How Educated should Police Officers be?
Some of the top trends in law enforcement involve the new challenges and threats undermining security as well as the increased scrutiny from the media and public regarding how well police officers do their jobs and interact with the community. The emerging trends in security coupled with the rise in public inquiries in regards to the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies require law enforcers to advance their skills and knowledge. The need for police officers to have specialized knowledge and skills has increased significantly in the 21st century. As such, it is essential for police officers to engage in continuous training and learning to enhance their competence in the field. Moreover, educated police officers are perceived as a critical asset to the local community since they are better equipped to understand the inherent issues undermining security while maintaining a healthy relationship with members of the public. The need for encouraging a continuous learning culture among police officers has elicited the government to articulate the Task Force on 21st Century Policing that underpins the need for law enforcers to enroll in institutions of higher education to enhance their leadership skills and abilities. The approach is effective in helping police officers and the government to gain public trust. Also, the police officers themselves stand to benefit significantly from having a higher education because advancing their knowledge plays a central role in enabling them to take up leadership positions within the police force’s hierarchy thereby ensuring they lead a fulfilling life. The study seeks to examine how educated police officers should be. The first section presents the literature review, while the second and third highlight the theoretical foundation and research methods, respectively. The final parts examine the anticipated findings and present the conclusion and policy recommendations.
The following four research questions have been developed to guide the study.
Answering these questions while reviewing subsequent literature will help the researcher to show how law enforcement agencies should focus on achieving a minimum of a college degree to promote professionalism and encourage high work ethics. The discussions developed from answering the questions will help highlight how the police were initially tasked with the responsibility of conducting patrols but today’s policing requires officers to build relationships with the people they protect. As such, the modern police officer must be culturally aware and socially intelligent to handle contemporary challenges.
The following four suppositions have been made to guide further investigation.
The hypothesis developed will guide the researcher in conducting in-depth research that considers the emerging trends in technology and communication that requires the different departments in law enforcement agencies to seek technically-skilled individuals. Having such personnel ensures they can handle and maintain software and hardware such as biometrics and body cameras used by most police officers.
The literature review provides a critical analysis of published sources on the study topic. An assessment of Albarano’s (2015) work shows that the private sector has been keen on emphasizing the employment of the most talented and educated people. However, the author argues that employers must focus on providing the training and education necessary to ensure optimal productivity. Albarano’s (2015) work offers evidence showing that most of the people working in different sectors, especially in law enforcement, often join their workplace with the skills and education relevant and applicable to their jobs. As such, these people are less likely to have specialized skills or education. Albarano (2015) further indicates that a high school diploma is one of the mandatory requirements put in place by police academies for applicants. However, emerging trends in security and technology have forced most police academies to demand applicants to have at least a higher diploma such as a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. While it is not a requirement for the university degree to be related to criminal justice, the need for one demonstrates the growing demand for law enforcement agencies to have higher academic qualifications. Albarano (2015) primarily focuses on investigating whether college-educated police officers perform better than those without a college education.
The researcher leverages secondary data by examining subsequent research conducted on the issue. Albarano’s (2015) study employs peer-reviewed journal articles to enhance the credibility of its findings. The results suggest that a university degree does not significantly impact the effectiveness or performance of police officers. However, a degree can potentially boost the police officers’ overall performance, especially in key aspects such as communication, problem-solving, and writing. Albarano’s (2015) study results indicate that having a degree has a limited impact on how police officers express their empathy and compassion. The main study limitation is that the researcher fails to gather primary data that would have helped to validate the results. Nonetheless, Albarano’s (2015) work is significant in the study because it will help to answer the research questions developed seeking to establish the relationship between higher education qualifications and the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies.
Sereni-Massinger’s and Wood’s (2016) work explores some of the ways continued education can be used to improve law enforcement cross-cultural competencies. The authors argue that community-oriented policing has become more common in the past decades, a situation that reflects the emerging trends in security. As such, law enforcement agencies have developed effective strategies aimed at bridging the gap between them and members of the communities they serve. The approach is effective in reinforcing the quality of the services offered and the relationship between police officers and the people they serve. According to Sereni-Massinger and Wood (2016), the recent civil disturbances in some cities within the U.S. have affected law enforcement agencies negatively. On the contrary, the rise in multiculturalism across the country has led to police officers furthering their education to become more culturally competent, which is effective in ensuring they can address the growing needs of culturally diverse people (Sereni-Massinger & Wood, 2016; Macvean & Cox, 2012). Accordingly, the authors provide evidence showing the importance of law enforcement agencies investing in continuous education for their officers because it helps to improve their overall interactions with people from different cultures. Moreover, the authors note that police officers who are willing and able to further their education are better positioned to meet the basic needs of their communities.
