Diana Bruns, Ph.D.
Department Chairperson and Professor, Criminal Justice Studies Bacone College
2299 Old Bacone Road
**Diana Bruns is the Department Chairperson and Professor of Criminal Justice Studies at Bacone College in Muskogee, OK.
Reflections from the One-Percent of Local Police Departments with Mandatory Four-Year Degree Requirements For New Hires: Are They Diamonds in the Rough?
Countless studies have permeated the literature regarding the utility of a bachelor’s degree for police officers. Local law enforcement agencies with mandatory four-year degree requirements serve as the population for this study relative to the current status of college degreed officers, as well as population demographics and commonalities among such departments. The utility of college degree requirements, choice of academic discipline and why four-year degree requirements nationwide are merely a preference, not a standard mandatory hiring requirement is discussed. Current minimum educational requirements for local and state police agencies and implications for the future of the college-degreed officers are explored.
Hiring college-educated candidates in the law enforcement field does not guarantee they will be good officers. Being a police officer is hard and to be successful, you have to want to be a police officer. Individuals who receive the required degree in law enforcement have demonstrated their desire. Desire is something very hard to evaluate, but such an important trait. If all other qualities are equal—the college graduate with a four-year degree in criminal justice or related field should be hired as police officers before one who doesn’t have the degree. –Police Chief from department with mandatory degree requirement
Introduction and Background
The relevance of a college degree for police officers has been debated for decades. Numerous studies have been conducted regarding the importance of the degreed officer, while others have described how a college degree is not an essential or important ingredient for success among police officers. That precise debate—the worth of the bachelor’s degree for police officers is not the focus of this endeavor. The focus here is central to three vital panels’ recommendations from 1967-1974 proclaiming that police officers obtain baccalaureate degree—the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals, and the American Bar Association Project on Standards for Criminal Justice—and why so few local and state police departments have followed suit in requiring that police officers hold baccalaureate degrees, as less than 1% of such departments require a four-year degree (Hickman and Reeves, 2006). It is evident that leaders in law enforcement are hesitant to embrace the educational movement. Roberg and Bonn (2004) reiterated the nearly nonexistent numbers of police departments requiring degrees. Although leaders in law enforcement continue to hesitate the implementation of educational requirements (Carlan, 2007; Roberg and Bonn, 2004; Breci, 1997;Remington, 1990), recruitment for college graduates continues to increase. Carlan (2007) examined the worth of the criminal justice degree as valued by police officers and found that In this study, police officers (n=299) with varying levels of experience and criminal justice education revealed positive attitudes...