A College Degree Proves What? Police Agencies Should Rethink the Necessity of College Degrees for Applicants

November 16, 2023

By Jim Glennon

Should college degrees be a requirement to become a police officer?

I have two bachelor’s degrees. I also have a master’s degree in Law Enforcement Justice Administration.

What do those degrees and diplomas say, prove, attest about me as a person?

What do they say about my level of intelligence?

How about my common sense? My ability to communicate? To handle pressure and stress?

I ask those questions literally.

What does a college diploma prove about the person handed one on graduation day?

That they are smarter than those who didn’t go to college?

That they have a mastery of knowledge in a particular subject matter?

Does the subject matter of which they studied even…matter?

Is there a difference between someone with a GPA of 4.0 in Sociology vs someone with a 2.0 in Sociology? Is sociology a field that is desired by those hiring cops?

What about Marketing, Education, History, Political Science, European History, Gender Studies?

Or is the diploma the point? And again, what is that point?

What does the college degree prove?



It’s a cliché but, we all know people who would register high numbers on an IQ test. Who can read and remember the words well enough to regurgitate them back during testing. But, on the other hand, they possess no discernable level of common sense. They have no, what we refer to as, street smarts.

Let’s examine a few hypotheticals.

Candidate #1: 23-years-old. Earned a college degree in Marketing achieving a high GPA with their tuition being paid for by their parents, never had an actual job.

Candidate #2: 22-year-old. A college degree in Marketing and a C average but worked their way through college in a variety of jobs.

Candidate #3: 26-year-old. No college at all but, went into the Army at age 18 after high school graduation, became an Army Ranger and attained the rank of sergeant.

Candidate #4: 22-year-old. Got his first job as a caddy at age 13, held jobs during high school and worked as a plumber for four years after graduation, owns his own car and just bought a house.

Which looks as though they are best suited for the job of a police officer, just based on these facts?

If you have a college requirement, Candidates 3 and 4 are automatically eliminated.

Wife Story

I guarantee I’m not being humble in any way when I say my wife, the creative force behind Calibre and President of the company, is much smarter than I am. Much smarter.

And she never went to college.

Lisa Gitchell Glennon worked for Calibre Press out of our home as the person in charge of operations for about seven years before she became its principal owner and CEO.

Lisa at one point came up with a brand-new business model for Calibre that she believed would easily double the annual revenue. She brought her idea to the powers that be. They immediately saw the viability and value of the plan that she meticulously organized and presented in a professional manner.

They wanted to move forward.

And then they asked me to be the one in charge of the new business vertical.

When I asked incredulously why they wanted me to lead the new venture instead of Lisa, their answer and reasoning was as direct as it was nonsensical, “Because you have a college degree and she doesn’t.”

Why tell that story?

Because Lisa left the company, started her own and in less than two years, she owned Calibre Press.

The Private Sector Recognizes It

Again, I have the degrees. I am all for higher education.

Still, practical intelligence, common sense, street smarts, the ability to deal with and work with people and navigating creatively within a professional structure has almost nothing to do with attending college. In fact, college institutions may be an actual hinderance to the preparation of the young for adult life in almost any occupation.

What is the point of putting a particular value on a college degree?

What does it guarantee concerning a perspective employee’s abilities?

Still, many agencies demand degrees from higher institutions as some type of proof that the graduates will have the ability to handle law enforcement tasks.

At the same time, private institutions are starting to rethink the value of a college education.

Fox News, October 16, 2023, posted an article titled, US companies increasingly eliminate college degrees as a requirement amid ‘out-of-control’ school costs.

The article noted, “American businesses are increasingly eliminating college degrees as part of their requirements for corporate roles, which is part of a wider trend in the U.S. job market that is de-emphasizing the value of a four-year diploma, according to experts.”

They continued, “American companies like Walmart, IBM, Accenture, Bank of America and Google have announced plans to reduce the number of jobs that require college degrees. Walmart, for example, has eliminated college degrees as a requirement for hundreds of its corporate roles, vowing to remove “unnecessary barriers” that prevent career advancement. The company also announced it would waive the university degree as a necessity if candidates can show they have gained the necessary skills based on different, prior experience.”

We Will Teach You What to Think, Not How to Think

Why is the corporate world pivoting on decades old policies that put such a high value on higher education?

I can think of at least two reasons.