The main limitation with Sereni-Massinger’s and Wood’s (2016) work is that it does not collect the primary data necessary to explore the issue in-depth. Instead, the authors focus on reviewing the existing literature to determine how furthering police officers’ education can help them to improve their overall problem-solving skills. Nonetheless, Sereni-Massinger’s and Wood’s (2016) findings are consistent with those of Albarano (2015), which suggest the need for police officers to develop working relationships with different institutions of higher education. The authors note that continuous training should be focused on helping the trainees to improve their problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication skills to ensure it has a positive impact on how police officers perform their duties. Also, the study reveals the irrelevance of police officers having a university degree in regards to their performance but emphasizes on how it helps to improve their interpersonal skills, which, in turn, reinforce how law enforcement agencies mitigate conflicts. Sereni-Massinger’s and Wood’s (2016) work is significant because it highlights the innate desire among police officers to improve their level of education, which has subsequently resulted in partnerships between institutions of higher learning and law enforcement agencies. As such, today’s police officers are better educated and can handle most of the new challenges.
Norman’s and Williams’ (2017) work explores the issue of self-reflection from police officers to establish how they can put their learning into practice. The authors note that non-government organizations such as the Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) play a central role in helping police officers to put their learning into practice. For example, the CCCU has been involved in several programs aimed at offering training and education to serving police officers (Norman & Williams, 2017). As such, the CCCU is instrumental in reinforcing how well police officers can assimilate what they learn in class in the field. The authors gathered their primary data by conducting interviews with graduate police officers who had just completed an MSc and BSc degree in policing from the CCCU. The study results show that most of the respondents believe that the training offered had significantly improved how they approached and solved problems thereby enhancing how they would manage conflicts in the field. However, the study results indicate that the receptiveness of police leaders towards learning plays a central role in improving the students’ turnover at the CCCU. Therefore, it is essential for educational institutions to provide the incentives necessary for law enforcement agents to embrace continuous learning. One of the primary strengths with Norman’s and Williams’ (2017) work is that it leverages primary data when exploring the study topic, which, in turn, enhances the credibility and authenticity of the research findings.
However, the results gathered by Norman and Williams (2017) differ from those of Sereni-Massinger and Wood (2016) and Albarano (2015), partly because the latter scholars failed to utilize primary data from the present police officers. Moreover, Norman’s and Williams’ (2017) work is more reliable because it can be generalized to a larger population because it uses current and factual data. Besides, the authors examine the effects of higher education and police training successfully in helping law enforcement agencies to improve their overall problem-solving skills. Norman’s and Williams’ (2017) study is significant in the current research because it explores the effectiveness of continuous training and education. These parameters are necessary for answering the research question regarding how far police officers should be educated.
The article by Janušauskas, Hallenberg, and Cockcroft (2017) explores how police officers and organizations respond to issues relating to indifference and hostility as well as the symbolic value of ‘in-service’ higher education in policing. The authors argue that the inherent relationship between institutions of higher learning and police organizations has recently gained a lot of significance, especially in Wales and England. Most of the police officers were initially not enthusiastic in seeking higher education. However, the growing demands of today’s ever-changing world have made it necessary for law enforcement agents to seek university degrees to match the emerging trends and issues undermining security. Janušauskas’et al. (2017) study leverage data gathered from primary sources to examine the importance of college degrees on how law enforcement agencies perform their duties in the U.K.
The authors utilized a qualitative study approach whereby they conducted interviews on a sample of 31 police officers. The study sample included participants that had completed higher education. Janušauskas’et al. (2017) assessed the overall experience of police officers by leveraging semi-structured interviews. The research results show that an increasing number of police officers are embracing continuous learning because it helps them to improve their skills and competence, which are necessary for advancing their careers. The primary limitation with Janušauskas’et al. (2017) study is that it does not investigate the overall effects of a university degree on law enforcement agents’ performance. However, the study reveals that at the current rate, most future law enforcement agents will have a minimum of a college education. As such, Janušauskas’et al. (2017) article is significance to the current research because it helps to establish the importance of college degrees towards the improvement of police officers’ skills. Moreover, the study identifies the primary facilitators and inhibitors of university degrees by examining individual responses and experiences of police officers.
