21 March, 2013
Should Police Officers be held to a higher educational standard? From the day a police officer is sworn into oath until retirement they are an embodiment of the United States government. They are paid and trusted to routinely govern our streets and uphold the laws that maintain order in our society. From simple rush hour traffic stops to life threatening shoot outs, an officer must be both psychologically and physically rigid. There are thousands of laws, regulations and statutes that officers must know in order to service our government and protect our citizens. Federal law requires police officers to have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent before entering the Police academy (Baker). With so many substantial laws to enforce, the question arises whether police officers are adequately educated to correctly carry out their duties. When a child is being taught the building blocks of life they are told if danger ever presented itself they are to call none other but the iconic number of distress, “911”. Police officers have the trust of most civilians, and a powerful distrust from the criminally minded. They risk their lives every single day when they place that silver badge on their chest. From law enforcement to criminal investigation, police officers have a rather demanding and dangerous agenda to attend to. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2010 there are close to 800,000 police officers in the U.S., and over 315,000,000 people living in the United States (“Occupational Handbook”). With so many people to protect it is safe to say they have their work cut out for them. For hundreds of years they have been this country’s first line of defense against terrorism, drug-trafficking, reckless behavior and even murder. Every day they must set aside their own ethical and moral beliefs to preserve our constitution and provide citizens with an unbiased service. Police officers have to deal with the same problems most people do when they punch their timecards at the end of the day. The only difference is while they’re working they have been granted the authority to deprive a fellow citizen of their liberties and even their lives. They’re permitted to carry weapons at all times that have the capacity to obliterate over a dozen people at once, making them the most powerful people in the nation. Such power should only be entrusted to those who are intellectually advanced enough to contemplate the impact of their decisions. Every police officer has to be knowledgeable in criminal law and constitutional matters, yet the majority of high schools in our nation do not cover those laws extensively. The majority of the criteria that they have to retain are equal to that of an attorney’s (Bostrom). A high school education isn’t as cherished as it once was; it is now the first step to furthering your education.
Just like all careers, being a police officer comes with an expected level of professionalism. Education plays a vital role in the professionalism that a person can exhibit. Society has changed vastly since the days of the first police institutions and the entry level qualifications have remained the same. Attending college can be out of reach for some officers because of tuition fees, but regardless police have been keeping the peace and preventing anarchy for hundreds of years now without college educations. In the police field it is sometimes patronized when high ranking officials recruit officers with college degrees rather than officers with high school diplomas (Bostrom). The Chief of staff for the Police Chief Magazine says that the criticism often comes from “teasing or sweeping statements regarding the importance of street smarts and common sense over book smarts,” (Bostrom). Many police officers will egotistically say that there is no substitute for experience, and that “real life” scenarios cannot be taught in a classroom. A clear...
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