police officers still does not seem necessary. Most
careers in the United States have had to adapt to the advances in technology and how to use it for their
benefit. The world is advancing at a fast rate and society needs to keep pace with these advances. The
social institutions based around protecting and serving the citizens of society would be better equipped

with a higher education.

To most, police work requires street skills than book skills. This might be true for some
aspects of the job, just as it is for any type of work. Every career has its own unique skill set to learn. In
police work field training is required regardless of education. It is proven that police officers who have
college education are more in touch with ethics and communicate better with citizens. In addition,
those who are educated are rated higher from their superiors and have better relations with their
community. College educated officers tend to have less authoritarian beliefs than officers who have no
college experience. The officers that have college education get higher rating in performance review
and receive fewer complaints from citizens. (Theron Bowman. Educate to Elevate. Police Association
for college. 2006)

For the past 16 years, the Arlington Police Department in Arlington, Texas has seen great results
with having a degree requirement for their officers. The department has seen improvements in officers
performance on the job. The department has experienced a decrease in on job injuries, citizen
complaints and disciplinary actions. The higher education requirement for this department has shown
increase in minority and female recruits. For the Arlington Police Department the diversity of its
officers has expanded to 11% Hispanic, 12% percent African-American, and 5% Asian/Pacific
Islanders and Native American heritage officers. (Theron Bowman. Educate to Elevate. Police
Association for College 2006) In addition, the department has experienced reduction discrimination
complaints from minorities and women in the work place and on the streets.

The college requirements has equipped Arlington officers with computer literacy and with
academic skills, leaving open space for training in tactics and on the field police training. Having these

entry level skills help officers understand the latest technology and help them be more effective.
Detective Liz Edmonds Hayes states The extensive amount of writing required for obtaining my
degree in journalism equipped me with the communication skills that I rely on in my job as a detective.
She says that her education has greatly improved her writing skills in all of her paper work from case
reports, search warrants and written statements.(Detective Liz Edmonds Hayes Testimonial. Educate
to Elevate. Police Association for college. 2006)

Others officers in the department have said that their college education helps them become
better problem solvers in the field and in the office. This statement, appearing in nearly all the
testimonies from Arlington officers, says that their overall communication skill have improved. That
with the education they have become better communicators with citizens, government, and with ethnic
groups. Their overall experience in college helps them communicate better with people with different
languages, varied beliefs and unique ideas. The final result is that officers are more excepting and more
in touch with the community they serve. (Arlington Police Department Testimonies. Educate to
Elevate. Police Association for college. 2006)

An officer entering the force with a higher education in hand seems to clear the way for that
individual to have the ability to learn to be a better police officer. The officer having the language,
quantitative and reasoning skills, the path to having a better-rounded police officer seems to be easier.
Learning the nuanced skills needed to be an effective police officer appears to be better supported with
the skills from having a higher education. The future of law enforcement would be better served with
more on hand knowledge in the officers leading the charge. Efforts need to be made to see that peace
keepers are equipped to defend against the crime of the twenty first century. Knowledge is power, and
equipping our officers with knowledge empowers them to do the police work now and in the future.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-

15 Edition, Police and Detectives, Retrieved from

Theron Bowman. 2001-06 Police Association for College Education. Educate to Elevate. 2006.

Retrieved from

Paul Taylor, Kim Parker, Rich Morin, Rick Fry, Eileen Patten, Anna Brown. PEW Research

Center. The Rising Cost of Not Going to College. Feb 11 2014. Retrieved from

Melinda Burns. Pacific Standard, The Science of Society. Cops and College: Do Police Need

Book Smarts?. September 02 2010. Retrieved from