Should law enforcement officers in California be required to have a college degree? A newly proposed bill would introduce new standards that would have to be met in order to qualify as a police officer in California.
Last week, Democratic State Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles introduced AB-89, which would require individuals who want to become police officers to be at least 25 years of age. Those under 25 could still become police officers, but they would be required to have a bachelor’s or advanced degree from an accredited college or university. Current state law requires police officers be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent. California Highway Patrol officers must be at least 20 years old.
Asm. Jones-Sawyer and other proponents cite studies showing officers with college educations don’t use force as frequently as officers who are not college-educated and have fewer complaints filed against them.
Law enforcement groups in the state say they agree that more training and education of police officers is necessary, but they are concerned that this particular bill will deter young people from wanting to become police officers, and that the educational requirements could shut out military veterans or potential candidates who come from underrepresented communities and might not have the same access to a college degree as some of their peers. This point is especially important, they say, at a time when police departments across the state and country are facing recruiting challenges.
Today on AirTalk, we’ll talk with stakeholders in the discussion about what the research shows when it comes to education levels in police officers, how that relates to the practice of policing, and the concerns that some law enforcement officials have about how the law could impact recruitment.
Christine Gardiner, professor of criminal justice at California State University, Fullerton; she has conducted studies at both the state and national level looking at how education level is relevant to the practice of policing
Eric Nuñez, chief of the Los Alamitos Police Department and president of the California Police Chiefs Association, the statewide organization representing municipal police chiefs and their agencies