First, they recognized the perception of value associated with a degree was just that, a perception. The diploma alone being meaningless. By ignoring those with experience, abilities, and creativity, simply because they lack the requisite sheepskin, companies were letting talent walk out the door which damaged their bottom line.

Second, colleges today aren’t teaching critical thinking.

I know that’s a broad statement, but all six of my kids went to college and I heard these stories years before they became openly obvious.

In 2023, and for the last perhaps 20 years or so, way too many colleges and universities have abandoned what it is they are supposed to be. They have forgotten what they used to be. And outright lie about what they purport to be.

Too many teachers, professors, instructors stopped teaching kids how to think and instead started teaching them what to think. Punishing them for having the ‘wrong’ perspective. Limiting conversation and debate. Establishing boundaries on critical thought. Demanding allegiance to their personal virtuous viewpoints.

Step out of line and it will literally cost you your grade. Challenge their authority, you are out of their class.

The City Journal posted an article last week by John Tierney titled, Harvard’s Double Standard on Free Speech. Harvard has long been considered the pinnacle of a college education routinely ranking as one of the top two most prestigious universities in the country. But the author excoriates the storied institution for its lack of critical thinking and the shutting down of dissenting voices.

FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression) in its 2023 report ranked Harvard dead last when it comes to freedom of speech on its campus.

Tierney noted, “Harvard’s speech climate didn’t merely rank dead last among those of the 248 participating colleges. It was also the first school that FIRE has given an “Abysmal” rating for its speech climate, scoring it zero on the 100-point scale.”

He explains how FIRE evaluated the school. “Harvard’s abysmal rating is based partly on a series of censorship incidents at the school and partly on its students’ answers to questions in a national survey of 55,000 students.” That survey revealed that 75% of students are afraid of disagreeing with their professors.

Not many Harvard grads become cops. I grant you that, but that institution is not an outlier when it comes to cultural corruption on college campuses where teachers, professors and administrators shut down independent thought and critical thinking skills.

Think critically as a student you are ostracized by other students and punished by professors.

Think critically as a professor, swim against the prevailing current of social justice, and you lose your job!

I went to college in the 1970s, my BA is actually in Liberal Arts with a double Concentration, in Psychology and Recreation Administration. In my freshman year I had a professor who was pointed and specific about what was the point of attending the school. He said, “My job is to teach you to think critically. I’m going to challenge your arguments. Play devil’s advocate. In the end, I hope you never know what my actual views are.”

Two Stories About My Education and the Lack of Practicalities

As I said I have Concentration degrees in Psychology and Recreation Administration.

First story.

Before I became a cop, I spent a year working in a Park District as the Sports and Athletic Director. Basically, I organized and scheduled adult sports leagues and tournaments.

I was hired based on my degree, which I learned quickly prepared me for absolutely nothing practical for my position.

One of the first things I had to do was create a Round Robin tournament schedule. So, I sat my educated brain down to construct the bracket and within a few short seconds I realized that I had no idea how to do that. None! The most basic responsibilities for my position were scheduling and organizing.

Could I do that? Did my degree prepare me for that? Nope. I learned the theories of why people need to recreate but ZERO on how to work within a recreation system.

So, I turned to a guy who had been working at the district as an assistant for several years and he patiently instructed me on how to do draw up the brackets and over several months how to do every other aspect of my job.

At one point I asked him, “Why aren’t you the Director?”

His answer?

“I don’t have a college degree.”

That was my first realization that college wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Second story.

My degree in Psychology.

How much of that study translated into the skills necessary to be an effective police officer?

Honestly, zero.

However, I always had a job. My first one was helping my neighbor Greg Murphy deliver papers when we were about 11 years old. Started caddying at 13. Worked at a grocery store throughout high school. Worked as a laborer in the summers and I worked my way through college.

The day I set foot on campus I had two jobs lined up. Sophomore year I started bartending and did that until I graduated. Working several nights a week resulted in my grades suffering and my final GPA was 2.5, though no one has ever asked me about that

But, the experience behind the bar was priceless and directly related to my job as a cop.


I learned more about human nature and dealing with people in those years than I did in four years of college psychology classes.

Honestly—and I loved my Master’s program—I only chased that degree for my resume. That was my motivation, though I do admit, it did relate to what I was doing in law enforcement and even more as an instructor.


The point of this article is to rethink current philosophies and policies when it comes to hiring. I’m not at all insinuating that we should lower our standards. In fact we should raise them, along with pay. But a college education doesn’t equate to higher standards, does it?

