Education Levels of Police

Christine Gardiner writes (2017), “About one third (30.2 percent) of police officers in the United States have a four-year college degree. A little more than half (51.8 percent) have a two-year degree, while 5.4 percent have a graduate degree.”

I think Bryan Caplan is probably right that much of higher education is about signalling, not actual learning, but I suspect it’s the case that the sort of person who can complete a four-year degree also tends to be a better cop. So I suspect that education level correlates with quality of policing. At a common-sense level, the sort of person with the foresight and patience to jump through four years’ worth of hoops probably also has the demeanor to be a good cop.

But probably better than requiring a four-year degree would simply be to psychologically profile prospective cops. Does this person have patience, emotional control, common sense, and empathy? If the answer is no, the person almost certainly will not make a good cop. We should bear in mind that it’s a good idea to get good cops who grew up under difficult conditions that may have made a college education harder.

Let’s not forget this crazy 2000 story: “A man whose bid to become a police officer was rejected after he scored too high on an intelligence test has lost an appeal in his federal lawsuit against the city.” That’s absurd on its face.


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