The Influence Of Higher Education On Law


The purpose of the current research is to assess the influence of increased educational requirements for police officers and their performance. Specifically, the requirement of a minimum number of hours in higher education or the possession of a degree in higher education is what the paper addresses. While many police agencies have since the 1970s increased their educational requirements (Breci, 1994), only limited research exists on the extent to which this requirement has served to improve the performance of police officers (Roberg & Bonn, 2004). This research seeks to fill this void in the literature.

Then, basically, in plain and succinct wording, explain what you expect to do.

Public Expectations and Changing Roles

This study addresses the impact of higher education on law enforcement officer performance. And, specifically, whether or not increased educational requirements for police officers have affected their professional performance.

However, the nature of the job and its traditional patterns has changed significantly over the years. In the modern context, police officers are expected to strive for professional growth that is acquired not merely through experience but also through knowledge and theory. The necessities of the public are gradually changing step by step, and one example is community policing (Varricchio, 1998). This paradigm shift requires altered training, support, and accountability systems for both applicants and veterans alike. Although physical parameters and strength are still very important, the intention to extend professionalism requires police officers to strive for educational changes too (Breci, 1994).

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However, little attention has been paid to the importance of higher education for performance improvement. To a certain extent, selection and appointment based on minimal physical factors such as strong health, fighting, and running skills along with good coordination are still favored and preferred by the public and the law enforcement officers themselves (Paoline, 2000). In real-life settings, policing still requires much strength, and age, reaction speed, and fight craft still matter but the role of the qualifications and skills acquired with a college or university education may also be quite important for the better efficiency and performance of police officers.

This study addresses the impact of higher education on law enforcement officer performance. Attempts to improve police officers’ performance with the help of education are not innovative (Roberg & Bonn, 2004). In 1936, August Vollmer was the first official who advocated for all officers to hold a bachelor’s degree (Carte & Carte, 1975). President Lyndon Johnson stated this as a recommendation for police agencies in 1967, and huge investments into police education have been added as a result of this recommendation (LaFree et al., 2000). It is expected that a well-educated police officer can solve problems more effectively, and serve as a model of professional police behavior (Pence, 1998; Decker & Huckabee, 2002).

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Some research exists that addresses the effect of higher education on law enforcement practice (Roberg & Bonn, 2004; Breci, 1994; Paoline, 2007; Carter & Sapp, 1992). The need for professionals with analytical skills, articulateness, intellectual curiosity, and social sensitivity has been stressed by official institutions (including the National Advisory Committee on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals) since the 1970s (Breci, 1994; Michelson, 2002). Despite this, current law enforcement practice shows that only 13% of all police officers were required to have a Bachelor's degree for promotion or get the initial job (Carter, Sapp, & Stephens, 1992). Another research revealed that eighty-three percent of all law enforcement recruitment bodies had only a high school diploma as a mandatory level of education for hiring police officers (Bureau of Justice Studies, 2000; Paoline, 2007). But given the ongoing support for mandatory higher education in law enforcement, it is crucial to make sure the police agencies who implemented this practice were successful and what extent this success eventually had for police officers’ performance. There is a lack of empirical evidence on how education influences the productivity and outcomes of law enforcement officers’ activities.

The study will assess the extent to which a police officer’s education is related to several standard performance criteria regularly used by police agencies. These include the number of injuries, disciplinary actions from injuries, civilian complaints, disciplinary actions, motivation rate, number of annual sick days, and preventable accidents. The strength of the relationship between these and the police officer’s education will be assessed using regression analysis. Other demographic and occupational factors, known to be related to these performance outcomes will be included in the analysis as a means of controlling for their direct and indirect influence on performance. The existing research ties civilian complaints and injuries to the time on the job and the assignment specificity (Paoline, 2007), while disciplinary actions and motivation are also connected to personality peculiarities (Breci, 1994). The number of sick annual days depends on the health of the officer, his age, and the number of injuries acquired while completing the assignments. The most important factor to analyze would be the number of preventable accidents as it requires analytical skills and critical thinking that are trained in college or university classes. By finding out the correlation between two factors from the regression model, it is possible to provide information on the independent influence of the level of education on performance.

