I have posted on several occasions about the issue of requiring post-secondary education to get hired in law enforcement the last one being, “Some thoughts on the calls for better educated cops.”. I have made it very clear that I am against this arbitrary standard, which is not supported by research, for a variety of reasons. I am now seeing agencies who are dropping this requirement being accused of “lowering standards”, and agencies who had added it claiming they are “raising standards”.
If agencies strongly believe that post-secondary education helps to develop better critical thinkers, problem solvers and make better police officers then instead of mandating they have a degree before they get hired, the agency should invest in a program to reimburse their people throughout their entire careers for books and tuition for courses they complete through post-secondary educational institutions. The completion of these courses would not have to culminate in a degree, as the officers may want to take a wide range of courses throughout his or her career depending on his or her role in the agency and his or her needs at the time. This type of investment would demonstrate the agency’s commitment to ongoing education and help alleviate the financial burden of a post-secondary education on the individual officer.
Requiring that people have a degree to get hired shows no commitment on the part of the agency to continuous learning and education, eliminates good candidates who do not have post-secondary education from the hiring pool, puts a tremendous financial burden on people wanting to enter the policing profession and front loads all the education before the individual’s career even starts. It also assumes that people automatically learn critical thinking just because they went to college or university. They may have, but instead of learning how to think they may have learned what to think. They may have learned to play the game to appease the professor and get a good mark in that class. Not all college or university professors are effective teachers.
I am a fan of education. Education, however, comes in many forms. Post-secondary education is one form. I am not a fan of lowering standards; I believe in having high standards in the policing profession. Eliminating a requirement for post-secondary education is not lower standards. It is opening the hiring pool to more candidates so agencies can hire the best people. Once they hire the best people agencies need to invest in their continuous training, education, development and learning throughout their careers.
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