Should all police be required to have tertiary qualifications?The perspectives on police officers on higher education is a degree necessary for the performance of police officer’s university degrees for police officers have been a subject for many years. Few qualitative studies have addressed issues pertaining to whether or not police officers (of all ranks) believe a college degree is important. Additionally, little is known regarding job satisfaction/dissatisfaction among officers with different levels of educational attainment within the policing field.
A qualitative analysis of police officers’ belief and opinions pertaining to the worth of a college education in relation to police performance and behaviour was conducted. police officers believe a college degree aids them in job performance and behavioural issues related to their occupations. (Lincoln & Guba, 1981). In 1974, 47% had at least one year of university (Police Foundation, 1979). Two decades later, in 1990, 65% of police officers had at least one year of university; 23% had attained a four-year degree (Carter & Sapp, 1990). Sixty-one police officers were interviewed for this qualitative study.
This was a non-random convenience sample of selected police officers. Interested participants were recruited through Southeast Missouri State University’s Criminal Justice Department’s undergraduate and graduate internship programs. In-depth, structured interviews (1-1.5 hours each) were held in the researcher’s office and/or in conference call rooms at the police departments. Participating officers represented 16 different police departments (medium-large size) from two Midwestern states. Over 85% of the participants were male (86.9%), whereas, (13.1%) were female. Of the officers interviewed, 52 (85.2%) were Caucasian and six (9.8%) were African American. Regarding the participants’ number of years in policing. Interview Questions In addition to routine questions addressing demographic, career development and rationales for entering the policing field, and perspective levels of job and career satisfaction, the following questions and issues were explored: 1. As far as education and policing, is university education necessary to become an effective police officer? 2. How and why do officers make career choices to become involved in policing?3. What is the best educational requirement for police officers and why? 4. Is there a relationship between a university education and job satisfaction for police officers? 5. Is it harmful or helpful for agencies to mandate four-year degree requirements?6. What do you think about the difference between two- and four-year degrees as pertain to policing? 7. What do you think about the relationship between education and job satisfaction for police officers?8. Do you think it hurts agencies that mandate four-year degree educational requirements? Do you think applicant pools are smaller than in the past? To gain better information from the people at hand themselves and to see what they thought were the best ways/solutions.As I think a university degree is necessary. Members of the community police officers deal with on the streets, are fairly educated and they aren’t going to have any kind of respect if you don’t have an education. Having the university education required helps you to be a better police officer as you are able to investigate scenes and put into words more clearly what happened. Scholars have examined the impact that education has on police practice and performance for nearly 100 years (Finckenauer, 2005). August Vollmer, police chief in Berkeley, California from 1905 to 1932, became the foremost advocate of increased educational standards (Wilson, 1953). He believed that additional education would make officers more effective in serving the community, and he hoped that all police departments would require a bachelor’s degree for police recruits (Carte & Carte, 1975). He noted in a letter that if this occurred, Do you not believe that the entire police service in America would be measurably improved? (Carte & Carte, 1975: 69). A college degree would most effectively allow officers to act independently to meet the array of needs in their beat. Since Vollmer expected all officers to be the chief of their beat, they needed to have the educational skills to serve the community (Carte & Carte, 1975). Several national panels echoed Vollmer’s idea, beginning with the Wickersham Commission (1931). In their report on policing, which Vollmer largely wrote, they argued rampant misconduct in policing was largely a result of poorly educated and trained patrol officers and chiefs. The Commission report lamented the current state of police education, noting, for example, that over half of Los Angeles officers did not even have a high school diploma (Wickersham Commission, 1931). To follow through on these recommendations, Vollmer helped develop the first school of criminology at the University of California, he was a professor at the University of Chicago, and he influenced and encouraged nearly a dozen schools on the west coast to start teaching police and criminology courses (Wilson, 1953). Despite this push for increased education from Vollmer, most departments continued to use minimal educational requirements, rarely requiring more than a high school diploma (Paoline & Terrill, 2007). 10 The report of the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice (1967: 279) even more explicitly called for increased standards for police officer education, making the recommendation that the ultimate aim of all police departments should be that all personnel with general enforcement powers have baccalaureate degrees. Similar recommendations were made by the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals (1973). As the Commission notes (1973: 327), twenty years ago the high school diplomas were a significant educational achievement; it is not today. To continue recruiting at this level of education is to invite mediocrity; it may lead to the detrimental belief that almost anyone can be a policeman. The Commission argued that all police officers should have a university degree by 1982, and advanced graduate degrees should be required for those with command positions.Without exception, all agreed to anticipate, in principle, that university education is good for police. However, it was revealed that Australian police organisations do not share a national perspective regarding the most appropriate design, curriculum and delivery of education courses for police. Due to the varying requirements of each Australian police organisation, there are differences between groups in their approach to curriculum understanding and the delivery of education courses for managers. Both police managers and academics indicated that there is active collaboration between their police organisations and universities. In addition, numerous articulation arrangements are now in place, with each police group having different articulation agreements in place and collaborating with universities to varying degrees. Although, in 1990, the NPPIAC indicated there was some consensus among police commissioners pertaining to police education, there are now many differences between Australian police jurisdictions. While all police managers indicated their organisations encourage their members to undertake both internal education courses and university courses that are relevant to their needs, each police jurisdiction goes about this in a unique manner and places a different level of importance on it. Clearly, educational requirements for police are varied and often specialised as police undertake many more roles and specialised functions than previously. Although most Australian police organisations do not necessarily require a university degree for police seeking promotion, and whilst the completion of university is still voluntary, it is viewed favourably. In some jurisdictions it is only the new recruits who are required to undertake various education and training courses when they join the police. This is perhaps counter intuitive as when police become more senior and move into management positions, they require a number of essential skills including planning, organising, leading, controlling, communicating, decision making, budgeting and labour relations skills (Wilson and McLaren 1972) that are enhanced through the completion of university studies.University education encourages reflective attributes that become more relevant to the job functions of police managers who are no longer performing strictly operational duties and are required to be more strategic in their thinking (Roberg, Crank and Kuykendall 2000). In sum, it is argued that a college-educated officer has a broader comprehension of civil rights issues from legal, social, historical, and political perspectives. Moreover, these officers have a broader view of policing tasks and a greater professional ethos, thus their actions and decisions tend to be driven by conscience and values, consequently lessening the chance of erroneous decisions. If these arguments are valid, the logical conclusion is that the college-educated officer would be less likely to place the department in a liability situation. (Carter & Sapp, 1989:162)The demeanour in which a police officer conducts his/her job duties and the attitudes he/she holds about policing is important in understanding both job performance and citizen encounters. Because police officers work with a variety of people who differ in their attitudes, culture, and lifestyles, it is important for police officers to have a more tolerant and understanding demeanour, especially in community-oriented policing.