In their scholarly article “Exploring the Impact of Police Officer Education Level on Allegations of Police Misconduct,” (International Journal of Police Science and Management, December 1, 2008), authors Jennifer Manis, Carol Archbold, and Kimberley D. Hassell set out to determine whether a positive correlation exists between the level and type of education police officers received and the propensity for complaints against them for police misconduct.
The relationship between levels of education among police officers and performance of duties by those officers has been the subject of considerable study over the past several decades. Many police departments have in fact imposed more stringent academic requirements on potential police officer candidates over the past 30 years, with a college degree becoming the minimal level of education required as opposed to a mere high school diploma (or GED equivalency). Understanding the laws that they are sworn to enforce and how to interact with a socially, culturally, and ethnically diverse public, it was determined, required a higher level of education. Additionally, those with college degrees almost by definition are older and more emotionally mature than those who apply to law enforcement academies with a high school diploma.
Manis, Archbold, and Hassell did not merely seek to understand the correlation, if it exists, between level of education and likelihood of being accused of misconduct. They also sought to determine whether the type of degree or field of study emphasized bore any relationship to the likelihood of such accusations. In other words, they sought to determine whether a degree in Criminal Justice would better prepare police officer candidates for the arduous task of enforcing laws than degrees largely unrelated to law enforcement (e.g., Political Science, Humanities, etc.). The authors’ findings indicated that no such correlation exists between the type of degree and the propensity for a police officer to face charges of police misconduct. That, then, is the conclusion of Manis, Archbold, and Hassell’s study: The type of college degree earned bore no relationship to probabilities of misconduct. Police officers with backgrounds in Criminal Justice were neither less likely to be accused of police misconduct than those with degrees in other fields of study nor more likely to be accused.