Today isn’t 30 years ago, 10 years ago, or even five years ago.

The world has changed so quickly and drastically, law enforcement has to pay attention and catch up.

When I went to college every single person I knew, worked their way through. They had skin in the game, literal buy-in. They grew as human beings and became adults, balancing work and study. They paid their own rent and tuition, learned how to share responsibilities, budgeted spending money. They experienced life and grew quickly. If they didn’t, they failed on every level.

What percentage of college students today are working their way through? How many are forced to choose between an extra few hours of study or an extra shift at Jimmy Johns?

How many are truly self-sufficient and self-reliant?

Conversely, how many are still totally dependent on mom and dad for…well…everything? The ever-present safety net. Paying their tuition, rent, cell phone bills and dumping money into their debit accounts when they overdraft because they don’t know how to manage a bank account.

Is that lifestyle preparing them for independent thought, critical thinking and the taking of complete responsibility?

For law enforcement?

Face it, college today is not what it used to be.

Independent critical thinkers are a rare commodity. They may know how to read and remember the words of others, but do they have their own words?

Their own ideas?

Their own identities?

Or are they simply clones of those that spewed bias, bigoted perspectives cloaked in intellectual egotism?

Who is it, really, that we need leading the law enforcement profession today, tomorrow and beyond?

Society is dependent on that answer.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? E-mail your thoughts to: editor@calibrepress.com

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  1. RyGuy

    College improved my ability to write and convey information. However, I was significantly behind academically when I went to college. However, my bachelor’s in criminal justice prepared me maybe 5% for being an officer. I was pretty ignorant. Luckily it worked out for me. But so many of my classmates never actually went into criminal justice. Total waste. Education in most fields should be a continuing process. Front-loading education in someone’s life – most of the information they will not even recall – is a waste of time and money. I should have taken some introductory classes for one year. Then, every year after, take a couple of classes.

  2. Robert Burke

    I agree but he problem starts in high school or even younger. The teachers are the products of modern college teaching as you pointed out their thinking. Was an officer for thirty years and saw the changes in officers that were hired.
    I never attended college until my late forties and was amazed how little the students that had just graduated high school knew or even what some of the professors knew. My teacher in psychology did not know that the Marshall service was not part of the military.
    School is to be a learning experience not a place to push an agenda.

  3. B2

    Outstanding observations and spot on Jim! Thank you for this, I fully agree with all of your points. I kinda should because I’m a mix of that Candidate #3 and #4 you list. I have what I like to call a “PHD”…a “Plain Highschool Diploma”. I also happen to have 23 years of policing under my belt with multiple police departments and am currently a District Commander for my current agency.

    Your points about self-sufficiency and self-reliance hit to the quick, I am now in a position where I get to make the call on employment decisions. I have applicants with full-on Doctorates who can’t write a legible resume (or more importantly – find someone who can) to pass across my desk. I question the decision-making of someone who goes that far into debt for a piece of paper that lands them a civil service job. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that’s what the “system” has created. I certainly don’t discount them because of that either, it certainly shows they can complete tasks and have some level of drive to complete a goal. I, like you, value education dearly. I just question if the current “education” system creates more “intelligence” in someone over another.

    I have always referred back to one Mr. Albert Einstein who is credited with saying “Intelligence isn’t the ability to store information, but to know where to find it”. Professional police officers are problem solvers… self-reliant people know how to problem solve because they’ve spent their lives doing it. That shows intelligence to me. Going into debt that you have to pay off over your entire career does not show intelligence or fiscal responsibility. But that’s another topic, isn’t it?

  4. Patrick Hand

    What an incredibly poignant and well-thought-out article. I have always had the same opinion when it comes to college and a position in law enforcement. It’s becoming a point of contention for promotion as well. No degree, no opportunity to be promoted to Sergeant, no Master’s degree, no opportunity to be promoted to Lieutenant, and so on. I hope the higher-ups see your point of view in the near future or as you said, this profession will be missing out on talent.

  5. Bill Lewis II

    “A College Degree Proves What?” Excellent article.

  6. Dr. Jack Leeb

    As a police psychologist who has interviewed tens of thousands of public safety applicants over the years, I can say (anecdotally only) that there is, in general, a noticeable, qualitative difference between applicants with a college degree and those who don’t. The same goes for those who have served in the military. While there are, of course, exceptions in both directions, I have found those with the motivation and drive to attend college or the military are more mature and have a wider range of life experiences.

