A growing number of entry-level criminal justice practitioners have college degrees. This paper will explore whether or not law enforcement agencies should require applicants to have a post secondary degree as a condition of employment and will college-educated police officers will be resistant to organizational change.
Post Secondary Degree Requirements for Police Officers
Perceptions of what constitutes a qualified police officer have been crafted as a result of numerous television shows and movies. They are often portrayed as heroic, invincible, and possessors of brute strength. While some of these physical attributes are in fact expected and required of police officers, they are not the only ones and at times, may come secondary to alternative methods, such as the use of strong communication and critical thinking skills. Policing has changed immensely since the days of resolving issues with a night stick. There is a desire for today’s police officers to possess the educational capacity to develop and implement community policing initiatives. Additionally, there exists a desire to professionalize policing. This drive for professionalism has led to the desire for increased educational requirements (Brecci, 1994).
The emphasis on the need for police officers to have a post secondary education is not new. During the Political Era of policing, police officers were often politically appointed, regardless of their level of capacity to do the job. Forms of corruption like nepotism, bribes, and politically based decisions were commonplace. As such, the public’s perception of the police was that they were lawless and their trust and confidence soon eroded away. This era resulted in a need for reform. Spearheaded by August Vollmer, the former Chief of Police of Berkeley, California, the Reform Era was born. Vollmer sought to eliminate the link between politics and police. He viewed policing as a profession, which is evident by some of the ideas he developed. Vollmer was the first to stress the need for police officers to have college degrees (Strock, 2007).
While the Reform Era worked to professionalize police, as society became more complex, so did the role of the police officer. The Community Policing Era was developed as a result of the need to develop cooperation and positive relationships between the police and public. What developed out of this era was an essential element of community policing – public accountability. Police officers became accountable to their supervisors who in turn became accountable to the community. Accountability can be seen as an honest evaluation of achievement based on clearly defined objectives. Many of these objectives are defined by complex community and social problems; as such police officers require the capacity and flexibility to work on them in a variety of styles and employing a variety of strategies.
Louis A Mayo, Ph. D., Executive Director, Police Association...