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Police Training and Education

Summary and Keywords

The issue of educational entry requirements for police officers has been a perennial one. Since August Vollmer first broached the topic of police education as a serious consideration, there have been opinions on both sides of the subject. A number of presidential commissions have examined the question of a police minimum education requirement, and numerous academic studies have attempted to empirically define predictor variables which correlate higher education and different training methods with police performance. Although progress has been made in training and educating police differently, policy on police training continues to remain an important subject.

Keywords: police, adult learning, police education, police training, police academies, police learning, police history, police curriculum

Historical Perspective

The evolution of policing in the United States has historically been of a noncentralized and largely unplanned nature. Formalized policing began in the 1800s, and, unlike other occupations where study or professional licensure might be prerequisites to entry, the police were merely unskilled watchmen recruited more for their brawn than their brains, with no standards other than of a political nature applied in their selection (Fosdick, 1920, p. 62).

Conceptually, police are somewhere in the middle between a military organization and a civil force (Monkkonen, 1992).Organizational thought about this structure continued unchanged to any great degree until August Vollmer became chief of the Berkley, California, Police Department in 1905. He, perhaps more than anyone else, became the voice of the fledgling police reform movement, which was part of a larger movement of progressivism in the country at the time (Walker, 1999). During his tenure as chief of Berkley and several other cities, including Los Angeles, he instituted police schools, the precursors of academies, which taught fundamental policing skills to officers. In addition, he began an enduring collaboration with the University of California at Berkley which remains extant in the Berkley Social Justice program within the school of law.

Vollmer, although an innovator and advocate of educated police, was almost completely self-taught, never having progressed past grammar school. Even though Vollmer had no degree himself, he became the first professor of police science in the country, teaching first at the University of Chicago and later at U.C. Berkley (Vila & Morris, 1999). In spite of Vollmer’s influence and advocacy of police education, the cultural precepts that American policing had been built upon were resistant to general substantive change. Policing organizations remained a bastion of tradition that kept reformation at bay because of several factors which still exist today.

Embedded Impediments to Organizational Change

The structure of the police in the United States was, and remains, essentially a municipal endeavor which is recreated by almost every big city, town, and hamlet in the country. Due to this fact, there are no national standards for hiring or training; selection policy is, more often than not, a local decision based on no elucidatory criteria other than local custom and sometimes political patronage. Over the past 10 years, many officers have been hired with these lax standards in place. In 1993 there were approximately 400,000 sworn officers in the country (Reaves, 2003); in 2016, there are approximately 700,000 (Table 1). In 2003 there were about 17,500 local police departments employing about 900,000 officers in the United States (Hickman & Reaves, 2006) (Table 2). They range from a low of one sworn police employee to the largest (NYC), with over 40,000. The vast majority of police departments employ less than 25 officers and, as a point of reference, there are only 500 police agencies in the country that serve populations of 50,000 or over. This all means that there are a lot of small police departments in the country, and there is no established method to either set broad policy or, because of the inherent mistrust of government attributed to federalism, no great impetus to change the situation.

Table 1. Employment by State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies in the United States, 1993 BJS Data

Police Training and Education

Table 2. Employment by State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies in the United States, 2000. BJS Data

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Secondly, there is not a mandatory national standards-setting police organization such as exists for other occupations (American Bar Association, American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, etc.). As a result of the lack of national professional standards, the culture and ethos of policing are often set by dramaturgical inventions (Manning, 1997) promulgated by popular culture, television shows, and media. Also, there is a strong organizational myth structure, bound to tradition, which is responsible for conventionally accepted beliefs, and which can cause high resistance to change (Heffron, 1982; Bouza, 1990). Some of the larger police labor associations currently operate on a national level, but their influence waxes and wanes with state labor board certification and decertification procedures as their members arguably pursue affiliations which will deliver the highest monetary returns rather than professional growth (Traut, Femer, Emmert, & Thom, 2000).