    • HK Slade

      There is a difference between a recruit who laid around their parent’s house for 4 years vs one who went to college, but the comparison to be made is between the 22 year old with 4 years of college vs one with 4 years working and supporting themselves. In my experience, those who spent that time working and gaining life experience are better able to problem solve and communicate (relate) with the people officers interact with. When you boil it all down, that’s what cops do. As a trainer, I can teach a recruit the law and how to write a better report. What I can’t teach is maturity and personal responsibility, and that’s not something college produces as well as, for example, waiting tables or working construction.

  7. Detective W. Voeltz

    As he oft does, Glennan knocks it out of the park again! The emphasis on higher education at one time made sense, but it was also a time when those institutes of higher education helped create young adults with true thinking ability. Somewhere along the way, colleges and universities switched their priorities from being places where minds expand to places desperately seeking the next federal study grant or, just as bad, chasing the donations of prior successful students. I have been at my current agency for almost 25 years now, and I have been a field training officer for passed 16 years. The bottom line is I have trained young cops fresh out of high schoo, some with military experience, and some with advanced degrees. For my taste, give me a motivated troop who has had at least a couple years of life experience (just for maturity) and you have the foundation to a good cop. Too many pablum-fed college students have the attitude that society “owes them something” and that attitude will kill a law enforcement career before it starts. Colleges degrees look great on a wall (if you need that validation), but I’ve NEVER seen one posted in a patrol car!

  8. Cherice Fleming

    Great article! I went to UCI where I experienced a professor telling us, “If your opinion had any value, you wouldn’t need to be taking my course!” It was an Ethics Course. I regurgitated what he wanted us to believe in order to pass his class. Those who had a differing opinion and expressed it in their papers, received close to failing if not failing grades! Thank you for having the courage to say what we’ve all been thinking!

  9. Carol Green

    In my younger days, I was an Air Cadet, Naval Reservist and Auxiliary Police Constable. I have held full time jobs since I was 17 years old. I worked 5 jobs while attending college. I left college after 1 year to go directly into a successful career in Air Traffic. The range of jobs I’ve held has given me more life experience, more ability to deal with the public, more skills at problem solving and de-escalating conflict than 4 years of university ever would. I should mention that one of those full time jobs was as a security officer at a university. At times, the “intelligence” displayed by the student body, would make any prospective hiring manager cringe. Many of the folk coming out of University are in fields that have absolutely nothing to do with their degree. As a lifelong learner, I have since completed a diploma program at University, and have many certificates for job related courses, but I do not qualify as having a degree. As such, even with 25 years experience, I am screened out of job postings. However, I’d put my resume, and my experience up against anyone with a degree. I’m just not given that chance. That’s not only a loss to me, but it’s a huge loss to the places that won’t get the benefit of my experience.


    As I have reminded my son. Education gives you the “knowledge” but in exercising that knowledge, you gain wisdom. That professor who tested your theories is the way education should be. Particularly when dealing with LEs requirement of constantly interacting with other human beings.

    I served several years with the Marine Corps and also worked on getting my associate degree in criminal justice. In the several months after the Marines and before getting a police career, I worked part time as security in a night club. Some think it was the learn how to handle violent people, which was totally wrong. I had dealt with violent people numerous times, not so much a factor once conditioned to it. I did it to learn human behavior in an environment that I knew police officers have to deal with. Where proper communication is very valuable. I employed as much tact and respect with disruptive people as I could afford to keep patrons secure, myself safe, as well as keeping the disruptive parties safe.

    Those skills transitioned very well to police work. As for my college degree. With the exception of a couple classes actually taught by retired police officers who became professors, it really did not help with my overall career. Good departments will teach and invest in their officers.

    For the potential officers who have participated in the civilian ride along program with my former department, I suggested if they go to college, my recommendation was English degrees due to the amount of writing and communicating we do, or political science/sociology, organizational management or history. I suggested find service jobs or the military to gain some life experience, along with seeking out hard challenges. Stay physically sharp. This career is really not fit for people under the age of 25 due to all its complexities and omnipresent liabilities.

