How the job of policeman is changing

by on January 5, 2014 at 3:32 am in Economics, Education, Law | Permalink

Here is one bit from an interesting article:

Minnesota has long led the nation in peace officer standards; it’s the only state to require a two-year degree and licensing. Now, a four-year degree is becoming a more common standard for entry into departments including Columbia Heights, Edina and Burnsville. Many other departments require a four-year degree for promotion.

It’s not a rapid-fire change, but rather an evolution sped up by high unemployment that deepened the candidate pool and gave chiefs more choices. Officer pay and benefits can attract four-year candidates. Edina pays top-level officers $80,000; Columbia Heights pays nearly $75,000.

Nowadays, officers are expected to juggle a variety of tasks and that takes more education, chiefs said. Officers communicate with the public, solve problems, navigate different cultures, use computers, radios and other technology while on the move, and make split-second decisions about use of force with a variety of high-tech tools on their belt. And many of those decisions are recorded by squad car dashboard cameras, officer body cameras and even bystanders with smartphones.

There is more here, and for the pointer I thank Kirk Jeffrey.

1 Steve Sailer January 5, 2014 at 5:56 am

America is becoming one big conspiracy of people with 3-digit IQs against people with 2-digit IQs.

2 Anon. January 5, 2014 at 6:02 am

If only.

3 Rahul January 5, 2014 at 9:17 am

What makes it a “conspiray”?

4 Handle January 5, 2014 at 11:24 am

Mostly it’s not.

As Charles Murray pointed out, the same thing happened to the examination-obsessed meritocratic, pre-EEOC NYPD in the Great Depression. They got over 30,000 applications for 300 positions and picked the top 1%, who mostly had 130+ IQ’s.

In the short-term, they made slightly better than average beat-cops, a little more conscientious and driven, a little better at writing reports, but nothing really significant.

But gradually they were promoted quickly within the ranks and ended up having a tremendous impact on US Law Enforcement at large. They become chiefs of departments of other major cities, prominent scholars, innovators, and criminologists. Some went on to be lawyers, district attorneys, judges, or senior officials at the FBI. The municipal police equivalent of West Point’s ‘The Class The Stars Fell On’ (of 1915, including Eisenhower).


Those guys didn’t need college degrees to start out. They didn’t need to waste four years that they could have been working and gaining on-the-job experience, and they didn’t need to go heavily in debt. And, it turns out that police departments don’t need, and have management difficulties with, too many chiefs and not enough indians.

Using ‘college degrees’ as a gatekeeper and signal for ‘cream of the crop’, as opposed to testing, is a clever way to get around the legal problems associated with testing, but it’s pretty wasteful. It benefits people with degrees or who are involved with education or credentialing, so perhaps there’s a mild, quasi-conspiracy of self-interest and rent-seeking there.

The more likely conspiracy, however, is ‘The Pay’. Or ‘total compensation package’, or ‘expected present value of the taxpayer burden’. Until they install the full civil-panopticon surveillance Skynet, patrolling and deterrence are pretty labor-intensive, don’t require +1 Standard Deviation cognitive skills, and most cities would be better off with more and cheaper cops. I don’t have a problem with cops getting paid well – they do a hard and dangerous job and keep me safe at night. But the pay shouldn’t be so high that cities with crime problems can’t afford to hire enough of them to actually manage their problems.

And it’s a shame that jobs like this, and the middle-class lifestyle that comes with them, is quickly escaping out of the reach of the 2-digit IQ population, when they could do the job just fine, and might even make better indians because they don’t all feed the pressing need to become chiefs.

5 Peter January 5, 2014 at 11:08 pm

As Charles Murray pointed out, the same thing happened to the examination-obsessed meritocratic, pre-EEOC NYPD in the Great Depression. They got over 30,000 applications for 300 positions

That wouldn’t be an unusual ratio today. Police officer is similar to flight attendant – even in good economic times there are huge numbers of applicants for each opening.

6 A Definite Beta Guy January 5, 2014 at 11:09 am

Of course these 3-digit men cannot find jobs elsewhere which is why they are applying to become police officers.