Among these already existing reformational challenges, the period between the 1930s and the 1960s shepherded in new interpretations of policing. Unfortunately, during this time the general consensus of reformers was that police organizations should be tightly and militaristically controlled and that the duties of the average patrol officer were merely functionary within the area of law enforcement and they should only have limited or no discretion in their assignments (Kelling & Stewart, 1991). Samuel Walker (1999) added that during this period, patrol officers were actually the “forgotten person[s]” of the reform movement. As is readily apparent, the organizational atmosphere was not conducive in any way toward hiring educated officers (O’Brien, 2006). The 1960s were a dark time for American police in general. Like some of the misdeeds that had prompted the formation of the Wickersham Commission in the 1930s, police misconduct in the 1960s gave rise to calls for change from government. The police portion of the Wickersham Commission Report cited: (a) a lack of efficiency in reducing crime; (b) poor police administration; (c) poor communications; (d) an alliance between corrupt police and criminals; (e) corrupt politics and incompetency; and (f) no change in the way policing was conducted as society changed (National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement, 1931).

LEAA

By 1965 President Lyndon Baines Johnson had convened the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice. Later, in 1968, the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act passed. Although much important legislation was incorporated in this act, including the formation of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA, later known as the National Institute of Justice) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the component part relevant to the topic of this paper was the Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP) (Wycoff & Susmilch, 1979; Vila & Morris, 1999; Goldstein, 1977).

Based on the commission’s recommendation, this act allocated funding for the first wave of police officers, in numbers of any consequence, to begin attending college. The commission’s ultimate institutional goal was to require a bachelor’s degree as the minimum educational attainment for employment as a police officer (Carter & Sapp, 1990a). Up until this point there had not been enough officers who had attended college for researchers to arrive at empirical conclusions about the efficacy of the concept. Was there specific job relevance, or was the concept more along the lines of the dream and privilege of general education which had been first envisioned during the industrial revolution as America began to urbanize (Wren, 2005)? Was educating police officers at the college level a panacea for policing’s organizational anomalies? The next section reviews some of the scholarly and popular dialog over the last 30 years, from which some conclusions might be drawn.

Previous Reviews on Police Education

IACP

Several years after the formation of the LEAA and specifically LEEP, James Sterling (1974), an assistant director of the professional standards division of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, wrote an article for Police Chief Magazine, the association’s monthly publication. The article was called “The College Level Entry Requirement: A Real or Imagined Cure-All.” As the title implies, there were two schools of thought on whether there should be a universal educational hiring standard for police officers. One of the points in the article intoned the old federalism song. Sterling cautioned that the content of the standards passed by LEAA should cede priority to what is right to do locally (p. 31). Further, he quoted the then outgoing director of LEAA, Donald E. Santarelli, saying:

We went through the process of establishing standards and goals as an example. We were offering a model. Now, we would like you to follow the same process. Get your own people together and form your own advisory commission to recommend standards and goals for your states and communities. Let them be the products of your effort, your creativity, your talents, your values and your priorities.

Clearly, Mr. Sterling and IACP were of the opinion that the education of police officers was the purview of those who hired them, not national commissions. This opinion is not hard to understand when it is recalled that police training academies for new hires did not become common until the mid-1960s, when only about six states instituted them (Buerger, 2004). At the time, college education for police officers must have seemed a radical idea when entry-level training of a basic vocational nature was just being started. Unlike now, when every state mandates initial training at an academy (but still do not all require any regular recertification training; see DeCarlo, 2004), giving police officers anything but on-the-job field training was unusual. Currently, there are around 600 police academies in the United States (Hickman, 2005) (Table 3). Unfortunately, as recently as 2002 there was not even a universal college educational requirement for academy instructors (Hickman, 2005) (Table 4), and only 11% of the academy staff had four-year college degrees.

