ACTION BRIEF

Education and Training

Issue

As the call for police reform continues, law enforcement departments should implement more education requirements for their officers. Studies have shown that police officers with a four-year college degree are less likely to use force, and departments with more college-educated officers have fewer use of force complaints and fewer terminations due to misconduct. However, there are substantial disparities among departments in the minimum education requirements needed to become a certified law enforcement officer. Increasing officers’ educational attainment and providing effective training can lead to better policing outcomes and improved police-community relationships.

 

Key Statistics and Facts:

  • Only about 15% of police departments require some level of college education, with 10% requiring a two-year degree and only 1% requiring a four-year degree.
  • Police officers with a four-year degree are almost 40% less likely to use various types of force, ranging from verbal commands to causing physical injury.
  • A study of police shootings across 15 years found that officers with four-year college educations were nearly 30% less likely to discharge their firearms.
  • Agencies where officers had at least a two-year degree had a lower rate of civilian complaints about the use of force.
  • Roughly 25% of citizens with mental health diagnoses have a history of arrest, and people with untreated mental health needs are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter.

Recommendations:

As state, local, and federal lawmakers, mayors, law enforcement, and other key stakeholders consider advancing police reform, the Center for Justice Research recommends the following:1. Allocate federal, state, or local funding and benchmarks for increasing education.

    1. Advocate that law enforcement agencies develop an education standard for police officers.
    2. Develop partnerships between police agencies and mental health services, providing agencies and professionals with a guide to best practices when interacting with individuals who need specialized attention, support, and protocol due to specific mental and physical needs.
    3. Standardize universal training specific to racial profiling, bias, and mental health practices.
    4. Engage in community conversations to access citizen perspectives and community expectations.
    5. Invite the U.S. Justice Department and local agencies to work with universities.