  11. Tracy

    I entered law enforcement with a high school diploma and some college classes. I received my associates degree in the early 90s while working patrol, and bachelor’s in 2010 while I was working detectives. I found the associates very helpful, as the program was taught by a couple old school cops who weren’t afraid to say how it was. The bachelor’s I was disappointed with, probably because I already had 20 years in, and the professors and texts gave the impression of lack of experience. I now work at a community college, where it seems apparent that incoming students are not being prepared by public schools.

    It seems to me that the main benefits of college are to aid in communication skills, which are drastically needed in positions such as investigations. Those who are articulate fair far better than those who are not in the legal system.

    I think what it boils down to is education is a measurable tool agencies can use to try to get quality candidates. I dont discount the benefit of education, but it would seem to me that the best rookies I trained came out of the military.

  12. Brian Burry

    Instead of a “show up and get a degree” type education, the military requires excellence, hardword and tremendous development of skills to achieve the Military Occupational Specialty objectives. Take a Special Forces (Green Beret) Medical Sergeant course,. It includes every basic area the physician assistant or nurse practitioner would be trained in and after a year and a half of training, they go and fight for their country. Until very recently heard any credit was given for all that technical training from surgical to pharmacy to veterinary dentistry to preventive medicine and more required of that highly skilled MOS. in comparison to a liberal arts degree, that would pale against that medical sgt! A degree give me a nice thing to have but not a necessity.

  13. Seventies Copper

    It took me about six weeks at Los Angeles City College in 1974 to confirm my suspicions that college is THE “Grand Scam.” With only a high school diploma, I worked my way up to Deputy Commissioner for Enforcement (at a state agency in California).

    In 2002, I reluctantly took night classes at Rio Hondo College in order to “qualify” for a P.O.S.T. certification from Colorado to the Golden State, but all the instructors there bled PD-Blue and it was actually sort of fun for this old dinosaur.

  14. Philip Semple

    I don’t see an issue with setting the minimum requirement at high school level. While it serves as a baseline, it doesn’t necessarily dictate hiring exclusively at that level. There are many reasons why some people do not go on to post, secondary education, and it should not be a barrier to entry into the profession of policing. Having said that, I do not believe education is ever wasted. Education should enhance an individual’s ability to communicate, and comprehend large quantities of written material, which as you progress in the field of policing certainly exists. After retiring from policing, I got into education and completed my PhD from the University of Toronto. (I wonder if that makes a difference in how you the reader accept what I’ve said so far). Interestingly, enough, I also have a wife who is much smarter than I am, and who assisted me on my academic journey without herself ever attaining any formal credential beyond a college diploma. Continued education does not give you street smarts or common sense, but it does give you other abilities that can be of assistance, depending where your career takes you.

  15. Ronald Philip Caro

    I started back in 1975 and the personnel manager really questioned hiring me…because I had a degree. I was probably going to be one of those who went on up elsewhere. He was wrong. I liked my job. I had different skill sets, though. If someone screwed up facts, I could tell you. Others could tell me the person was lying by his mannerisms. I was a facts guy with a lot of useless information, great for trivia. Or writing reports. Or telling other officers what looked wrong or out of place. They taught me people skills. Or mechanics. Or welding. Or electrical wiring. Or any number of other useful things.
    In the early 80’s, as a sergeant, I noticed a difference in the new officers. Reports weren’t coming in making sense. Deputies could tell you what happened but they couldn’t write it down.
    I was going to change that and started teaching report writing at our academy, eventually making it a full-time pursuit. And I found out I couldn’t correct 12-16 years of miseducation of multiple-guess standardized testing. And test teaching. At least the college educated generally had a better grasp of communication. It isn’t a truism, though: my hard-headed daughter left high school being able to write rings around me (and typed a whole lot faster with fewer corrections needed).

  16. Joe Filice

    Excellent article! Years ago, an opinion was floating around that the bachelor’s degree was the new high school diploma. At the time, college graduates seemed comparable to high school graduates from a generation earlier in terms of knowledge and skills. With few exceptions, education seems to have degraded at all levels. Critical thinking skills are no longer a requirement to graduate and, at some institutions, could be an impediment. I have interviewed Computer Science graduates who couldn’t hook up a printer. I’m sure that they understood arcane details about printer driver programming but were completely unprepared for a role in IT Support. I have seen too many reports submitted by college graduates that might as well be written in Urdu. Yes, some people graduate with good communication skills and a good work ethic but college is no longer a guarantee of those skills. The college degree requirement is disqualifying many who may have exactly the skills needed to be great officers.

