Continuing Education for Police Officers

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Education is a paramount entity among police officers who wish to serve effectively and diligently when discharging their duties. Even though police officers can still perform their roles with basic high school or diploma certifications, a number of quantitative studies have revealed that education among police officers should be a continuous process. One of the dominant reasons for continuing education is the dynamic nature of crime. Hence, crime should be tackled in a strategic manner. In other words, wrong doers in society keep on inventing new crime strategies. As a result, there is need for police officers to be on the frontline in the fight against new tricks devised by criminals on a daily basis.


The law enforcement practices at the local, state and federal levels demand additional intelligence owing to the complex nature of contemporary forms of crime. Criminal justice education especially at the higher levels usually prepares police officers to handle the evolving nature of crime. In any case, the modern society has various facets of criminal justice that require urgent attention. These facets include community relations and ethics, investigative principles, constitutional law, criminal law and juvenile justice. All of these domains in criminal justice may not be fully and adequately served by police officers who have acquired basic education and training only.

Most serving police officers do agree that their current roles have been greatly boosted by the level of education acquired in the past. Needless to say, police officers who have already enrolled and took part in continuing education are deemed to be quite fit to serve in different positions within the law enforcement system. This paper offers a critical and analytical review of continuing education in the police force. In particular, the essay sheds light on the aspects of size, demographics, jurisdiction, and initiative of shareholders in regards to continuing education among law enforcers.

Description of the police force

Police officers play a vital role as a key wing of the law enforcement organ. These officers serve as warranted employees of the police force. They are usually constituted by an act of parliament and the organ is fully enshrined in the constitution. When the term ‘officer’ is used to describe police personnel working within the police force, it does not specify the actual position of the concerned workers (Kratcoski, & Das, 2008).

As already hinted out, apprehension of criminals is the main role of police officers across the globe. Most police officers are often deployed to maintain law and order within state borders even though some of them may work across national boundaries as it is the case with the international police (Interpol) wing. Police officers are also charged with the task of investigating and preventing acts of crime from taking place. In addition, the general public is duly protected by members of the police force.

After the processes of recruitment and training, oath taking especially among police officers of higher ranks is usually common. As a matter of fact, the mandate to arrest and detain criminals is given to police officers as part of their job description. In some instances, a selected number of police officers may be required to undergo additional on-job training in special areas of service delivery. Some of these key areas include combating drug trafficking, undertaking crucial investigation on issues such as murder and rape, civil law enforcement, protection of dignitaries and VIPs, child protection, surveillance and countering acts of terror (Frevel & Kuschewski, 2009).

From the above listed roles of police officers, there is every reason why continuing education should be offered to them so long as they are actively serving as members of the force. The prudent roles of police officers vividly explain why the continuing education initiative should be encouraged for both local and international police officers.

Stakeholders for the initiative, size, demographic and jurisdiction

Over 80 percent of police officers who were interviewed in a 2010 empirical study of the police officers concurred that continuing education is a vital undertaking for effective and efficient service delivery to the public (Kanable, 2013). Most of them observed that the security needs of the modern society are rapidly changing. Hence, the latter has compelled the enactment of rapid and more vibrant changes in the law enforcement training and education of police officers. Changes in various pieces of legislations demand police officers to be equally updated. In addition, there are myriads of crucial changes that have been undertaken in the policing agenda that police officers should understand. Unless these officers are enrolled in continuing education, they may easily fail to grasp the changing trends in the law enforcement platform.

Passion to serve in the police force can also be cultivated through continuing education program for police officers. When policemen and women are enrolled in various education and training programs that match their different ranks, they are readily motivated to serve in a better and more efficient manner. This type of motivation lacks among officers who do not possess requisite knowledge and skills in regards to their job descriptions. Law enforcement can be an inwardly rewarding career if employees are knowledgeable enough and also provided with necessary materials to execute their responsibilities (Kruse, 2014).

When it comes to jurisdiction in the police force, it is obvious that the top police officers in leadership positions have to be articulate enough in both management and leadership. They may not be very good at shooting criminals in the field. However, the administrative roles played by the highly ranked cops usually determine the success of the overall police force. After recruitment and basic training on how to use assortment of weapons, a police officer may still be quite far in terms of effective leadership and management of both human and other physical resources. Unless a rigorous education program is put in place for police officers who are interested to pursue further education, there can be a gross leadership gap. A police officer should not be merely trained to shoot or arrest criminals.

