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Police Officers and College Degrees

Criminal Justice

John Hill

Kevin VanOrden

The question of whether police should have a college education is one that could be argued forever. It is something that I have given a lot of thought to as of late. It is a topic of discussion that comes up often in my group of friends as well. It is interesting to see the mentality of those hoping to become police officers and those who are working towards other types of employment. Among the different opinions are a few different responses including, yes they should have a college education, no it’s not necessary, and the third is it should be encouraged but not required.

There are benefits already offered to many officers for having received a college degree. Many departments will pay a certain amount each month for graduating college, with each degree paying more. With the extra pay it for sure isn’t a bad idea, if you are able to, to seek that degree. Other than the pay there are many other benefits to going to college and gaining that education and the degree. It allows you to have something to fall back on if something were to happen that pushed you out of a career in law enforcement. Also there is an untold amount of experience and skill that is gained during the college. A person is able to mature and grow into a person that can handle most any situation that they face. Most all companies are now requiring its new employees to be college educated. They are looking for someone who has learned, not necessarily what they will be doing in their career, but how to be organized, manage their time, work with others and on their own. These are just some of the things that most companies are looking for when they hire a new employee. Often times they will lay off senior employees, who don’t have a degree, to open room for a new employee who doesn’t have the experience but does have the degree. There is something to say about so many companies who are seeking to replace experience with degrees.

On the other hand there are many benefits to not requiring cops to have a degree. Not going to college allows officers to begin their careers earlier in life, at a time when they are faster, their reactions are quicker, and their minds are sharper. They can focus on being the best officer possible, learning all that they can from their instructors in the classroom and their field training officers. Then, while all the classroom and hands on experience is fresh in their minds they are able to hit the streets and hopefully make a difference in the community where they work. Having to work to earn a degree prior to becoming an officer would more than likely result in far fewer people applying for a job as a cop. Many people turn to law enforcement as a means to a career without having to deal with going to school. It allows them to do something that they can use to take care of their families and won’t have to worry about working as well as going to school, like so many others do in different careers.

With the many pros and cons regarding the question of whether police should be required a degree or not, my feelings side with requiring the degree. I feel that all the many different things that are gained by going to school far out way any argument towards not going to school. The experience that is gained from attending classes, working with others, managing your time and everything else that is learned in college is something that will benefit every officer in the field as well as those they are sworn to protect and serve. Being in the classroom with so many other students will open their minds to the different prospective and ideas that their classmates have. After learning how different people react and feel towards different situations the officers will be best prepared to deal with those situations when they arise on the street. There are many companies who only require a degree regardless of what it the focus may be. I feel that with the police as well as any other position that requires a degree, it should be closely related to the position that will be held by that individual.

Regarding which type of degree should be required I think would depend on which positions the person is applying for. It could be separated out with lesser degrees being required for lower levels of the police departments with higher degrees being required for higher positions. At the minimum patrolmen should have earned an associate degree, detectives, sergeants, and lieutenants should be required to have at the minimum a bachelor degree. Higher positions such as captains and chiefs should need a master’s degree. Implementing this regulation would be very difficult and time consuming. Some ideas would be to allow those who are already employed to continue without gaining a degree, but encouraging it and creating benefits for those who do. There could also be tuition assistance given to those who are going to school earning a degree that will further their career. When looking for new recruits to hire there would be fewer to choose from but they would be higher qualified individuals. Every new officer would be better qualified to deal with life on the street.

I feel that requiring a degree the officers of the future would live a much higher standard and there would be far fewer issues that now keep a dark shadow over many police departments. Much of the corruption and scandals, the complaints and the negative attitude towards police would likely lesson and maybe someday disappear all together. It is hard to say that a college degree would solve all the problems surrounding the police in America, but it would clearly prove to be beneficial to the country.

Generally those with a degree are paid more, and the same should go for officers who have a degree. The higher degree that an officer has the more they should be paid. They have put in the time and effort to increase their knowledge and to become better people.

Requiring police to have a degree would be a very difficult thing to implement. But it can and should be done. All it takes is for those who are in charge to set the rules and then with the backing of the ‘brass’ within the department as well as the city administration. There have been many other sweeping changes that Americas police departments have undergone which we have all benefited from. The change to requiring a degree is possible.

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