Proposed Bill Would Require California Officers to Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Riot police form a blockade during a rightwing No To Marxism rally on August 27, 2017 at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Berkeley, California. / AFP PHOTO / Amy Osborne (Photo credit should read AMY OSBORNE/AFP/Getty Images)
AMY OSBORNE/AFP/Getty Images

A proposal introduced Monday would require those hoping to become police officers in California to earn a bachelor’s degree or be 25 prior to their training.

“Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) said the change could help reduce the number of times police officers are involved in excessive use of force cases,” CBS Sacramento reported.

The law currently requires prospective officers to be 18 and have a high school diploma. California Highway Patrol applicants must be at least 20 years old.

“Last week, a Sacramento County grand jury report recommended the Sacramento Police Department remove its college degree requirement and allow tattoos, piercings, and ponytails for officers as a way for the department to attract more recruits,” the CBS article read.

Right now, the department has 747 sworn officers, a number that is down 65 from the “authorized level.”

Jones-Sawyer’s bill, however, suggests that having more education helps reduce use-of-force incidents, according to KTVU:

Jones-Sawyer pointed to a 2010 study that found college-educated police officers in two cities were less likely to use force in encounters with suspects. His bill cites other studies as well, including one in 2007 that showed officers with a bachelor’s degree were less likely to use physical force than officers with only high school educations. And a 2008 study of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department found that age and education of officers was the main determinant in the likelihood to resort to the use of force.

“These jobs are complex, they’re difficult, and we should not just hand them over to people who haven’t fully developed themselves,” Jones-Sawyer said in a press release.

If it adopts the bill, California would have the highest age requirement in the nation.

“Four states — Illinois, North Dakota, New Jersey and Nevada — each require a bachelor’s degree or a supplemental combination of education and experience,” the KTVU article concluded.

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