Is college really needed to be a cop?


By Alex Lloyd Gross

Some jobs require a college degree. Others, well it would be nice to have but one can do the job very nicely without one.  Like being a Philadelphia cop.  An Associates, Bachelors  or Masters Degree is not required to know the bad guy is running down the street and an alley just ahead will allow you to cut him off and catch the crook. It’s street sense.  In just a short while, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross is set to overturn  a three year old requirement that mandated 60  college credits to become a Philadelphia Police Officer. That news was announced today, May 3, 2016.

Prior to Former  Commissioner Charles Ramsey putting that requirement in, a High School diploma was all that was required. Let’s face it. Some cops are content to be cops until they retire.  They don’t want special units or promotions.   Is a degree really required, or will it make someone a better cop?  Of course, a degree in forensics or science should be required to be a crime scene technician.  For those cops that fancy a promotion,  all that needs to be done is good note taking.  You watch how the captains  deploy their troops for  details.  Study that.  When it’s  time for a promotion, you just do the same.  Proponents of Ross’s idea have championed that idea and line of thinking.

For a promotion above the rank of Captain, a degree may be required and can be achieved through online courses or night school.  Currently, the cost of even a community college degree is out of reach for many minority and low income candidates.  The city is short officers. About 600 from optimum  numbers.  Some municipalities require four years of college, which is out of the reach of many people.

Think of it this way. As a cop, you get a call about a disturbance,You are trained how to handle it.  Is a college degree going to make you handle the outcome any better? According to Commissioner Ross,  the answer is No. Some people  call it lowering the standards. Not so. The physical test has benchmark numbers that must be met. If a candidate cannot meet those numbers, or fails a test at the Academy, they are out. Those are the standards that should not be compromised, many think. One does not just apply and get a badge. The training is rigorous and many do not make it,.

Does college prepare someone for the Police Academy?  Maybe.  However the argument can be made that for over 200 years the city police academy has been graduating officers who have been catching criminals. Most of those cops had only a high school education.