Professional Issues in Policing

Throughout the history of policing, many reform campaigns favored higher education, and their emergence coincided with the very beginning of law enforcement as a profession. Starting from Vollmer and his successors during the Progressive Era, there were many attempts to professionalize law enforcement by setting new standards in recruiting and redefining the functions and role of policing and training. However, those measures did not become widespread because of the lack of financial support.

Throughout its centuries of existence, the profession of the police officer has always incorporated physical strength, speed of reaction, fight for justice, and high moral values. However, not much attention has been paid to the importance of higher education for performance improvement. To a certain extent, the mere physical factors are still favorable and preferred by the public and the law enforcement officers themselves (Paoline, 2007). Therefore, the community focuses on physical strength as a primary requirement for an individual who is going to become a law enforcement officer. Nevertheless, the nature of the job and its traditional patterns has changed significantly over the years. Nowadays police officers are expected to demonstrate an urge for the professionalism that is acquired not merely through experience but also through knowledge and theory. The public is gradually changing its desires step by step, and one example is community policing (Varricchio, 1998 ). This paradigm shift requires altered training, support, and accountability systems for both applicants and veterans alike. . Although physical parameters and strength are still very important, the professionalism drive requires police officers to strive for educational changes too (Breci, 1994).

Law enforcement agencies currently utilize traditional training approaches, though the need for reform exists. For example, police officers are still called by their last name, and their first name is rarely used. Barlow and Brandl (1996) noted that local law enforcement officers are still responsible for a specific piece of geographical area, are not supervised by a senior professional, and are still expected to decrease crime rates and punish those who violate the established laws.

Police officers have always been a reflection of the society that demanded safety and security provisions on the behalf of these officers. For example, in the 1800s and the early 1900s, police authority was delegated to the political party representatives that were the most influential and wealthy (Barlow & Brandl, 1996; Breci, 1994). No special training was provided but as the police representatives knew a lot about the criminal world, they could fulfill their tasks. However, this led to chaos and resulted in nine innocent people ten detained for nothing.

Due to the enhanced legal standards, changed rights, and public expectations the projected behavior and actions of the law enforcers have transformed into something entirely new. It is expected that a well-educated police officer can more effectively problem-solve and model professional behavior (Decker & Huckabee, 2002).

Studies like the one by Paoline and colleagues concentrated majorly on the connections between community policing and police culture (2000). It is also touched upon the shifts and transformations in police culture that have taken place partially because of reforms in policing. There were interesting findings related to police education and training. It was proposed that the experiences in education might lead to increased appreciation of the numerous functions that police officers carry out in today's society, of economic, social, and psychological factors that influence the behavior and problems of the citizens that officers have to work with, and of police authority limitations (Weisburd, 2008).

Seventy years ago, it was surprising to note that all police officers were obliged to have university degrees, and higher education usually implied faster promotion. However, in the modern context, it does not take place in practice. There are two sides to the issue: the local law enforcement agencies that have different positions on whether to make higher education degrees a mandatory entrance criterion or not and the police officers who have a college degree while working in law enforcement and either use or do not use it in their work.

Problem Statement

Due to the growing number of unprofessional and underperforming law enforcement officers, it is important to review the influences on performance improvement of this legislative branch in general (US Department of Justice, 2007). They include working conditions, compensation size, self-actualization at work, stress factors, and the traditional perception of society. Over the last 25 to 30 years, many law enforcement agencies have increased their educational requirements for recruits. While there is a widespread belief that this is beneficial to the agencies and communities served, little research on the benefits of policing exists. With the increasing costs of higher education, it is reasonable to examine the impact of higher education on law enforcement professionals. Approximately, two to three percent of law enforcement positions in the United States require applicants to possess a college degree. Therefore, a need exists for empirical research on the potential that formal education has on law enforcement professionals.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this research is to determine the extent to which higher education contributes to increased productivity and improved/increased outcomes on the part of law enforcement personnel.