The primary objective of Edwards’ (2017) study involves examining whether police officers consider university degrees as essential in improving their overall job performances and promotional opportunities. Also, the authors explore the types of suggestions that law enforcement agencies have for enhancing the curriculum of higher education. The independent variables taken into consideration included age, gender, type of police agency, level of education, and the years of service as a law enforcement agent (Edwards, 2017). The primary dependent variable was the scores on three dimensions, which are the general attitude toward higher education, the perceived utility of a criminal justice related degree, and career-related competencies. The author utilizes surveys with 34 questions to gather primary data from respondents (police officers) sampled from five departments in 2017. The study recorded a response rate of 40.5 percent and the data collected was analyzed using descriptive statistics. The research results suggest that police officers who had completed their higher education, as well as those employed by municipal councils, held more positive perceptions of university degrees (Hilal, Densley, & Zhao, 2013). However, the study results did not record any significant differences between the perceived value degrees related to criminal justice with the independent variables. The study is significant for the study because it develops recommendations based on the study results, which involve improving the higher education curriculum by encouraging a more hands-on approach towards police training and having instructors who have an in-depth understanding or experience in law enforcement.
The empirical works reviewed investigate some of the critical factors that may support or undermine the quality of service offered by law enforcement agencies. The literature review conducted suggests that a university degree has a minor impact on how police officers perform their jobs. Nevertheless, officers with a bachelors’ degree can develop better working relationships with their colleagues and the people they serve. Moreover, educated police officers can solve problems and deal with work-related conflicts more effectively.
One of the most recognizable theories related to the research topic involves the effect of law enforcement agents on arrests. Currently, scholars have posited that there exists a relationship between officer education and their overall arrest behavior. For example, Rydberg and Terrill (2010) examined the arrest patterns of 24 police officers from the Arizona Police Department and hypothesized that the officers with higher levels of education made more arrests than their uneducated counterparts mainly because of the assumed theoretical tie between higher education and dissatisfaction at the workplace. Therefore, the primary theoretical perspective developed is that uneducated police officers are less satisfied with their work hence are more likely to make fewer arrests (Paoline & Terrill, 2007). On the contrary, educated police officers are more satisfied with their work thereby have higher chances of making an arrest. Rydberg and Terrill (2010) note that the inherent relationship between job satisfaction and the level of education is only evident when the latter is taken as an aggregate measure and that those arrested had genuinely made an offense. As such, the theoretical perspective supports the subsequently reviewed literature, which suggests that officers with a minimum of a college degree can solve problems better and handle work-related conflicts. Consequently, an educated police officer is likely to live a more fulfilled and balanced life than an uneducated one. Therefore, education is an essential factor in improving the overall outcomes in policing. Moreover, police officers can increase their level of qualification when they have a university degree, which is vital in helping them to levered emerging career growth opportunities.
Research Methods (825)
This section describes the participants, the tools of measurement or instrumentation, and the procedures used to carry out the research. Also, the researcher discusses how the proposed research method will help to answer the research question and thoughtfully addresses possible ethical concerns. The researcher will use the mix methods research approach to gather and analyze the study data. The approach was selected because it helps to offset the inherent limitations present in the two types of research methods, which include quantitative and qualitative. The qualitative approach uses document analysis as the primary methodology in collecting and analyzing data while the quantitative approach leverages online interviews conducted on 50 participants sampled through simple random sampling. The researcher selected the qualitative approach because it helped to develop an in-depth understanding of how well police officers should be educated by establishing the research findings gathered by other scholars regarding the link between performance and the level of education.
The research approach involves identifying the correlation between an officer’s ability to perform their duties well and their level of education. As such, the articles selected for the study include those that appraise the extent of application between the education level and the functionality of police officers. The researcher acknowledges that there have been numerous studies conducted on the topic; hence, the document analysis will help to highlight the different theoretical perspectives that exist on the subject and report on the outcome of the results using thematic analysis (Bruns & Magnan, 2014). Stickle (2016) notes that the document analysis methodology focuses on identifying themes and patterns from empirical sources that focus on the study topic. The documents that will be analyzed will be sampled from the large pool of sources available online including journal articles and books and other verified documents, which include websites and blogs. The primary requirement for including a document in the study is that it must be original and presented in a reliable manner that facilitates data collection and analysis.
