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Jack Coughlin

Professor Huizar

Writing 1102

12 March 2017

In todays communities and even police departments there has been a lot of uproar about

police brutality, or police officers handling situations the wrong way. These mishandlings have

caused many people to claim that police officers are targeting specific genders, races, or

nationalities. Many argue this is due to a lack of training and education that the officers receive.

If there were more educational opportunities for police, they would properly know how to handle

the tough situations that are thrown their way, and it will limit the amount of problems between

citizens and officers in our society.

Education is not very common when people investigate police shootings. However,

research has been completed that looks at the overall impact of police officers education levels

and what type of force they choose to use in the situations that they become involved in. After

lots of research studies have shown that a college educated and a high school educated police

officers were not much different. However, there was a different between the two when use of

force was applied. A college educated police officer were more than 30% less likely to shoot then

those officers without college education. A report by Patrick Kelly, who was the chairman of the

Florida Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission. His argument was why agencies

should require all recruits to be college graduates. The report was entitled College Education as

an Entry Level Requirement for Law Enforcement. His research shows that officers with less

than 2 years of college were up to 4 times as likely to face discipline by the commission on
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violations versus the officers that had more than 2 years of college education. It also found that

officers with only a high school education were 3 times as likely to face discipline as those with

a college degree.

A Michigan State study found that officers who have a college degree tend to use less

force than a police officer without one. Arrests, searches and the use of force are the main three

decision making points for police officers. All police officers make arrest and participate in

searches of cars, houses and persons. However, the problem appears when is it appropriate to

use force. Police officers receive minimal training on when it is appropriate to use force. I

believe that is when training or some form of secondary education comes into play. In my

opinion police officers do not have the proper education. Would they use an act of force as

quickly if they obtained a college degree? Studies say yes. After researching many different

articles. This is because they possess the knowledge on how to effectively communicate with the

citizens, rather than just turn straight to using force. Even though the idea of educating police

officers is nothing new. It has been a hot topic since the early 1900s that police officers should

have more education beyond a high school diploma. (Paoline & Terrill, 2007) Like I stated

previously, studies have shown that better police performance comes from having a college

education. I feel like if an officer had a college degree that the public or an individual citizen

would feel better about being pulled over by an officer that had a degree than one without.

Police officers having a degree became very popular in the 1960s and 70s because of the

whole civil rights movement that was going on in this time period. Society felt that police

officers were targeting minority races very similar to the situations we have today. During this

time period police departments used more of a military approach on how they handled things but

this changed in 1967. Officers would reform to effectively adapt to complex tasks in a complex
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society by raising educational standards and reduce discriminatory behavior. (Carter & Sapp,

1990). Many people at this time recommended that all police officers obtain a 4-year degree.

These people recommended that officers have a degree because they were truly concerned. The

recommendations helped because the Omnibus Crime Control Act was enacted which did many

things to help officers today. One of those being the creation of Law Enforcement Education

Program. This program helped officers by providing federal funding to universities to come up

and create law enforcement curriculums to try and get more police officers into these

universities. The Omnibus Crime and Control Act was the thing that helped the future of police

officers. Before this act was created there were only 184 colleges and universities that were

offering law enforcement based programs. By 1976 that number jumped to 1,070 institutions.

(Sherman, 1978) Even though programs were provided for police officers to better their

education, police departments still didnt require an education requirement.

Even though the great strides were taken in providing the tools necessary for officers, the

education requirement were still low in regards to the hiring process, which went against the

suggestion from 1967 commission report. According to the National Planning Association, in

1975, only 6% of agencies required any sort of college education of their results and less than

1% required a 4-year degree (National Planning Association,1978)

The 1980s would see more attempts to try and mend issues between law enforcement

agencies and the citizens that they worked for. This is when the idea of community policing

really started to come together. This approach was simple. The strategy was changed from a

numbers driven approach to more of a problem solving approach. Fewer tickets and more

answers were made to be the focus (Goldstein,1979; Trojanowics,1994; Xu, Felder, &

Flaming,2005). The roles were to be changed and adapted to focus more on community issues
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that overwhelmed their lives. Rapport building was a cornerstone to this philosophy to help

breakdown the walls that were present. It would help the agencies identify problems that were

brought from the citizens and find solutions working together collectively. A national survey that

was conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum examined the overall state of the

education levels of police (Carter&Sapp,1990). The findings were quite promising when

community policing strategies were adopted by agencies. The role of police officer acquired

more responsibility, which in turn forced them to become better decision makers, come up with

newer ideas as an individual and become more empathetic towards others, especially minorities.

The relevancy of having a college education became greater than had ever been seen

before(Carter&Sapp,1990).

The reluctance of agencies requiring a college education is still very evident even after it being

identified back in 1931 in the Wickersham Commission. Two researchers attempted to explain

this disengagement. Bell (1979) and Hawley (1998) stated that the reluctance from the agencies

was almost dictated from the communities they served. Factors such as being a representative of

the community, or even having a minimum education requirement would be discriminatory

towards women and minorities that would prevent administrators from doing just that. The

applicant pool and the amount of money that they can offer recruits was another major factor

discussed. Trying to remain competitive with private industries was and is still difficult to

overcome in some instances (Carter, Sapp 1990).

The last thing any citizen talks about an officer involved shooting is what the level of

higher education the officer had, if any. Paoline (2000). Looked at the effects of education in

police work deeply. During that time, the researcher found that officers with some higher
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education and some with a 4-year degree were less likely to fall back onto verbal commands

versus physical force unlike their less educated counterparts with only a high school education.