Table 3. Police Academies in the United States, 2002, BJS Data

Police Training and Education

Table 4. Police Academy Instructor Educational Requirements, 2002, BJS Data

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The Quinn Bill

Another factor in the negative perception of the educational requirements suggested by LEAA was abuse of the system by police officers and less than scrupulous colleges (Morreale, 2003). As an example of the potential for abuse that well-intentioned policy might have, in 1970 Massachusetts passed a piece of legislation known as the Quinn Bill, which still exists in modified form today. The bill authorized payment of as high as 30% of an officer’s base salary for higher educational attainment. As of 2003, the cost of this policy to the taxpayers of Massachusetts was $100 million per year (Morreale, 2003). In addition to the current high incentive cost of the program, its early history was fraught with problems of low academic integrity and rigor. The State of Massachusetts modified the program significantly after an audit revealed that many of the degrees that were awarded by colleges were not valid. Students often did not attend classes, courses were of less than academically appropriate quality, and some institutions seemingly created programs in order to take advantage of the LEEP funds that were being awarded for officer tuition. Well-intentioned policy had met the real world. The organizational structures of both policing and academia had collectively put their worst foot forward and had bastardized the lofty goals of the LEAA policies and programs on education.

Later, in 1976, Gerald W. Lynch, the former president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, paraphrased Alfred North Whitehead as saying “[T]he goal of education is technical competence and intellectual vision” (Lynch, 1976, p. 65). Dr. Lynch said that as of 1976, law enforcement was not a profession yet and called on criteria provided by Arthur Niederhoffer (1969) to define what a profession is:

  1. 1. higher standards of admission

  2. 2. a special body of knowledge and theory

  3. 3. altruism and dedication to the service ideal

  4. 4. a lengthy period of training for candidates

  5. 5. a code of ethics

  6. 6. licensing of members

  7. 7. autonomous control

  8. 8. pride of the members in their profession

  9. 9. publicly recognized status and prestige

Dr. Lynch observed that if the majority of police agencies, during the 1970s and 1980s, had begun to require a baccalaureate as the minimum educational attainment needed to be considered for employment, the police function and criminal justice education would be qualitatively different.

Lynch was, of course, correct. Unfortunately, even now, the education requirements for new police hires have remained low. In 1993 only 1% of police departments required a four-year college degree for employment selection, and in 2003 the number was unchanged (Reaves, 1993; Hickman & Reaves, 2006) (Tables 5 and 6). Obviously, by the listed criteria, predominantly higher standards of admission and autonomous control, policing was not then and is still not a profession. James Ahern, then the police chief of the New Haven, Connecticut, Police Department (Ahern, 1972), said:

If police departments are to be drastically upgraded in this manner [educational requirements], and if patrolmen are to become a department’s most important autonomous professionals, many people now in police work may have to be left behind. . . . Despite the cost and care implied in such efforts, they must be made, because many policemen now on the job have had little more educational opportunity for personal growth, than have many of the criminals with whom they deal day in and day out.

Table 5. Local Police Department Educational Requirements 1993 BJS Data

Police Training and Education

Table 6. Local Police Department Educational Requirements 2003 BJS Data

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Wilensky (1964, p. 146) reports that bureaucracy is a threat to autonomy, which in turn is a direct threat to professionalization. If, as Niederhoffer says, autonomous control is an antecedent to professionalization, then it may be the entrenched bureaucratic mentality of paramilitary police organizations that is the cart before the educated horse. Swanson (1977) additionally cautioned that there exists conflict between the perceived benefits of higher education and the traditional organization of police departments. He suggested that it might be advantageous to change the organizational structure rather than try to implement educational reform in what he described as the existing mechanistic paradigm.