Research Questions

This research will answer the following questions:

  • Is education correlated with any of the law enforcement officer performance criteria? If yes, is this relationship direct or indirect? What is the strength of the relationship?
  • What performance criteria are most strongly correlated to performance levels in law enforcement officers with low levels of formal education?
  • Which performance criteria are the least correlating with the number of educated police officers?
  • Which performance criteria are the ones most influenced by higher education?
  • What additional factors of influence come into place in terms of law enforcement officer performance?

Research Methodology

Based on the research questions, the researcher decided to address the problems by conducting a quantitative study supported by a descriptive method of investigation. This type of research is the most appropriate in this case as it is accurate and is based on numerical data, while additional supporting conclusions can be retrieved from authoritative sources and scientific literature. The quantitative method was used in combination with the descriptive method for several reasons. First, the quantitative method is the most convenient for gathering information for future analysis. The quantification starts with the statistical and correlative evaluation of the indicators, which helps to discern the relationship between higher education and police officers’ performance (Burt, 1997). Data collection is performed by researchers to arrive at general conclusions about the phenomena. Quantitative methods and empirical observations can also give ground to building models and developing theories. After the theory is developed, a prediction or a hypothesis can be formed to describe future tendencies. It allows researchers to continue with experiments and learn more about a certain phenomenon.

The data chosen for this research is divided into primary and secondary. Primary data will be retrieved right from law enforcement agencies, while secondary data will be taken and analyzed from academicians' previous works. Preference will be given to primary data due to its accuracy and uniqueness (Carlan & Byxbe, 2000).

The independent variable is higher education in all its forms, while the dependent variables are performance criteria of law enforcement officers (Bruns, 2005). Higher education is the factor that impacts the performance of law enforcement officers, so in this study, it is an independent and unchanged variable perceived as it is. Meanwhile, the performance of law enforcement officers is impacted, so it is a dependent variable.

Higher education, which is also called third-level, tertiary, or post-secondary, is the stage in the learning process that implies studying at universities, colleges, academies, institutes of technology, and seminaries. Some other educational institutions may also be included in this list. These can be career colleges, trade schools, and vocational schools that have the authority to award professional specifications or academic degrees. High education is accessible both for free and for tuition fees, though society tries to make it as affordable as possible. It is confirmed in the acts of the United Nations and the European Convention on Human Rights. Higher education is divided into liberal arts, vocational education, and professional education. This research is interested in the last type.

The performance of law enforcement officers consists of multiple criteria that indicate the professionalism of the officers. Professionalism implies staying in the profession and behaving according to the recognized professional standards (Carter & Sapp, 1989). Although the high ideals of police professionalism – respect, compassion, caring, leadership, responsibility, communication, accountability, honor and integrity, altruism, scholarship, and excellence – are difficult to measure using official numerical information, there are still other criteria that indicate the level of performance and job commitment of law enforcement officers (Carter, Sapp, & Stephens, 1989). The choice of various criteria is justified by the complexity and multifaceted nature of police officers' work (Weisburd, 2008). These criteria were chosen not only because they are measurable, but also due to their wide application in other scientific works (Lurigio & Skogan, 1994). They include disciplinary actions, citizen complaints, commendations, medals or ribbons, the volume of summonses or arrests, days away sick, incidents of force used, test scores in the police academy, supervisory performance evaluations, accidents prevented, the rank of promotions, line-of-duty injuries, verbal or written communication skills, job knowledge, work quality, cooperation, probationary evaluations, response to new training, the ability to make decisions (independently), level of commitment, and professional attitude (Barry, 1978; Carter, 2006; Patzius, 2011).

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