The second research methodology involves gathering data by interviewing 50 participants selected through simple random sampling. The sampling approach was used because each participant had a probability of being selected, which, in turn, reduced the overall research bias. The participants included in the study sample were required to meet three main requirements, which include easy access to the internet, a comprehensive understanding of the minimum standards for joining the police force, and willingness to read and sign the consent agreement designed to help protect their privacy (Kotrlik & Higgins, 2001). The researcher acknowledged their mandate to inform participants about the primary purpose of the study and the anticipated procedures and duration. Moreover, the researcher ensured that the participants were aware of their right to decline to participate or withdraw from the investigation even after it had started and the anticipated implications (Emanuel, Wendler, Killen, & Grady, 2004). Emanuel et al. (2004) further add that adhering to research ethics provides the researcher with the guidelines aimed at helping them to conduct and finish a study in a responsible and accountable manner.
Unlike the document analysis, quantitative surveys were selected because they provide data in regards to the observable phenomena through a statistical approach. According to Bryman (2006), studies that use the quantitative methodology can generate more reliable, valid, and generalizable data than quantitative research. The primary research instrument used to gather quantitative data is a combination of open-ended and close-ended questionnaires. First, the open-ended questionnaires will be developed to encourage the respondents to answer based on how they feel while the latter questions will require the participants to give one-word answers (Appendix A). Also, the researcher will use a survey codebook to appraise the responses for the close-ended questions (Appendix B). The approach involves assigning statistical values to each answer to help in conducting an in-depth analysis. Although the researcher seeks to adhere to all the proposed research procedures, some limitations may limit the quantitative research method. First, the approach is vulnerable to errors, especially those related to measurement. Secondly, it may be challenging to quantify the topic under study since the quantitative research methodology involves numbers. The researcher mitigates these limitations by using the mixed method approach since the challenges faced in the quantitative approach will be alleviated by the strengths in the qualitative study. For example, the document analysis provides a large pool of data, which, in turn, mitigates the problem of relying on numerical data. As such, the researcher will be able to evaluate different scenarios to explain the phenomena under study. Therefore, the research methodologies used in the paper will not be limited in scope. However, the process of gathering data through document analysis and surveys is time-consuming.
The researcher anticipates obtaining three outcomes from the study. First, the data collected is likely to show that it is essential for law enforcement agencies to have a minimum of a college degree. The document analysis may show that most scholars believe that higher education can impart police officers with knowledge about the world and adapt accordingly. Moreover, the primary data gathered from the survey respondents may suggest that most people believe education is crucial because it can help police officers to improve their critical thinking skills by assisting them to build different opinions and new viewpoints about life. The researcher projects that at least 80 percent of the responses given by the participants (n=50) will suggest that they believe that law enforcement agencies must have a minimum of a college degree. Moreover, the researcher postulates that most of the responses will view police officers with at least a college diploma as better suited to handle people from different cultures than their non-educated counterparts. Secondly, the researcher anticipates that the study results will show that the national government should prioritize community policing. However, the government cannot achieve the objective without first investing in education, which underpins how the police force develops close ties with community members to reinforce overall security (Oliver, 2001). The majority of the respondents is likely to view community policing as a national priority and may support the move by the government to invest in police education.
Finally, the researcher anticipates that the results will show that most people feel more comfortable with well-educated law enforcement agencies. As such, the researcher believes that most people do not trust a non-educated police force completely (Zhao, Schneider, & Thurman, 2002). The researcher does not anticipate any significant challenges when conducting the study, which will involve gathering and analyzing both primary and secondary data and presenting the knowledge gained through a comprehensive report. However, the researcher acknowledges that their ability to conduct effective research will be undermined by the limited time and resources available. Moreover, each of the quantitative and qualitative research methodologies used has limitations. Nonetheless, the researcher will mitigate these challenges by leveraging the mixed research approach to ensure that the strengths of one technique compensate the weaknesses of the other.
Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
The literature review conducted helps to show that some of the emerging trends in law enforcement result in new threats and challenges that undermine security. Moreover, the public has increased its scrutiny on police officers intending to make them more accountable and responsive in their jobs and interactions with the community. As such, it has become a necessity for law enforcement agencies to advance their level of education and skills. The research questions developed will guide the study to focus in establishing whether community policing should be regarded as a national priority and if educated people have a better chance of being recruited in the police force than their uneducated counterparts. Moreover, the questions will help to show whether the current criminal justice programs and traditional training have been effective in mitigating the emerging trends undermining security. Responding to these questions while reviewing subsequent literature will help the researcher to demonstrate the importance of police officers pursuing a college degree. Furthermore, the discussions developed from answering the questions will help to highlight how law enforcement agencies must be culturally aware and socially intelligent to handle the contemporary challenges and the threats present in today’s world. Finally, the study conducted will help in highlighting the need for police officers to have specialized knowledge and skills by engaging in continuous training and learning to enhance their competence in the field. The anticipated research results focus on showing how educated police officers are perceived as an essential asset to the local community since they are better equipped to understand the inherent issues undermining security while maintaining strong relations with members of the public. Finally, the research results are likely to have significant policy implications by eliciting the government to articulate new laws that underpin the need for law enforcers to enroll in institutions of higher education to enhance their leadership skills and abilities.
Albarano, R. F. (2015). College education and officer performance: Do college-educated
police officers perform better than those without a college education? International Journal of Education and Social Science, 2(7), 41-47.
Bruns, D., & Magnan, K. (2014). Police officer perspectives on higher education: Is the
degree a necessary ingredient for the performance and behavior of police officers. Journal of Law and Criminal Justice, 2(2), 27-45.
Bryman, A. (2006). Integrating quantitative and qualitative research: how is it done? Qualitative research, 6(1), 97-113.
Edwards, B. D. (2017). Perceived Value of Higher Education Among Police Officers.
Emanuel, E. J., Wendler, D., Killen, J., & Grady, C. (2004). What makes clinical research in
developing countries ethical? The benchmarks of ethical research. The Journal of
Infectious Diseases, 189(5), 930-937.
Hilal, S., Densley, J., & Zhao, R. (2013). Cops in college: Police officers’ perceptions of
formal education. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 24(4), 461-477.
Janušauskas, A. Hallenberg, K., & Cockcroft, T. (2017). From indifference to hostility:
Police officers, organizational responses and the symbolic value of ‘in-service’ higher
education in policing. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice. Doi:
Kotrlik, J. W. K. J. W., & Higgins, C. C. H. C. C. (2001). Organizational research:
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Macvean, A., & Cox, C. (2012). Police education in a university setting: Emerging Cultures
And Attitudes. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 6(1), 16–25. https://academic.oup.com/policing/article-abstract/6/1/16/1458800
Norman, J. & Williams, E. (2017). Putting learning into practice: Self-reflections from cops.
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Oliver, W. M. (2001). Community-oriented policing: A systemic approach to policing. Upper
Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Paoline III, E. A., & Terrill, W. (2007). Police education, experience, and the use of
force. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 34(2), 179-196.
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Quarterly, 13(1), 92-120. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/247748841_The_Effect_of_Higher_Education_on_Police_Behavior
Sereni-Massinger, C., & Wood, N. (2016). Improving law enforcement cross-cultural
competencies through continued education. Journal of Education and Learning, 5(2), 258-264. Doi: 10.5539/jel.v5n2p258.
Stickle, B. (2016). A national examination of the effect of education, training, and pre-
employment screening on law enforcement use of force. Justice Policy Journal, 13(1), 1-11. Retrieved from http://www.cjcj.org/uploads/cjcj/documents/jpj_education_use_of_force.pdf
Zhao, J. S., Schneider, M., & Thurman, Q. (2002). The effect of police presence on public
fear reduction and satisfaction: A review of the literature. The Justice Professional, 15(3), 273-299.
Appendix A. The questions asked to the respondents
|1||Do you think it is essential for police officers to go beyond the bachelor’s degree?|
|2||Is community policing a national priority and does it require a college educated police force?|
|3||Is there a demand for law enforcement professionals with leadership skills?|
|4||Are traditional training and criminal justice programs outdated and incomprehensive?|
|5||Do you or do you not have faith in a non-educated police force? Yes or No.|
|6||Are educated police officers more cultured than non-educated ones? Yes or No.|
Appendix B. The codes developed for the close-ended question
|Survey Answer||Numerical Value|
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