The Quality of Police Education

In 1978, the National Advisory Commission on Higher Education for Police Officers published a report called The Quality of Police Education (Sherman & The National Advisory Commission on Higher Education for Police Officers, 1978). The report, sponsored by the Police Foundation, pointed to inadequacies in the then existing police educational system and made many recommendations. On reviewing the curriculum and faculty, the report said that the content was overly technical and the faculty was of a generally low caliber. In addition, it found that police departments, rather than simply being knowledge consumers, actually influenced, to a large extent, the content of the curriculum. In examining whether a two-year criminal justice degree was of value, the report recommended that four-year degrees take precedence and that two-year programs be terminated. The report also counseled that the faculty teaching the programs at the time be replaced by PhDs in the social sciences and liberal arts and that there should be a preference for hiring officers with degrees in these areas. Another area of recommendation was that of accreditation agencies saying that an association like the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) should be charged with developing and maintaining accrediting standards for criminal justice educational programs (Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, 2005).

The report said that the “traditional criminal justice and criminology programs had been on the wrong side of the intellectual tracks” (Rappetto, 1980). The report also identified two major barriers to educational change in policing: civil service law and police unions. Civil service laws were identified because of the way they impact the inertia of the status quo and lock in existing selection criteria. Police unions were discussed in the context of the labor union credo of equality (Wren, 2005; Wycoff & Susmilch, 1979; Worden, 1990; Truxillo, Bennett, & Collins, 1998). Any distinction between patrol officers is perceived by labor as anathema to their mission of equality and fair treatment for all their members. It is difficult to excel or implement change when the rewards of a meritocracy are negated.

Recent Reviews on Police Education

The Evolution of Higher Education in Law Enforcement—The PERF Study

In 1990 the Police Executive Research Forum and the Ford Foundation sponsored a large study on the evolution of higher education in law enforcement (Carter & Sapp, 1990a). The report surveyed the 49 state police agencies in the country, sheriff’s departments with over 100 deputies, and municipal police agencies which served populations of over 50,000, a total of 699 agencies in all. Additionally, in-depth on-site follow-up visits were made to garner further information from seven additional departments: San Diego, San Jose, Sacramento, Kansas City, Missouri, New York City, Tulsa, and Largo, Florida. Out of the seven departments visited, four were among the 50 largest departments in the nation (Table 7).

Table 7. 50 Largest Police Departments. BJS Data

Police Training and Education

The study showed that, in spite of the fact that only a small fraction (1% in 1993; see Table 5) of police departments actually mandated that new employees have a bachelor’s degree, the percentage of college educated officers had steadily risen over the preceding 20 years nonetheless. The Carter study also found that, although only a minuscule percentage of departments required a degree, the majority of them had informal mechanisms in place to make obtaining a college degree rewarding to both command officers and the rank and file. These mechanisms most often took the form of tuition reimbursements and educational incentive pay. In fact, it was not uncommon for agencies to allow officers to attend classes while on duty. It was also reported that in the urban areas surveyed, both minorities and women were effectively being recruited and had the same educational attainment as white males in the case of minority officers and a year greater education on average in the case of women. It was also the case that minority recruitment was taking place at very close to the same percentages as the same ethnic and racial minorities occurred in the general population.

In their report, Carter and Sapp indicated that earlier observers such as Swanson (1977), Schick (1978), and Wycoff and Susmilch (1979) all stressed caution about the bona fides of a police educational requirement because the curricula and policy involved “were based on emotion and intuition” rather than empirical research. Carter and Sapp reiterated the message of the earlier Sherman Report (1978) as to the limitations of what was essentially a vocational curriculum, inadequate criminal justice course inventory, and sometimes less than acceptable faculty credentialing. In summary, the Carter and Sapp research concluded that during the decades before their study, even though it was not a requirement, the level of officers with four-year college degrees in the surveyed departments had gone from 2.7% in 1960 to 22.6% in 1988. Also, the average educational level in their research sample by race/ethnicity was 13.6 years for African Americans, 13.3 years for Latin Americans, 13.7 years for Euro white Americans, and 13.8 years for a category called “other” (Table 8).