After the apprehension of a criminal, the latter is supposed to be presented in a court of law for prosecution. However, a trial process requires sufficient evidence based on the case at hand. Whereas evidence may be available, both the written and verbal quality of the report presented in a court of law should be impeccable. Vague police reports in the form of evidence might not be correctly interpreted by the jury (Valeria-Liliana-Amelia, 2013). As a result, a criminal can find his or her way out of a court due to a written or verbal evidence of poor quality. As much as a case can be airtight, a low standard report may dispel a prosecutor from taking up the trial process. If the evidence tabled by a police officer is of high quality, a defence attorney can readily take up such a case.

About three decades ago, the armed forces were recruited as police officers of various ranks. Later, research studies demonstrated that effective police recruits were mainly composed of military veterans. It was never a matter of rank structure when it came to the recruitment of these veterans from the military wing. Other factors immensely contributed towards their qualification as competent police officers. These included working under difficult circumstances, witnessing tragedy, and widespread travelling. Besides, most of the military veterans who eventually joined police service were additionally trained to fit in their various job positions.

In fact, further education and training was a prerequisite for all recruits even if they had joined from the military. These recruits were also highly disciplined and used to regular shift work. When police officers are freshly recruited from members of the public, it still calls for continuing education even after going through the ordinary training modules.

Inherent sense of responsibility and the delivery of security service to the immediate community are also some of the attributes of police officers who have undergone further education. Work ethics is taught in such institutions. Serving an immediate community with zeal is largely depicted by the level of education an individual has acquired.

College education is obviously different from making a visit to an army barrack. Nevertheless, the same colleges offer continuing education for police officers who are wiling and ready to improve service delivery to communities.

Police officers who have attained further college education are also deemed to be in a position to critically solve problems, meet deadlines, make ethical decisions, deal with junior workers and leaders as well as handle bureaucracy. An advanced level of independence is equally nurtured among police officers who have acquired further education. The military wing also tends to persuade various members within its ranks to seek further studies. Therefore, it is appropriate for law enforcement officials to embrace and implement similar education standards and trends.

Assessment and evaluation plan

When police officers pursue further education and acquire college degrees, they should first consider their individual areas of interests. It is possible for a police officer to seek degree in other fields other than law enforcement. For example, there are police personnel who have acquired degrees in engineering, nursing, architecture, economics and much more. When they do so, the main guiding principle should revolve around personal tastes and preferences, likes and abilities. It does not count at all to merely acquire additional degree certificates with the aim of being academically contended as a police officer.

Continuing education on the part of a police officer should prove to be helpful at individual and community levels. For instance, a police officer who has been trained as a nutritionist can indeed offer invaluable education programs to a community on matters related to a healthy dietary intake. Moreover, fellow police officers in various ranks can still benefit from the professional skills of such a trained officer. When pursuing further education, police officers should consider improving their status as long term employees and not simply boost their candidatures in the job market.

When a police officer desires to be a defensive tactics instructor in future, a physical education degree can be helpful. On the same note, an accident expert ought to take up subjects such as physics, geometry and algebra. In addition, employees in the police force who would like to become managers, supervisors and chief executive officers can boost their chances by taking core courses such as human performance, psychology and management science.

At this point, we are rest assured that a police officer is supposed to clearly understand several issues taking place in society. For instance, any other police officer who has been given the mandate to arrest and apprehend criminals should definitely be good at interpreting human psychology. A good example is evident among police detectives who investigate crime (Scaramella, Cox & McCame, 2011). Unless such officers are well endowed with requisite knowledge, it can be critically impossible to execute sensitive roles of that nature. After a police officer has been awarded a badge and gun in readiness for work, pursuing a liberal arts degree can still be beneficial. This type of degree can indeed enable an officer to acquire the necessary education and training.

It is interesting to mention that continuing education may be acquired by a police officer while working. Most institutions of higher learning have structured their courses in such a way that the working individuals can still seek and pursue further education. For instance, some learning institutions have developed online learning portals where students can take up various courses without attending physical lectures. Online learning modules indirectly benefit a community being served by police officers who have opted to further their education. Such police officers have ample time to execute their normal roles within their areas of jurisdictions without necessarily requesting for long study leaves.

There are also colleges that do not stick to the traditional learning hours. For example, classes are arranged in the evenings after work and during weekends when the working people are free.

