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Empirical Studies of Higher Education and Police Performance

NCJ Number
D C Smith
Date Published
This report is a critical review of 12 empirical studies testing the relationships between higher education of police and police performance. The studies reviewed measure the organizational success of educated officers, their activities, and citizen evaluation of their performance.
Assumptions that better educated police will perform better have been the basis for an increasing pressure on policymakers at all levels to increase the educational level of police officers. Such assumptions imply important resource allocations and leave open important policy questions regarding subsidizing college education of police officers, ranking officers according to educational level, and typing pay to education level, as well as issues centering on the type and quality of higher education which will best result in better police performance. Findings of the 12 studies conclude that educational level is positively related to such performance factors as lower numbers of civilian complaints, higher numbers of arrests, and restraint in the employment of legal sanctions. Others found associations between educational level and personnel turnover and departmental ratings of officer performance. However, five of the studies found no relationships between educational level and the measures of performance used. Critical analysis of these studies finds methodological deficiencies, leaving most of the important policy questions unanswered. Future research on education and performance needs to focus on clarification of key operational variables and on better experimental designs which would provide a basis for stronger inferences about cause and effect. One table and eight notes are included.