Table 8. Employment Distribution by Ethnicity and Race in State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies in the U.S., 1993 BJS Data

Police Training and Education

It is noteworthy that although very few formal educational selection requirements had taken hold between the Sherman Report and the Carter and Sapp PERF study, there were many informal policies that facilitated the goal of college attendance. Tuition assistance and reimbursement plans existed in 62% of the surveyed departments, monetary education incentives were paid in 54% of the departments, and some other departments let officers attend classes on duty or had other facilitation policies. Carter and Sapp reported that although police unions, which represented personnel in a little over two-thirds of the municipal departments surveyed, were initially against any college degree requirement, they slowly morphed into supporters of the concept. When interviewed, union presidents indicated that in addition to the economic benefits garnered by the membership for attending college, there was also a “factor of pride in being educated in one’s profession.”

Only 9% of the departments surveyed by the Carter and Sapp (1990) study had no educational incentive program or college attendance policy. The two most cited factors by chiefs of police who took part in the study were that college-educated officers had better communication and social skills. These anecdotal opinions seem to echo Vollmer’s (1936) earlier words: “educated police to serve an educated public.” Indeed, the only consistently negative aspect reported in the study was that educated officers were more likely to leave the department for a better job.

Meta-Analysis

During the seventies and eighties, research about educational requirements for police officers was proceeding at a furious clip. During the nineties, the number of research studies diminished to a great degree. That is not to say that no studies were done or the question had been definitively answered, however. The most recent work done in the area of education in police selection was undertaken by Michael Aamodt (2004). In his book on research in police officer selection, Aamodt conducted a meta-analysis of many other studies. He observed that over the preceding 30 years, all of the studies that had been conducted to justify educational requirements for police officers fell into four groupings:

  1. 1) Case law

  2. 2) Qualitative research

  3. 3) Characteristics of educated police officers versus noneducated ones

  4. 4) The empirical relationship between college education and police performance

Case Law

Although case law will be examined more in the discussion section, suffice it to say that most case law points only to the validity of requiring a high school education for employment as a police officer. In both League Of United Latin American Citizens v. City Of Santa Ana (1976) and United States v. City of Buffalo (1978), the courts supported a high school diploma as being a valid criterion for hiring police officers but made no mention of higher education requirements.

Qualitative Research

Between the years 1973 and 1994, Police Chief magazine, as well as some smaller police periodicals, published many articles which, on one side of the debate, questioned the need for a college degree for police officers and, on the other side, extolled the value of higher education (Aamodt, 2004). Police Chief is the official publication of the International Association of Chief of Police, which is a professional membership association made up of police executives from several countries. The articles with a negative slant on the educational issue are best exemplified by Sterling (1974), which questioned whether the idea of requiring police to obtain college degrees was an efficacious undertaking if it was based simply on a desire for presenting a professional image. On the positive side of the argument were articles such as Lynch (1976), which listed the virtues of education and linked them to the field of policing.

In addition, other authors such as Swanson (1977) opined that the research work done up to that point had “not been sufficiently critical or rigorous, nor . . . [had] it taken into account the conflict between some of the perceived benefits of higher education and the traditional organizational structure of police departments.”

Characteristics of Educated Police Officers Versus Noneducated Ones

Researchers in this category put forward the argument that persons who were college-educated would either inherently, or because they had been socialized differently, have certain characteristics that would be absent in those persons who had not sought out the college experience. Some of the findings under this imprimatur were:

  • that college education made one less authoritarian and less dogmatic than someone who had not attended college (Genz & Lester, 1977)

  • that the use of discretion was more likely to manifest itself (Finckenhauer, 1975)

  • that verbal and oral communication would be better (Scott, 1986)

  • that the officers would write better reports (Michaels & Higgins, 1994)

  • that there would be a more positive feeling about community policing (Aamodt, 2004)

The Empirical Relationship Between College Education and Police Performance

Out of approximately 38 studies, some of which included several thousand officers, Aamodt (2004) was able to conduct a meta-analysis of several questions.