Recent quantitative research studies

According to the 2012 statistics provided by the United States’ Census Bureau, close to one third of all American citizens from 25 years and above have already acquired a bachelor’s degree in various fields (Conser, Paynich & Gingerich, 2013). These figures clearly illustrate that the contemporary society has recognized the importance of education. The modern society has realized the importance of education. How will police officers manage an intelligent society when they object the idea of continuing education?

In spite of the invaluable contribution of education in society, the police sector is apparently below par in terms of officers who have acquired advanced level of education. The 2012 census data shows that about 27.9 percent of police officers have basic degree certifications while some 51.9 percent are holders of college certificates. Although major improvement can be spotted in the education of police officers across the board, there is still a large room for improvement. It simply implies that more than 70% of the actively serving police officers do not have degree certifications. If this large percentage can embrace continuing education, it will be juts a matter of time before the gap can be narrowed even further.

Another vital area that needs to be assessed by stakeholders in the police force is the minimum admission requirements into the police service (Forbes, 2010). As it stands now, most jurisdictions across the globe accept a high school certificate to be recruited into police training. In the United States, the admission criteria are not that different. Individuals who qualify the agency’s training academy or high school graduates can be admitted into police service. On the overall, a college degree is hardly required by most recruiting agencies. Perhaps, this is the point of departure in the admission of officers into the police service.

Even if high school certificate is considered during the recruitment drive, it calls for greater caution in the sense that individuals who have passed with impressive grades should be allowed into the police force. The need to advance basic education and earn better salary and benefits are probably some of the reasons why there is an increasing number of police officers who are seeking post secondary education and training. It is laudable to learn that the latter trend has become widespread in spite of the low intake grades for police recruits.

In a statement issued by the Arlington police department in the United States, the agency noted that a bachelor’s degree would be considered to be a mandatory requirement for all new recruits (Beletsky et al., 2011). Several reasons were given for this position. To begin with, the performance characteristics and behavioral patterns of a recruit with a bachelor’s degree are highly impressive in most instances.

In other terms, a degree holder has already undergone some crucial training in life compared to a high school leaver. This also comes with adequate experience in the management of personal issues that arise regularly. Second, a recruit with a degree certificate is less likely to encounter on-the-job injuries than a high school leaver. Such a person may exhibit minimal assaults with other colleagues at workplace. Historical records obtained from the Arlington police department also reveal that degree holders have few disciplinary issues.

When the process of recruiting police officers is carried out based on the degree of qualification of an applicant, it tends to bridge employment gap that exists between minorities and dominant races (Ahmed, 2008). Hence, such an admission criterion enhances fairness. Dogmatism is also minimized. Citizens obtain satisfactory services when they are served by police officers who have acquired a bachelor’s degree.

Therefore, few complaints emanate from the public and the immediate community being served. Rigidity and authoritarian trends are common among officers with lean education background. Empirical evidence indicates that when officers with low qualifications are encouraged to pursue further education, they can come back as more productive employees of the force than they used to be earlier on.


To recap it all, continuing education for police officers is a fundamental undertaking that should be promoted across the board. Since police officers fall in different ranks within the force, it is necessary for the individual officers to understand personal interests and abilities before enrolling into a continuing education program. As noted in the essay, police officers still score below par in terms of the acquisition of bachelor’s degree.

Offering effective, efficient and satisfactory law enforcement services requires police officers who are knowledgeable, skillful, articulate and generally intelligent. As such, a mere high school certificate may not allow effective delivery of services within the given areas of jurisdictions.


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Beletsky, L., Agrawal, A., Moreau, B., Kumar, P., Weiss-Laxer, N,. & Heimer, R. (2011). Police training to align law enforcement and HIV prevention: Preliminary evidence from the field. American Journal of Public Health, 101(11), 2012- 2015.

Conser, J.A., Paynich, R., & Gingerich, T.E. (2013). Law Enforcement in the United States. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Forbes, A.S. (2010). Public Safety and Law Enforcement. New York: Print Matters Inc.

Frevel, B., & Kuschewski, P. (2009). Police organization and police reform in Germany: The case of north rhine-westphalia. German Policy Studies, 5(2), 49-50.

Kanable, R. (2013). Continuing Education for Law Enforcement. Web.

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Valeria-Liliana-Amelia, P. N. (2013). An Analysis on Violence and Suicide among Police Officers. Public Administration Research, 2(1), 84-88.

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