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Jasmine Guanzon
Criminal Justice 1010
Professor Cupello

Do Police Officers Need a College Education?

Currently in the U.S. there are few law enforcement agencies that mandate more than a
high school diploma for an entry-level officer. As recently as 2003, only 9 percent of police
departments nationally required a 2-year college degree and 1 percent a 4-year degree (Hilal,
2010). In 1978 Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (Minnesota POST),
identified a 2-year college degree as the minimum education requirement for all new entry-level
officers (Hilal, 2010). Currently it is believed that a mere two states require at least a 2-year
college degree.
A Police officer is required to adapt to a lot of different situations, their job description
could never be defined as one or two things, but a plethora of things. From social worker, to
counselor, protector of the people or mentor, regardless of what they are called for, they jump
into action without question. This could be a reason as to why a college education from an
officer has come into light more so than before. The primary mission of police work is to protect
and serve. How best to achieve this as communities change, strategies and tactics of law
enforcement improve, and the expectations of police continue to grow, remains unanswered
(Hilal, 2010).
Police scholars and practitioners have long debated the impact of a higher education on
police performance. The call for higher education and improved police training originated with
recommendations from the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement (Manis,
2008). It was to be believed that if an increase in education standards was required the quality of

policing and training would improve. Though extensive studies have been done throughout the
years on what the impact of a better education might have on police performance, there has still
be no precise standard of requirements nationwide.
Perhaps due to recent complaints happening around the country, it is time to reevaluate
the current police training. When in a position where so much discretion is allowed, perhaps it is
in the best interest of the people that an officer is required a higher level of education. That way
they are making decisions with a better level of knowledge, from schooling a better means of
communication and additionally an overall better understanding of the best choice to be made.
When put in a position to make a split second decision, those additional tools theyve learned can
be applied more appropriately and possibly more effectively.
Currently there are many studies done in regards to education of police officers and the
effects it can have, one study in 1978 was done on the turnover of Michigan State police. This
study found that educated police were three times more likely to leave the job than those without
a degree (Jones, Jones, & Prenzler, 2005). Additionally it was concluded that this was in part due
to the dissatisfaction with promotions and expectations within the agency. It may explain the
reasoning for why there isnt a demand for a higher education, if the turnover rate for an officer
may increase with higher education, then it would stand to reason as to why this expectation of
education isnt there.
More recently however a study was done in Queensland, Australia in 2005 that countered
the study done in 1978. This research showed that although those with a degree were more
satisfied with their pay than those without a degree, the results showed no significant difference
between the two as far as job attitude, job satisfaction, or intention to leave, in fact commitment
to the job was also the same. Moreover it was believed that degree holders were in fact more

satisfied with their job (Jones, Jones, & Prenzler, 2005), however in conclusion the authors
advised that more research would be needed as the future seemed to be heading more in the
education direction.
There is an idea that if cooperation with the public can be secured that the need for
stricter force would be significantly lesser, that trust in our officers would result in a more
humane treatment of the public. It is believed however that in this day and age, this idea has been
lost and from this loss we gain a serious sense of mistrust and unfair treatment on both sides. In
2012 research was done on the use of force in relation to education, it was thought one personal
characteristic that is both important and under-studied is an officers level of education
(Chapman, 2012). A report of the US commission on Civil Rights noted that a college degree
requirement would help restore public confidence in police with proper training, who are less
likely to succumb to temptations of deviant behavior (Chapman, 2012).
Additional research concluded that police officers with a college education were less
likely to have complaints filed against them compared with officers of a high school education.
These researchers even went so far as to study those with a two year in contrast to a four year
degree and concluded that those without a four year degree were more likely to generate a higher
number of formal complaints, this researched included not only the level of education but
included information such as years of experience and age to conclude its findings (Manis, 2008).
In opposition to this idea, researchers have argued that there is no net gain to the police
force having better-educated officers, they have contended that advanced education is seen
primarily as a means of leaving the force, hence decreasing commitment and increasing turnover.
A continued idea of opposition as well has stated that there is no relationship between

educational level officers reports of use of force, number of arrest, or citizen complaints in
contrast to that of a typical officer education level (Chapman, 2012).
It is my belief that many factors of policing impact the way that officers act, I dont
believe it can be strictly pinpointed to education, or a more effective training method. I do
however think that you can educate any person and they can still do wrong and be deviant. That
is where I think a better understanding of a persons character should be studied, spending time
around these people who are training to gather a better idea and feel for who they are. Although I
can say that I think these things are important and I do in fact believe that an officer should be
required some level of education outside of a high school diploma. For an officer I think a two
year degree is not an unreasonable request, requiring a lot of communication type classes and
psychology would help them deal with the public better. As far as a ranking system, I do in fact
believe that as promotions come so should education as far as a Sergeant or Lieutenant perhaps a
requirement of a two year along with additional courses should be a requirement. As far as a
Captain I would feel a four year degree would be efficient and to be a Chief I dont think it
would be asking too much to require a Masters degree. When I say a degree I think it should
certainly be a degree majoring in that specific line of duty, Criminal Justice or Criminology.
With higher education should come higher salary, what we pay our officers now is appalling,
someone who puts their lives on the line day in and day out should be rewarded with the
appropriate pay, with more responsibilities, more pay should be extended.

Chapman, C. (2012). Use of force in minority communities is relation to police education, age,
experience, and ethnicity. Police Practice and Research, 421-436.
Hilal, S. M. (2010). The Minnesota Police Education Requirement. A Recent Analysis, 17-21.
Jones, D., Jones, L., & Prenzler, T. (2005). Tertiary Education, Commitment, and Turnover in Police Work.
Police Practice and Research, 49-63.
Manis, J. A. (2008). Exploring the impact of police officer education level on allegations of police
misconduct. International Journal of Police Science & Management, 509-523.
Ozel, A. B. (2009). The effect of educational differences on the level of job satisfaction in police officers
in Turkey. International Journal of Police Science & Management, 358-365.