  1. 1) Is education a valid predictor of police performance? (Table 9)

  2. 2) Is education a larger influence early or late in the officers’ careers? (Table 10)

  3. 3) Does having a criminal justice degree allow officers to perform better than with other majors? (Table 11)

  4. 4) Does education add incremental validity to cognitive ability? (Table 12)

Table 9. Meta-analysis of the Validity of Education by Michael Aamodt from Research in Law Enforcement Selection (c) 2004

Police Training and Education

Table 10. Meta-analysis of Patrol Performance by Michael Aamodt from Research in Law Enforcement Selection (c) 2004

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Table 11. Meta-analysis of the Relevance of a CJ Major by Michael Aamodt from Research in Law Enforcement Selection (c) 2004

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Table 12. Regression Analysis Results for Incremental Validity of Education and Cognitive Ability by Michael Aamodt from Research in Law Enforcement Selection (c) 2004

Police Training and Education

In summary, what was found to be true in the Aamodt meta-study was that officers who have had a college education separate themselves from officers with no college in some important ways, and education would appear to be a valid predictor of these factors. In general, they had less discipline problems and took less time off from work, got better scores in the police academy, did not have as many automobile accidents on duty, were less likely to be assaulted by people they dealt with on the job, and were less likely to use force to make an arrest or in a confrontation. Supervisors also consistently rated them higher in performance evaluations than officers who had less education. In addition, college-educated officers made more arrests and gave more traffic citations than officers who had not graduated from college.

Further, Aamodt determined that cognitive ability (IQ) and education were correlated and that the presence of a combination of IQ and education together is actually a better predictor of performance than cognitive ability measured alone. In the area of performance related to longevity, the analysis pointed to the fact that the effects of education showed up more strongly after two years on the job, when educated officers continued their better initial performance and the performance of those who had not attended college began to decline.

Lastly, the fact that a person majored in criminal justice instead of another subject did not have any correlation to their performance as a police officer. In addition to the benefits of a college education, the policy downside appears to be that requiring a college degree for employment will, initially at least, negatively affect police departments’ ability to hire minorities and women in the same proportions as they do white males (Aamodt, 2004; Decker & Huckabee, 2002). The questions that remain largely unanswered by the meta-analysis are whether there is a correlation between high school and college grade point averages and patrol performance. It would appear that GPA is related to cognitive ability, but there are distinct motivational and organizational elements that could also be considered in answering this question. The meta-analysis also did not address the relationship of promotability and education or effectiveness in command positions and a correlation to cognitive ability and education.

Discussion

It is interesting to note that despite the informal acceptance of the college degree requirement for police officer employment, the reality is much different. As discussed earlier in the paper, case law on the topic is scant. The two cases cited earlier support only the attainment of a high school degree. Perhaps the most significant case law on requiring a college degree is not for employment but for promotion (Davis v. Dallas, 1985, 2004). This case, which was heard in 1985 and later affirmed under res judicata, validated an agency’s right to require minimum education requirements for promotion. No further case law has been established at the time of this writing to support a college-level requirement at time of hire.

To further support the lack of an educational requirement, the United States Department of Labor lists only a high school requirement in their official job analysis for police officers (United States Department of Labor, 2006). Additionally, they provide statistics for the approximately 639,000 police officers in their database as having the following distribution of educational attainment: 50% have some college, 30% have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and 20% have only a high school diploma or less. In surveying Department of Labor statistics, it was found that police officers, even without the college degree requirement, often make as much, or more, as other fields that do require a bachelor’s degree (Table 13). Obviously, the lack of a financial reason to further validate a police officer degree requirement is a further impediment to the attainment of the goal.

