Mimesis Law
27 May 2020

Cop Tips: Education and Intelligence

Apr. 22, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — The other day, I referred to the Internet “legend” that police refused to hire people who were “too” intelligent for the job, based on a single case from 2000. In that case, in New London, Connecticut, the police department gave a test that measured the IQ of the applicants. Robert Jordan took the police entrance exam at age 46, and scored a 33 on the test. The police department decided to only interview applicants who scored between 20 and 27 on the test, the average range of intelligence.

It struck me that the real reason was that they just did not want to hire someone who was over 45, but needed an excuse that didn’t involve age discrimination. Jordan thought that this was the reason too, and that is why he filed the discrimination lawsuit.

Guys, police don’t like old rookies. At the point when cops get that old, in many places, they are ready to retire, having served 20 years on the force. I was done with police work at age 52, with 23 years of service. But then, I started late.

The issue wasn’t intelligence, unless the bosses at New London were complete morons. It was age.

Most departments want officers who are well educated. Many departments offer incentives to encourage this. My old department did several things along that line. They had incentive pay for educational degrees. If you had an associate’s degree, you got an extra $50 per month, or $100 for a bachelor’s and $125 for a master’s degree. That was in addition to certificate pay for an intermediate ($50), advanced ($75), or master peace officer certificate ($100). So while I was there, I got an extra $200 per month, based solely on my education and certificates.

My old department also provided scholarships for officers. Instead of paying over $200 per credit hour, officers who received a scholarship paid only $50 per hour, and I never heard of an officer being turned down for this type of scholarship.

A department that provides those incentives is not the type of place where intelligence is denigrated; on the contrary, it is where intelligence is valued. Guys, that’s not an uncommon theme among police departments.

For example, the Austin, Texas police pay $100 for an associate’s degree, $220 for a bachelor’s, and $300 for a master’s degree. The Arlington, Texas police won’t even hire you if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree. A few years back, the Saint Paul police did a study. They found that officers who had earned a master’s degree received almost twice the number of commendations compared to the rest of the department. They also had about half of the disciplinary issues.

According to the Baltimore Sun, studies show that educated police officers have:

  • Better behavioral and performance characteristics;
  • Fewer on-the-job injuries and assaults;
  • Fewer disciplinary actions from accidents and use of force allegations;
  • Greater acceptance of minorities;
  • A decrease in dogmatism, authoritarianism, rigidity and conservatism.

Police chiefs try to limit liability and aggravation, and if more highly educated officers do that, they will try to encourage higher education and IQ.

So you see, more and more education being pushed by police departments. My old department may have been unusual, but it was not an outlier. We had a former university professor, a guy who had earned his doctorate, who worked the street as a patrol officer and who is now a sergeant. Another former patrol sergeant had a master’s degree in education and had some work done towards his doctorate. A female detective has her master’s degree. I don’t know how many officers either had a bachelor’s degree when hired, or earned it while working.

Hell, my old partner earned her bachelor’s degree while working—and the police department would adjust her schedule to allow her to get the classes she needed.

One of my first lieutenants was a lawyer, with his J.D. earned at Southern Methodist University while he was sergeant at the jail. Almost every police chief position at a decent sized department expects the chief to have a master’s degree, at minimum.

There are plenty of references about increasing the professionalism of the police, usually by promoting higher education. Smarter officers have fewer complaints and more commendations, as shown in the St. Paul study above, and they give their chiefs fewer headaches. It is because they are taught critical thinking skills. It is because they know how to do hard work, to dig at something until they find an answer.

It is because they are smarter, not in spite of it. So laugh all you want about police not hiring smart officers, but understand that it’s just not true. Not at all.

9 Comments on this post.

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  • Tom H
    22 April 2016 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    Greg, I think people starting careers in law enforcement later in life is more common now than it used to be. Bill Waybourn was allegedly going to hire 38 year old Chris Kyle to be a cop. The younger generation is infected with snowflake syndrome, it is better to have someone with some real life experience before you send them out with a gun to piss off citizens.

    Interesting you mentioned Arlington, Tx requires a bachelor’s degree. I was just reading “Grits” today and they had posted a study that says you are 6 times more likely to be shot and killed by police in Arlington than New York City.

    • shg
      22 April 2016 at 2:45 pm - Reply

      Grits’ assumption is unfair. The problem isn’t that Arlington cops are more violent, but that most NYPD can’t figure out how to work the safety on their Glock, and even if they could, can’t hit anything they aim at anyway.

      • John S
        22 April 2016 at 6:09 pm - Reply

        Don’t the NYPD use a 12lb trigger pull in lieu of safeties? Or am I missing your joke 🙁

        • shg
          22 April 2016 at 7:40 pm - Reply

          Yeah, that was the joke. Greg got it.

      • Greg Prickett
        22 April 2016 at 6:14 pm - Reply

        LOL, since a Glock doesn’t have a real safety, just the trigger safety, that’s pretty bad.

  • Tom H
    22 April 2016 at 5:26 pm - Reply

    I figured NYPD were notorious bad shots, but I also assumed the numbers for NYC included the unintended victims.

  • Philly PD: Smart Is Optional
    6 May 2016 at 10:21 am - Reply

    […] 6, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — Last week on Fault Lines, police officer turned lawyer Greg Prickett explained why chiefs prefer cops with college degrees over their less well-educated brethren. Greg pointed out that a good police chief minimizes his […]

  • Gregory Frazier: What We Don’t Know Is Everything
    13 September 2016 at 10:39 am - Reply

    […] a more diverse police force can actually be counterproductive if it comes at the expense of things like education which provably help cops keep within the bounds of the […]

  • Gregory Frazier: What We Don’t Know Is Everything
    13 September 2016 at 10:39 am - Reply

    […] a more diverse police force can actually be counterproductive if it comes at the expense of things like education which provably help cops keep within the bounds of the […]