What Police Executives Know About a College Education that You Might Not

Written by Victor E. Kappeler, Ph.D.

More and more police executives are recognizing and acting upon the importance of a College education for the police officers they hire. Not only do police executive know it, research demonstrates it. Johnston and Cheurprakobkit (2002) surveyed 100 police executives in Arkansas and Arizona and found that an overwhelming majority favored applicants with at least some college education. These police executives believed that a College education improves officer attitudes, reduces citizen complaints, and results in better decision-making. And the Chiefs were putting their money where their mouths were because about half of the departments had programs to assist or pay total educational expenses for officers. When Polk and Armstrong (2001) examined the effects of a college education on advancement in Texas police departments, they found that it reduced the amount of time before an officer is transferred to a specialized unit. In essence, College educated police officers got the assignments they wanted faster than their non-educated counterparts. College education also resulted in officers being promoted earlier in their careers. Education, it seems, assists officers in career development. Finally, Rydberg and Terrill (2010) found that college-educated officers were less likely to use force as compared to their less educated counterparts. So if police executives know that a College education makes better police officers, shouldn't you?

Victor E. Kappeler, Ph.D.
Associate Dean and Foundation Professor
School of Justice Studies
Eastern Kentucky University


Johnston , C. , & Cheurprakobkit , S. (2002). Educating Our Police: Perceptions of Police Administrators Regarding the Utility of a College Education, Police Academy Training, and Preferences in Courses for Officers. International Journal of Police Science & Management, 4 (3), 182 – 197.

Polk , O. , & Armstrong , D. (2001). Higher Education and Law Enforcement Career Paths: Is the Road to Success Paved by Degree? Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 12 (1), 77 – 99.

Rydberg , J. , & Terrill , W. (2010). The Effect of Higher Education on Police Behavior. Police Quarterly, 13, 92 – 120.

Published on September 03, 2013