  17. Darrell

    ” A nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools” Thucydides
    Whenever I read or hear this argument, I immediately think of this quote. And in reading your article I agree with several things you bring forth, however, here is my quick rebuttal. We have to have a standard and as you say the standard needs to be higher, well this is one way to make that standard higher. Because everyone comes from varied life experiences, college in theory is the equalizer. Some things in college that you hopefully experienced if you didn’t get it at home include self-reliance, accountability, disappointment, deadlines, time management, focus, diversity of people and opinions, thoughts and perspectives outside of your own that challenge your norm, etc. These are key factors. There are plenty of people in other jobs that may not require a diploma, I don’t care much for them because we are talking about a job here that requires so much more nowadays than 20-30 years ago. The level of officer we are looking for today is high-functioning, highly educated, and motivated to get out there and serve at the highest level. All of the greatest warriors (If we can still say that) were highly educated men. I hear you, however, I’m pro more than just a high school diploma and working out of Grandpa’s shop for this gig. Even Special Forces training if converted to class time would be equivalent to at least an Associate’s Degree, that’s at the least.

  18. Colonel Jim Smith

    If nothing else a degree teaches one to research, read, study, and produce reports. I believe another major benefit is the socialization process that exposes one to many other lifestyles and backgrounds. To me interacting with people in the neutral setting of higher education is important. I see so many officers today who cannot produce a well written report, have grammar issues, and cannot use presentation programs when needed. This is frustrating as the high schools seem to have failed to educate and train students to perform these tasks. In small and medium sized agencies, one finds it common for officers to have to perform these roles presenting a visual presentation of a crime scene to a jury, using a program to reconstruct a motor vehicle crash scene, or presenting a program to a civic club or command staff. What should be occurring is higher education should be tailoring its programs to the technical resources and skills needed by LEOs and spending less time on exotic classes. I teach CJ classes and for the four universities I have taught for, we shaped the classes to fit the needs of LEOs with useful knowledge and technical expertise. One has to carefully consider the program and its content before spending the money to attend the classes.

  19. Melisa

    I totally agree with you.

    I think an experiment could help prove/disprove their assumptions about having a college degree. Consider 50-50: 50% college graduates and 50% applicants with zero college degrees and college graduates with a different degree. Test 1, IQ Test. Test 2, “Solve This Cold Case” Test. They could ask a university to help them conduct the experiment with several tests.

    Just my two cents.😅

  20. Terry McCord

    Supporting your point from a different angle, backward. I’m 53 years old and currently enrolled in online classes to obtain my Criminal Justice BAS. Why at 53? So I can retire from my current position as a Deputy Chief that I obtained with only an associate degree, and be able to pursue a chief of police position somewhere in a much warmer climate. Almost all police chief positions require a bachelor’s degree and prefer a master’s. I’ve had good and bad professors. Some teach and instruct what’s needed in law enforcement, some could care less. My classes aren’t difficult mainly because I use my experience of almost 30 years of law enforcement. When I took classes for three semesters as an 18 and 19-year-old out of high school I struggled. Now maturity may have much to do with it, but in my opinion, you just can’t beat experience. The officers we hire in today’s world need experience. Life experience. Not mom and dad paying for college while they simply attend classes for a few hours a few days and play video games or view TikTok and Snapchat videos the rest of the time.

  21. JBS

    I was an academy director for 5 years and saw all walks of recruits. College is AN answer, not THE answer. As colleges have lessened their standards, it is showing more and more in the products academies receive from them. I have had college graduates try to use text speak in police reports and not understand the importance of it, and I have watched those with only GEDs teach every other recruit how to handle themselves. I support higher education if it is the right choice for the person. At 46 yoa I completed my Bachelor’s and then a CSI certificate and am not working through my Master’s at 49 yoa, and am seriously considering further degree plans. I am using it to continue moving upward and to make myself a more viable candidate for higher rank and future positions in upper administration and teaching, but that is what works for me. As a profession, we need to hire the RIGHT PERSON, not the person who looks good on paper. We need to administer appropriate testing and selection criteria to make sure they have the mental and personal wherewithal to handle the rigors of this job and conduct appropriate background checks. Start with selecting the right people, then treat them right, and we will see growth and change in our police.

