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Police Officers Require Higher Education

Ellie E. Villaruz

Salt Lake Community College

Police Officers Require Higher Education 2


The purpose of the paper is to show why it is important to have police officers to have a college-

level education and the impact that it may have on society. The paper begins with the

introduction of the current events in the country and world and the people of United States’

attitudes towards police officers. It is then followed by the history of the fathers of modern day

policing and their stance on education and policing. Then the paper goes on about how policing

was in its multiple eras and how it has shaped the people’s feelings towards policing throughout

the decades. Then it goes on about the biggest riots in history and how it has shaped the people’s

opinions towards the police. It then goes into the impacts a police officer with a college

education can make a difference backed by two Ph.D. level professors of criminal justice. The

paper is finally concluded with the opinions of the author.

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Police Officers Require Higher Education

The police and the communities they serve are living in an age of “make America great.”

In this country, school shootings are leaving many dead and wounded. The officer on site, in

uniform, and armed is scorned for not taking initiative and taking the gunner down. The people

parade for reforms in gun laws. It is in this country Black people are being arrested and murdered

by the white police. The African-American people protest and scream, “Black lives matter!” In

Vegas, a white man shoots down dozens of people during a concert. Halfway across the globe in

Syria, children are suffering from the chemical attack. The Americans fire back with a missile

attack. There lies a struggle for political power and the religious war continues between the

Christians and Muslims.

The people of the United States are afraid of being beaten up, arrested or even killed by

the police. During a routine stop, a black male is questioned. The black civilian pulls out his

phone, decides to record the situation and not follow the white officers orders. The people

around watch and surround them as they pull out their phones anticipating police brutality

screaming, “World Star!” and laughing. The public’s eyes are on the officer and the black man.

The situation intensifies. The officer calls for back up and the crowd grows restless and becomes

hostile. What is the officer going to do? Why are the people doing this?

The public has lost its trust in the police due to the recent disturbances within the United

States. Ethnicities other than white are experiencing racial-profiling. The police lack cross-

cultural leadership to be able to deal with the societal conflicts within a diverse community.

Their challenges are increasing due to the growth of multiculturalism. De-escalation techniques

can be can be performed if law enforcement officers are educated to better handle the diverse

members of their communities. With the growing multicultural population in the United States,

the current training may not be enough (Sereni-Massinger & Wood, 2016).
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The Law Enforcement profession began with key activists Sir Robert Peel of England,

the father of modern policing and August Vollmer, the father of American Policing. Both made

revolutionary changes in policing that are still utilized today. Sir Robert Peel established the

guidelines and ethical requirements the police must follow in order to be effective. August

Vollmer did not argue for the college level education of police officers, however, he was able to

bring the idea of the requirement of police having a college education. He commented:

“Obviously, the officer on the beat need not be specially skilled in either the mental,

biological or social sciences, nor should it be necessary for him to be intimately

acquainted with every phase of the humanities. But none of these can be overlooked in

the training of police officers if they are to have a broad, cultural, scientific and technical

background requisite for the performance of the modern officer’s duties (Paynich,


This was said during his time in 1876-1955. It has been more than sixty-three years and the

country has evolved. The country has made advancements in technology causing complex

crimes; and the population has increased and grown rich in culture, with different backgrounds

and behaviors.

The law enforcement profession has spanned multiple eras, including: the political era,

progressive era, and the current community-policing era. The political era consisted of the hiring

of the police on “bribes, nepotism and political appointments” (Pelfrey, 2000) rather than skills

and qualifications. The progressive era aimed to remove political involvement. The police

established a structured hierarchy, still used to today. The current community-policing era which

the people live in today is in chaos. The police are not as effective as they once were in fighting

crime (Paynich, 2009).

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Highly publicized and tragic confrontations between the police and civilians were evident

with events like that Watts Riots of 1965 and Student Riots of Ohio in 1970. The Watts riots

consisted of Negros experiencing police brutality from white officers. The riot left thirty four

people dead and it started when a motorist was pulled over for suspicion of reckless driving

(Pelfrey, 2000). This riot could have been prevented had the officer that stopped the individual

used proper communicative and de-escalation techniques. The black community returned fire

through chaos catalyzed by the white police force.

