Once More — We Need College Cops!

I have been championing a 4-year college degree as an entrance requirement for police in our nation for far too many years. In 1969, I was appointed Chief of Police in Burnsville, MN. The City Manager and I were able to implement a 4-year requirement immediately after my appointment. Burnsville stands today as one of the 1% of our nation’s 16,000 police departments which require a 4-year degree. That is truly a sad figure in a nation that expects so much from its police.

During my 20+ years in Madison I was not able to convince various police commissions that a 4-year degree became an entrance requirement; however, the overwhelming majority of those whom I hired had such an education. At the same time, our city paid strongly for college cops by a tuition assistance program and paid an additional 18% salary increase for those officers who held a bachelor’s degree and 21% for those with master’s or law school degrees.

Today, Madison police are both highly educated and compensated accordingly.

Just in case we forget the benefits of a college education for police I am posting a 2009 study of the literature regarding police education by Dr. Rebecca Paynich. She earned her Master of Arts in Criminal Justice (2000) and Ph.D. in Political Science (2003) from Washington State University, and currently teaches at Curry College, in Milton, MA. She holds classes in statistics, crime mapping corrections, police ethics, criminology, policing, and many others.

The Impact of a College-Educated Police Force: A review of the literature 

Summary Points 

Rebecca L. Paynich, Ph.D. 

A review of the existing literature on college education and policing finds the following positive impacts:

College-educated police officers: 

  • Have better communication skills.
  • Write better reports.
  • Are more tolerant with citizens.
  • Display clearer thinking.
  • Better understanding of policing and the criminal justice system.
  • Better comprehension of civil rights issues from multiple perspectives.

College-educated police 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.
  • Place a higher value on ethical conduct.

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 a 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.
  • Make better discretionary decisions.

For the full report, e-mail rpaynich0904@curry.edu .

It time we got serious about having an educated police in America.