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Education of Police Officers - Essay Example

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Mark Twain once quipped, "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education" (Twain, 2007). This is the dilemma faced by the modern police officer that is faced with the myriad technical knowledge that they must possess, as well as the street education necessary to do their job…
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Educational Requirements of the Police Officer: Setting Higher Standards Mark Twain once quipped, "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education" (Twain, 2007). This is the dilemma faced by the modern police officer that is faced with the myriad technical knowledge that they must possess, as well as the street education necessary to do their job. The work of the today's police officer is heavily reliant on science, psychology, and the law. The effective police officer needs to understand the collection and chain of evidence, negotiating with the public, and the inner workings of the judicial system. While many of these skills can be learned on the street in the day-to-day execution of their job, many of them are more easily acquired in a formal classroom setting. A college education would not only benefit the individual officer, it would also give the public an increased perception in regards to the professionalism of the police.
Police work today is far more scientifically based than it was in the past. Police officers are continually challenged to keep current in the areas of "technical support, forensic science, fraud investigation, and high tech crime" (Fleming and Wood, 2006, p.262). This knowledge is applied from the moment the police begin to analyze a crime to the time they are preserving a crime scene and collecting evidence. The science of DNA, the expanded technical databases available, and new analytical techniques require the police officer to enter into a lifetime of learning.
In addition to the pragmatic side of police work that entails collecting and analyzing the evidence, there is the human contact that officers must constantly confront. In many ways, and in many situations, the police officer needs to act almost as a psychologist. Whether they are trying to defuse a tense situation or attempting to get a suspect to talk, a knowledge of psychology can make them more effective. According to Leo (2008), "confessions elicited by psychological methods were less likely to be challenged by defense attorneys, thrown out by judges, and questioned by juries than those exacted by the third degree" (p.80). This information is best acquired through the pursuit of a college degree in criminal justice.
A police force that was college educated would portray a greater sense of self-confidence and would result in a greater sense of trust on the part of the people. While many of the skills that an officer needs are learned on the street, the technical education would be a credential that the public could rely on in the same way that they do doctors, lawyers, and rocket scientists. This elevated level of trust would translate into a greater degree of respect from both victim and suspect alike. More crimes would be solved, more suspects convicted, and the public would hold the police in a higher regard and in the high esteem that is deserved.
In conclusion, a college degree would benefit the individual officer, the police department, and the general public. The high level of technical expertise required of today's officer makes a college degree an advantageous endeavor for any officer. Still, there are many skills that will need to be learned on the street. While a degree should not be mandatory, life long learning in the areas of forensics and psychology should be a regular part of the police officer's life. Not only would college credentials improve the public's opinion of the police, the increased level of expertise would develop a higher level of trust and confidence in the police departments around the country.
Fleming, J., & Wood, J. D. (2006). Fighting crime together: The challenge of policing and security networks. Sydney AU: University of New South Wales Press.
Leo, R. A. (2008). Police interrogation and American justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Twain, Mark. "Mark Twain quotes" Quotations by author. 2007. Quotations Page. 11 May 2009 . Read More
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