Why Police Departments Should Not Impose A College Degree Requirement On Applicants for Law Enforcement Officer Positions




Mays, David

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Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT)



Professionalization of policing is a noble goal that many have sought to implement through increased educational standards of police officers. This movement has gained popularity and often leads to implementation of a college degree as a pre-employment qualification which is detrimental to an agency’s recruiting efforts. The author does not dispute the value of higher education and degree attainment but asserts that a better tactic for improving policing can be found through incentivizing college degrees through pay stipends for varying education levels and subsidization of degree attainment by in service officers. The origins of the professional movement are traced to give a historical perspective on the evolution increasing police educational standards for law enforcement. The author then examines the evolution of this educational increase to the present day. The following arguments against increasing the pre-employment educational standard are examined: the unintended consequences of an increase in minimum educational standards which causes a reduction in available qualified applicants for entry level police positions; a college degree is not necessary to guarantee success in the police academy nor in active police service; college graduates require additional financial resources in the form of beginning base pay; a college degree requirement reduces minority applicants for policing. These points are weighed against counterpoints regarding the increase in societal education levels and the documented decrease in force used by college educated officers. The conclusion drawn shows the value in incentivizing and subsidizing educational achievement by officers after employment as opposed to requiring this educational standard pre-employment.


Police training, Police--recruiting, Employee selection