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California May Soon Need Cops To Have A 4-Year College Degree Or Be At Least 25

California May Soon Need Cops To Have A 4-Year College Degree Or Be At Least 25

Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer's proposal was based on studies that showed older or more educated police officers are less likely to use excessive force, like shooting or hurting people.

Lawmakers are hoping to make cops more accountable and responsible for their actions. A legislator in California has proposed a new plan, in which police officers will be required to hold a bachelor’s degree or be at least 25-years old. Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles told the Sacramento Bee that his proposal was based on studies that showed older or more educated police officers are less likely to use excessive force, like shooting or hurting people. “These jobs are complex, they’re difficult, and we should not just hand them over to people who haven’t fully developed themselves,” said Jones-Sawyer, who is chairman of the Assembly Public Safety Committee.



 

 

Currently, police officers have to be 18 years old and must have a high school diploma or the equivalent. California Highway Patrol officers have to be 20. Looking at the statistics put forward by the Department of Justice data, California law enforcement agencies have seriously hurt or killed civilians 703 times in 2019. Police brutality is a serious issue not just in California but the whole country. According to the Washington Post, police have killed 134 people in California alone this year.



 

 

Jones-Sawyer cited a 2010 study that found college-educated police officers in two cities were less likely to use force in encounters with suspects. He also brought up research showing that the parts of the brain dedicated to impulse control, planning, and working memory don’t fully develop until about age 25. California incorporated those findings into law when it extended youth offender parole to age 25, he said. “This could be the beginning of changing the entire way that policing is done on the front end,” he said. “Then we can let the bad cops retire on the back end.” Jones-Sawyer’s proposal faces a number of obstacles before it would become law, including votes in the Assembly and the Senate and the governor’s approval.



 

 

Vice reports that this is a common practice worldwide. Requiring a degree is pretty basic to policing. In England and Wales, cops have been required to have a four-year degree as of this year. Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden all require their officers to have some level of college education in addition to their training. In 2017, Dr. Christina Gardiner, a professor of criminal justice at the University of California, Fullerton conducted the largest non-governmental study regarding how higher education impacts policing in the U.S. She noted that college-educated officers often excel in critical areas of policing. “This is important because if college-educated officers are truly better report writers that could translate to better investigations, higher court case filings, fewer evidentiary constitutional challenges, fewer false confessions or wrongful convictions, or more successful prosecutions,” Gardiner told VICE News. 



 

 

According to another report, Jones-Sawyer proposed ‘Assembly Bill 89’ which said increasing the minimum age of an officer will result in a police force composed of ‘more mature officers who are able to exhibit greater self-control, and who are less likely to utilize deadly force’. In a statement, he said: Excessive force at the hands of law enforcement that leads to grave injury or death not only tears apart families and communities but erodes trust in law enforcement.  My community, like many others is all too familiar with police violence and physical force.  This data-driven bill relies on years of study and new understandings of brain development to ensure that only those officers capable of high level decision-making and judgment in tense situations are entrusted with working in our communities and correctional facilities. "The evidence is clear--the prefrontal cortex of the brain is not fully developed until age 25. It is with similar logic that youth must be treated as youth by our criminal justice system," said Esteban Nuñez, Director of Advocacy at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC). "This legislation will reduce the risk of unlawful or impulsive use of force by requiring law enforcement officers to have more full brain maturation before entering high-stress, high-stakes situations."



 

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