It’s weird: one group of heavily unionized public workers is under a constant barrage of claims of being underqualified, while another, with much lower educational standards, gets a free pass on those grounds. I’m referring to teachers and police officers respectively. I raise this comparison after reading this (boldface mine):
…the majority of those in law enforcement fit a profile that is not diverse: usually white, usually male, and usually lacking a college degree.
I want to be clear. I am not one of those people who believe that anyone with a college degree is by definition smarter than those without one. My grandmother lacks a high school diploma but is full of more wisdom, and more financial sense, than a lot of people I know. But I also believe that having too much of the same worldview is rarely a good thing. I would question the effectiveness of a police department that was comprised entirely of Ivy leaguers in the same way I question the effectiveness of a police department comprised almost entirely of those who haven’t set foot on a college campus. For instance, think of how often police officers come into contact with college students during a protest. Wouldn’t it make sense that an officer may react differently if he had actually been in the shoes of a college student before? Furthermore, data confirm a connection between education level and police behavior.
According to a 2006 report by USA Today, “In an analysis of disciplinary cases against Florida cops from 1997 to 2002, the International Association of Chiefs of Police found that officers with only high school educations were the subjects of 75% of all disciplinary actions. Officers with four-year degrees accounted for 11% of such actions.”
Police Chief Magazine similarly published findings that indicate that officers with bachelor of arts degrees performed on par with officers who had 10 years’ additional experience. And yet police departments have struggled to toughen up their educational requirements in part because recruiters are concerned that the relatively low pay offered by most entry-level law enforcement jobs would not be enough to attract college graduates…. Of course this is another part of the problem. We want men and women in law enforcement who treat their jobs as police officers, as what they are: some of the most important jobs in our country that carry a great responsibility. Yet we pay them on par with postal workers.
You get the policing system you pay for. Maybe we shouldn’t be so cheap, while at the same time, we should raise the bar for entry into a demanding profession that represents the state’s monopoly on violence.