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Associate, Bachelor and Master Degrees for Police Officers

As police departments brainstorm ways to better their public image, minimize public complaints, and decrease alleged excessive force complaints, perhaps higher education is the answer. Why would police departments entertain the notion of higher education when sensitivity training, use-of-force training, firearms qualification are already standard procedure?


The answer is simple: Your officer is your investment. Your officer is the walking, talking, living embodiment of a commercial for your administration.

The police industry has tackled becoming more professionalized over the course of decades. No longer are police departments accepting only the brute strength and brawn of a societal castoff as an acceptable representation for their department. Instead, factors such as educational achievements are becoming more desirable.


Old-school field training officers would caution new rookies to “forget everything you learned in the academy, this is the real world.” While there are benefits to experience and brute strength, let us examine the benefits of book smarts as they apply to policing.

Will a college degree help a police officer find a burglar while on patrol? Probably not. Will graduating

summa cum laude

help a beat cop clear the roadway of obstructions? No. What it will do is enable officers to use their time more wisely. Higher education requires time management, especially for your veteran officer balancing a family with other extracurricular activities.


This employee, who has made the conscious decision to go back to school to pursue higher learning, is showing pride in him/herself and is showing dedication to the field. This is the employee who isn’t satisfied with mediocrity, this employee wants bigger and better: This cop is driven for more.

College, whether it be for an Associate’s, Bachelor’s or Master’s degree is a networking goldmine. Meeting likeminded professionals offers the invaluable opportunity to brainstorm topics related to our fields, but from varying viewpoints and backgrounds.


In this age of mistrust of law enforcement, we need to be able to address social issues not as they are, but how we (and others) see them. All of us have different backgrounds, we have different experiences and those experiences are what color the lenses with which we view the world.

While on patrol, officers are constantly making decisions. On domestic disturbances, the suggestion to separate for the night may work for one family but not another. Then what? We’re expected to solve problems, not just call for the supervisor when our suggestions don’t work.


The educated officer may have a plan B, plan C, even a plan D. The educated officer has experience problem solving and the communication skills to deliver his/her intended message to get the desired result.

Too often police are accused of not being fair. The immediate retort of “life isn’t fair” cannot be the knee-jerk response. Educated officers have learned how to better understand their residents.


The communities they serve need to know what their officer can, and will, do for them. Officers should not treat people equally, they should offer them what they need when they need it. This is the essence of fair policing.

Police officers are expected to be professionals and live under a higher level of scrutiny.


Through the maturing process of attending college and conquering the added responsibilities placed upon them, higher education seems like the logical step. During this educational time, oral and written skills are improving, which in turn, result in better reporting and testifying. Also during this time, your officer is being educated on evolving technology. Without constant education, the evolution of technology can become overwhelming and leave resistant officers struggling.


Adults often joke that our children and grandchildren are more technologically savvy than we are. By obtaining higher education, that technology will become commonplace. Grant writing, statistical crime analysis, traffic studies and accident plotting with reconstruction are all tasks innumerably aided by evolving technology. Why compile statistics by hand, when computers can be your partner?

If at this point, administrators are still hesitant to tackle the cost of higher learning for our officers, let’s look at it like this. Money is continually being spent on training seminars to keep our officers up on the latest crime trends and law updates. Why? Because we know our officers need the education.


Why not look at the cost of higher education as preventative, positive training to avoid the cost of negative disciplinary retraining or worse still, legal costs. It is widely accepted that the higher educated the officer, the less likely he/she is to resort to violence. Cops will still be cops, we will go hands on, we will arrest, and we will be sued. Why not do our best to prevent the lawsuits before they occur?


The higher the education level of our officers, the less likely they are to falling into the trap of contempt of cop. The better educated officers will have a more complete “toolbox” from which to draw as opposed to immediately resorting to violence.

As an administrator, if you are approached by an officer who wants to pursue higher education to better him/herself and the department, congratulate the officer, wish him/her well in his/her endeavors, and consider yourself lucky to have such a driven and motivated employee.


Beth Sanborn is a 18-year veteran of the Lower Gwynedd, Penn. Police Department currently assigned

as a school resource officer, adjunct faculty for Holy Family University.

She may be reached at

Published in Law and Order, Jun 2015

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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Degrees for Police Officers

Posted on : Jun 16 at 7:53 AM By Officer Beth Sanborn

Wonderful article. Right on the money. Officer Sanborn has a great insight as to what law officers and officials and administration has to do to improve the quality of our officers today b

Degrees for Police Officers

Posted on : Jun 16 at 7:53 AM By Officer Beth Sanborn

Wonderful article. Right on the money. Officer Sanborn has a great insight as to what law officers and officials and administration has to do to improve the quality of our officers today b

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