  22. Darren J. David

    I am on the same page as most everything stated in this article, but I am conflicted for a couple reasons, which is based on my 25 plus years in law enforcement. Early on in my career, when there was no higher education requirement and only a small percentage of officers went to college, the lack of critical thinking and overall objectivity was clearly evident. Inability to professionally communicate, particularly in writing reports, charging documents, memos, etc. was rampant.
    Since the majority are now more highly educated, the difference between them and their previous generations of officers is glaring in their abilities to analyze situations and write. Of course, the newer generations have different work ethics and other traits that us old timers may consider detrimental, but that’s a different matter.

  23. Robert D Hinckley Sr

    I enjoyed the article, but I also think there has to be some inkling of irony here somewhere. I say that because we sit here and discuss the value of education in preparation for a healthy law enforcement career, yet the biggest complaint I hear from other cops is that they don’t get sent to schools once they’re in the profession? So, maybe it’s not quite the actual education that we get, but perhaps “what” education we get that matters?

    One must first understand what they’re buying when pursuing an “education.” If you’re looking to becoming a medical doctor, then yes, medical school might be a requirement. If you looking to become an English teacher or a mechanic, then maybe that particular schoolhouse might be the best, and in some cases, the most prudent. If you’re looking to become a cop, then you should go to a “Cop school,” right? What does that look like? Well, one might think, it’s got to be, the police academy? If that’s the case, police academies are the end to all ends? Police academies range from three months to over a year. So, which is correct? Think about if YOU had to create a police academy curriculum? What would that look like? Think about what the beat cops do on a daily shift. How long would your academy be? What about detectives or administration? Being a police officer is a “jack of all trades and a master of none?” In a perfect world, we would run a curriculum that’s modeled on the specific agency. But, think about how cumbersome that would be for all the different agencies. My point is, there is no school for cops. It’s geared more closely towards continuing education in the law enforcement tract you choose. By the very nature of the job itself, it almost has to be that way. The police academy is the base from which the seed is planted, OJT and actual experience, and doing the job, is what we all grown from. Good, bad, or indifferent, that’s where we are.

    I do see value in formal collegiate education. It prepares the person to speak in front of people, prepare for a presentation, have independent thought, read and present in an articulate manner, and lead something? I also think the military does the same thing, just adding a little more pressure. The point is, everything has a place. I don’t think didactic regurgitation is the end to all ends, but it has a place.

  24. Tom POpken

    Always a good discussion. Generally I am in favor of more education. As Dallas does the military is a sustitute for the 45 hours of College. Good idea. I think the military prepares people more than college for a career in LE. For me I want people to be cops bad enough that if it takes a degree, 45 hours, or military, that is what I will do to achieve my goal of being in LE. Much the same as fitness. Whatever the PT requirement is I will best that no matter what because that is a requirement. College is no definative on being a good cop.

  25. John Duncan


    Candidates 3 and 4 go to the top of the list, especially given the college environment now. How did I come to this opinion? Because we work in the real world, not the theoretical world. The educational is valuable, however, at the entry level for Police Officer or Deputy Sheriff, it’s the life experience that will aid the entry level employee in getting through FTO and acquiring the skill needed to be successful. Acquiring training in the skill sets are necessary. Now as for college, (yes, I did it while working as a cop), necessary for moving up the ranks, only in that it dots the “I” and crosses the “T” and there is knowledge to be gained but understand what that knowledge is and where and when would it be applicable. College for me was tough, not because of the academics, but because of the environment. Half of my “Urban Sociology” class got arrested during the Rodney King riots! I attempted to provide clarity for the discussion, and it was evident the college classroom has no tolerance for factual information. If some officer is thinking about college, decide if you want to move up the ranks and then look at a degree in a subject that will help you outside of law enforcement. How long have I been in the job? 45 years.

  26. Eric Salemi

    Great article, and perspective, Glenn. I agree whole heartedly. I worked on farms and then various places since I was 12 and then went into the Army after high school. I got my B.S while working as a police officer and raising a family with my wife, because my department offered more pay for the degree. I got my Masters while raising my daughter myself (my young wife passed away). I got the Masters with the intent of either being a Chief OR working in another local/state government position, so I got it in Public Administration with emphasis on Business and Government. I retired and work as a consultant that looks very fondly on higher education to satisfy that SME label. So it worked out. I often caution young people who have bachelors to wait until they really know what they want to do before investing in a Masters. They may end up not needing it, or if they go to early in life it may be the wrong choice. (AND are you really a master of anything in your 20’s 😀)


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