During a meta-analysis of several different studies that was conducted by Aamodt (2004)

an explanation was summed up during the examination, Better educated officers perform better

in the academy, receive higher supervisor evaluations of job performance, have fewer

disciplinary problems and accidents, are assaulted less often, use force less often, and miss fewer

days of work that their less educated counterparts McElvin and Kposowa (2008) used data from

186 officer involved shootings in and around Southern California and concluded that officers that

have a college degree are 41% less likely to fire their weapons than officers with a high school

diploma. This is because they possess the knowledge on how to effectively communicate with

the citizens, rather than just turn straight to using force.

However, there has been some research completed that looks at the overall impact of

police officers education levels and what type of force they choose to use in the situations that

they become involved in. In research that was conducted by Janelekha (1999) there was no

relationship found between the average officers education level and the amount of complaints

that are received by the departments that they work for. There was also research completed by

Peterson (2001) that found that there were no connections between the amounts of complaints

received, arrest numbers or the amount of force that was used during those arrests. On the flip

side during a meta-analysis that was completed by Aamodt (2004), it was determined those

officers who were better educated did in fact end up using less force more often. They also found

that officers with high school diplomas were much likely to use verbal coercion than that of

officers that had college educations. There was no difference between officers that had some

college and bachelors degree and there was no difference between the groups studied when it
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came to using force. Once there were other factors that came into play though in regards to the

situation and the officers who were involved, educational groups were identified and found that

there was a difference between college educated officers and high school educated officers when

use of force was applied. McElvain and Kposowa (2008) stated college educated officers were

more than 30% less likely to shoot than their counterparts without college educations.

I feel like if an officer can go through 4 years of college then that themselves separates

them self already because they are committed to their grades and want to be successful in life.

They went through the long nights of studying and hard classes. Therefore, they are going to be

better at problem solving than your average officer with no degree, and they are going to be able

to communicate better. Also college helps you with academic knowledge of course, but it helps

you to deal with real life experience. My reasoning behind this is because in college you meet

many different people from different backgrounds. That itself helps because you never know

who you are going to meet in the community. I relate education to experience because a high

school educated officer would get better as a police officer through experience while a college

educated police officer could already have that experience based off his knowledge that he

learned throughout college. A college educated officer may not have the toughness or the hard-

nosed police officer mentality that others may have, but I feel like if something bad were to

happen, then they would be better at taking their time, not to panic and figure out in their head

what they need to do. I relate it back to problem solving skills. Thats what college helps you

with because they slam you all at one time with work. Therefore, you have to write down what

you need to do on certain days to make sure you get everything done. College may not be for

everybody, but it helps you with your everyday problem solving skills that jobs and people look

for later in life.


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Overall I respect police officers to every extent. It takes a special person to go out every day and

not know if you are going to come home that day to your family. That is what makes police

officers stand out in society today. However, they are frowned up in the communities today

because of the recent uproar with police brutality. Of course you are going to have the select few

officers in todays world who are not good officers, but that doesnt mean all police officers are

bad. In my opinion I would say 99% of officers are good while 1% of police officers are bad.

However, that 1% is all of the officers we here about. Why? They say its police brutality, but is it

the way police officers are trained? Or is it that police officers do not have the education that

they should have? In my opinion I think it is that police officers do not have the proper

education. To me those extra 2-4 years or even more depending on the degree of education will

teach and officer if he should use that amount of force, or instead of turning to force right away

will he be able to communicate with that citizen and calm him down instead of jumping directly

to force. I believe yes because college will teach him to communicate with people and learn

when it is right and when it is wrong to use proper force on somebody. That is why I believe they

should have more education because I feel like a college education will teach officers the proper

skills and I would say the average citizen in the community would feel better if all police

officers had a degree of some sort. It also helps because just not anybody can be a police officer

if they had to get a degree. Today if your records clean and obtain a high school diploma you can

be hired. Which is not right, if you had to get a degree and go through harsh schooling to become

a police officer then I bet the act of force would go down.

After growing up around law enforcement all my life the field interest me very much.

My father has been a police officer since before I was born, and I would like to follow in that

same path which is why I chose this topic to write about. After the shootings and many cases of
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police brutality I wanted to research and state my opinion on why police officers should have

more education before they enter the police force. Now that I have researched many articles I

still believe officers should have some sort of degree before they enter. All of the studies have

shown that officers with a degree are nothing but better than those who do not obtain a degree. I

hope one day police departments will change their guidelines, and hopefully after I graduate I

can become a police officer myself.


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Bell, D.J. (1979). The police role and higher education. Journal of Police Science and

Administration, 7, 467-475

Carter, D.L., & Sapp, A.D. (1990). The evolution of higher education in law enforcement:

Preliminary findings from a national study. Journal of Criminal Justice Education,

1(1),59-85

Cops and College: Do Police Need Book Smarts?" Pacific Standard, 2 Sept. 2010. Web. 12 Mar.

2017.

Goldstein, H. (1979). Improving policing: A problem-oriented approach. Crime and

Delinquency, 25,236-258

Hawley, T.J. (1998). The collegiate shield: Was the movement purely academic? Police

Quarterly, 1 (3), 35-59

National Planning Association. (1978). A nationwide survey of Law enforcement criminal

justice personnel need and resources. Washington, DC: United States Government

Printing Office.

McElvain, J.P., & Kposowa, A.J (2008). Police officer characteristics and the likelihood of using

deadly force. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 35, 505-521.

Paoline, E.A., III, Myers, S.M & Worden, R. E. (2000). Police Culture, Individualism, and

community policing: Evidence from two police departments Justice Quarterly, 17,

575,605.

Sherman, L. (1978). Legal issues in in law enforcement, in Cohn, A (Ed.). The Future of

Policing, Sage Publications, Beverly Hills, CA, pp121-149


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