Table 13. Comparison of Wages for Degree Required Occupations and Police Officers—National Averages

Police Training and Education

A large number of police officers attend college, often paid for by their departments, after they are hired. This methodology is counter to most other occupations, where education is required as an entry requirement. Because of the institutionalization and bureaucratization that this practice has achieved, a good part of the cost of educating officers has been shifted to police departments and, consequently, the taxpayers. A situation similar to this had been in existence within the airline industry before federal deregulation took place in the early eighties. At that time, airlines hired potential pilots and paid entirely for their training, a large portion of which was subsidized by federal tax dollars. After deregulation, the airlines, in an attempt to cut costs to remain competitive, started training their new pilots under a system called the Ab Initio training schedule. Each new pilot was expected to come to the company with all ratings in place. The airlines then enrolled the pilot in a school that completed the pilot’s professional training and that they paid for out of pocket. The airlines stopped incurring training costs for new employees.

A similar system is in place in Ohio and several other states which require persons wishing to become police officers to fund their own academy training and become certified at their own expense (DeCarlo, 2004). At the college level, a program that held much promise was the Police Corps program (Office of the Police Corps and Law Enforcement Education, 2002). In this innovative plan, modeled after the Peace Corps, college graduates would commit to three to four years of police work after graduation. Before going to a police department, they were required to successfully pass a rigorous academic and physical academy hosted by the federal government. After the academy, they would deploy to local police departments and be paid at the standard wage by the agency. After the required length of service, the Police Corps officers would be eligible to have their federal student loans forgiven. The program only lasted until 2001, when it was defunded due to large amounts of federal monies being directed toward the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. In theory, the program would have supplied large numbers of college-trained officers to local and state police departments and would have been partially federally funded. It is unknown whether the program will ever be restored, but if so, it will be interesting to observe its effect on American policing. A further development that has become a growing portion of American higher education is distance learning. Many colleges and universities are now making courses and degree programs extremely accessible and affordable through this technology (Travis, 1995). A future research study on how this development has affected the proliferation of college education in the policing field, and its efficacy, will no doubt harbor useful data.

It is remarkable that, although there is a general tendency for occupations to seek professional status, only a very few attain it (Wilensky, 1964). One of the core elements of the professionalization of the American police is higher educational admission standards that can act as a vetting agent and an instrument of growth. Policing in the United States is a complex public policy ecosystem with literally hundreds of inertial forces impeding any change outside of primary service delivery (Bolman & Deal, 2003). In any change intervention, there are political, organizational, and operational barriers to overcome. Patterns of change resistance, no matter the legitimacy of the idea and the authority to implement it, are often encountered from the “lowerarchy.” Bolman and Deal describe them as “Partisans and groups in midlevel and lower-level positions, who devise creative and maddening ways to resist, divert, undermine, ignore or overthrow change efforts.” Perhaps, based on the Carter and Sapp data (Carter, Sapp, & Stephens, 1988), the way to approach police education is from the top down. If it cannot be controled from the bottom up, then maybe the educational and professionalization questions can be controlled by limiting the promotional opportunities of existing non-degreed officers and establishing minimum graduate educational standards when hiring agency executive officers from outside.

In summary, if policing is to remain fundamentally unchanged in its organizational and operational goals and objectives, current educational requirements are sufficient. If, however, police organizations are to continue to evolve along with the societies they are meant to serve, then education becomes a bigger factor, itself a catalyst of change. Jeremy Travis, president of John Jay College, eloquently described the challenge in an address that he gave in 1995 when still director of the National Institute of Justice:

[T]he challenge we should pose today is to the policing profession itself. The profession should address the question: What level of judgment, maturity, knowledge, and intellectual curiosity should we expect of our employees? Any profession that is trying to keep ahead of the curve in making changes, to modify its methods of service delivery, to encourage innovation, will also have enough trust in its employees to make a significant investment in their intellectual development. Fortunately for our nation, policing is such a profession, and the participants in this Forum are to be commended for helping us to visualize that future.

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