The student riots of Ohio were caused from the U.S. participation in the Vietnam War.

Four students were killed by a national guard which sparked a riot. The entire state became

involved. The campus police, Columbus Police, State Highway Patrol and the National Guard

were all called in and outnumbered (Paynich, 2009). This also could have been prevented had the

National Guardsman made the use of better judgement and prevented the use of deadly force.

This the first time televised acts of police brutality was seen at a number of these

demonstrations. The militarized response of the police to the chaos further increased the distrust

of the public with the police. This called for more community involvement in law enforcement,

standardization of police policy and procedures, and a better educated police force. Many police

commissions came together and agreed that the need for police to have higher education was

necessary (Paynich, 2009). The result of this revolutionary coming together was catalyzed by the

societal outrage and death of four students.

According to Professor Rebecca L. Paynich, M.A of criminal justice and Ph.D. of

political science summarizes the positive impacts on college education and policing. College-

educated officers have better communication skills, write better reports, more tolerant of citizens,

display clearer thinking, have a better understanding of policing and the criminal justice system
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and better comprehension of civil rights issues from multiple perspectives (Paynich, 2009).

These are qualities all police officers should have due to the nature of their profession of serving

the people.

College educated officers also adapt better to organizational change, are more

professional, have fewer administrative and personnel problems, are better able to utilize

innovative techniques, receive fewer citizen complaints, receive fewer disciplinary actions, have

fewer preventable accidents, took less sick time away from work, perform better in police

training, are less likely to use deadly force, are less cynical, are more open-minded and place a

higher value on ethical conduct (Paynich, 2009). A college-level officer with these qualities can

turn the occupation into a respected profession.

These college-educated officers report that they are better able to utilize employee

contacts, have a greater knowledge of the law, are better prepared for court, have higher quality

of performance on the job, have a higher level of problem-solving abilities, communicate better

and have better interpersonal working relationships, are better at resolving conflicts, are more

equipped to deal with criticism, change, workload and stress, and make better discretionary

decisions (Paynich, 2009). These proven facts show the necessary qualities needed to for police

officers to have job satisfaction and not feel ambiguous of their jobs and lifestyle.

Eugene Paoline, Ph.D., Professor, Graduate Program Director of Criminal Justice

compares police training and education. He proposes:

“…Therefore one might expect that college-educated officers would subscribe to broader

role orientations than their less-educated colleagues, that they would have more positive

attitudes toward citizens, and that they would be less aggressive. College-educated

officers also might expect to be more autonomous in exercising discretion, and to accept
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bureaucratic constraints with less equanimity, than would less highly educated officers,

thus we might expect them to be more favorably disposed toward selective enforcement

(Paynich, 2009).”

A college level police officer will be able to make a bigger difference than their uneducated


Throughout the decades, policing has gone through revolutionary changes. Policing

became a more structured organization and not under the influence of corrupt politics. Today, the

police are not as effective as they once were in fighting crime. The question is should the

education requirement for policing be mandatory. The answer is yes because it will turn the

occupational profession into a prestigious profession. August Vollmer was not wrong when he

suggested the requirement of a college-level program in the police education in 1917 (Loftus &

Price, 2016). Officers will be educated and earn the respect of the community and brass. They

will be able to adapt to changing diverse growing culture of the United States. They will also be

able to solve the problem to today’s modern society and complete their mission which is to fight

crime. The requirement of a college-level degree for a police officer should be a requirement in

the coming decade so that the current uneducated officer will be phased out in the near future.

This may prevent further corruption in the police force and facilitate in gaining the society’s trust

within their police force.

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Works Cited

Loftus, J., & Price, K. (2016). Police Attitudes and Professionalism. Administrative Issues

Journal: Connecting Education, Practice and Research, 53-73.

Paynich, R. (2009). The Impace of a College-Educated Police Force. Curry College: Curry


Pelfrey, W. (2000). Precipitating Factors of Paradigmatic Shift in Policing: The Origin of the

Community Policing Era. In Alpert and Piquer's Community Policing: Contemporary

Readings. Waveland Press.

Sereni-Massinger, C., & Wood, N. (2016). Improving Law Enforcement Cross Cultural

Competencies through Continue Education. Jornal of Education and Learning, 258-264.