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Do College Grads Make A Better Cop?

Do College Grads Make A Better Cop?

Photo Courtesy:  Beal College

Does requiring a cop to have a college education improve the quality of law enforcement? Minnesota says yes.

Minnesota is one of only two states in the nation to require a two-year degree to become a licensed police officer. However, policymakers and others still debate whether college courses directly affect the quality of law enforcement.

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Most of the country’s law enforcement agencies require only a high school diploma to become an officer. As of 2003, 9 percent of police agencies required a two-year degree, and 1 percent required a four-year degree.

Minnesota’s law enforcement application has some of the strictest requirements in the country. A minimum two-year degree is required from an approved Peace Officer Standards and Training program. After earning a two-year degree in any discipline, candidates must also earn a licensing certificate from an accredited school, according to Nate Grove, POST executive director.

Once that’s finished, candidates must take the licensing exam. Once licensed, every active and inactive police officer — including part-time officers — must complete a minimum 48 hours of continuing education every three years in order to keep their license.

Active officers are also required to train every year on use of force, and every five years in emergency vehicle operations and pursuit driving.

In 1977, Minnesota legislators established the nation’s first licensing system for police officers, according to the FBI. This created the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training. The board authorizes licenses and determines minimum education requirements for all new officers.

Some education experts and organizations have argued for even stricter education requirements. They argue that community-focused policing requires particular skill sets, such as critical thinking and reasoning, an understanding of the causes of socioeconomic crime, and race relations.

Others are skeptical that higher education makes a difference in an officer’s ability to perform.

James Densley, associate professor of criminal justice at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, co-authored a study that looked into law enforcement hiring practices and the role of higher education in policing.

Simply having a college degree might not be a good indicator of how well someone performs in the actual profession, Densley said. “Quality, not the quantity of the degree, matters most.”

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  • ahaz

    For me the question comes down to this. Who do I think has the higher probability of having the best judgement when making law enforcement decisions and in particular, deadly force decisions. It concerns me greatly that our society allows our police departments to hire someone with a high school diploma, give them a few weeks of training and a gun, and then grant them authority to exercise force and deadly force against citizens. Sound like a recipe for potential disaster and with over 1000 citizens killed yearly by police in this country, lack of highly educated and trained officers may be contributing to this problem.

  • Chas

    It certainly doesn’t hurt because they come with added knowledge and less to learn but the reality is if someone has it in them to be a good cop they don’t have to have college to get there. I was a college educated cop and worked with great cops without degrees.

  • Shane Blagg

    Not necessarily, but I believe it’s a beneficial tool to have. I myself do not have a degree. I have 20 plus years on the job and have been passed over on promotions by less experienced officers that had some college. I believe that sometimes the more qualified is automatically looked over if they have no degree. Back to the question, “Do college grads make a better cop?” College makes not a cop, only time on the job and character. If I’m in a tight situation I’d rather have one experienced on the job cop then ten fresh out of college grads with degrees. Departments should not make their final decision based on a degree; but should do a background check on their character and other areas. A degree is a plus but doesn’t determine if you will make a better officer. Stay safe my brothers and sisters in blue.

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