7 Anonymous January 5, 2014 at 11:21 am

The way America’s policies seem to me, I must be unknowingly on the bottom half.

8 msgkings January 6, 2014 at 12:23 pm

When was any modern nation, ever, not dominated by the more intelligent?
I say modern because back when things were run by hereditary systems, that may not have been as true.

9 Crowstep January 5, 2014 at 7:32 am

As usual, read ‘education’ as ‘intelligence’.

I guess having smarter cops is a good thing, although I’m sure there’ll be complaints of racial bias soon enough.

10 Tom Murin January 5, 2014 at 8:46 am

None of the tasks cited is new, or requires more education. Here in NJ, many police departments require a 2 year degree or military experience. However, the odds are that candidate hired would have a 4 year degree since plenty of qualified candidates are available that exceed the minimum. They could offer less pay and still get plenty of qualified folks for the positions.

11 Dan Weber January 5, 2014 at 10:24 am

Yeah, it’s just the standard “degree-inflation.” If 10% of the candidate pool has a college degree, it would be silly to require a college degree for the office manager. If 60% of the candidate pool has a college degree, then requiring it is a way to filter out the bottom 40%.

12 Anonymous January 5, 2014 at 11:29 am

Cops: Now With Mountains of Debt!

13 Charlie January 5, 2014 at 10:16 am

At least now college students can get pepper sprayed by their intellectual equals.

14 Marie January 5, 2014 at 10:50 am

Credential equals.

15 Marie January 5, 2014 at 10:52 am

So glad they’re working on this. Because with all the difficulties of having a strong police force composed of honest, dedicated men willing to put their lives on the line to protect and defend the innocent and secure the God given rights of the citizenry, rather than a bully bureaucracy, what’s really going to do the trick is requiring college degrees.

16 Careless January 5, 2014 at 11:55 am

Officers communicate with the public, solve problems, navigate different cultures, use computers, radios and other technology while on the move, and make split-second decisions about use of force with a variety of high-tech tools on their belt.

Aside from the first and last, is this supposed to be a list of things you need competent adults for, or that four year olds can do?

17 The Anti-Gnostic January 5, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Every day I hear about how average is over, only the super-duper need apply, etc., but when it comes to voting or crossing the border, we shouldn’t require much beyond fogging a mirror.

18 Handle January 5, 2014 at 2:00 pm

This is why average is over.

19 DK January 5, 2014 at 1:34 pm

College is a new high school. Simple as that.

20 Marie January 5, 2014 at 2:31 pm

We’re going to run out of degrees soon. PhD as the new middle school?

21 Alexei Sadeski January 5, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Soon colleges will introduce dog shooting programs.

22 chuck martel January 5, 2014 at 8:37 pm

College graduates aren’t needed as cops, people that can pass a psychiatric test for sadistic tendencies, good judgement and honesty are. One needs to pass such a test to work in a nuclear power house but not to carry a 14 round Glock in public.

In fact, cops are one of the best demonstrations of the theory of marginal utility. In 1882 Tombstone, hiring a cop was probably a pretty good idea, well worth whatever it cost. Even the second and third cop were a good investment. Later, when the police force expanded to perhaps 25 men, was that last guy hired worth as much to the town as the first one was? When a big city police department hires its 501st cop, does the city get the same return as it did with the initial hire? How much safer are the citizens of the city when one more cop slides into his black and white with an $65,000 W-2 form in his shirt pocket?

23 Lyrian January 5, 2014 at 8:47 pm

Are the jobs of policewomen changing too?

24 David^ January 5, 2014 at 11:47 pm

Educational level is a way of reducing the numbers of people to consider. It isn’t a hiring factor. Not relevant at all to the job or what departments want or need (yes I have personal experience). The single most important thing is does the potential recruit want to do the job and have reasonably realistic expectations about what the job really is. Department’s will probably correctly suspect that a guy with a Ph.D., doesn’t really want a career as a patrol officer. But that’s who they want to hire, the guy who does want to be. Adjust somewhat according to location, obviously.

25 devtomar January 6, 2014 at 3:40 am

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26 interguru January 7, 2014 at 2:04 am

Not only the police need more skills, but so do the robbers. 30 years ago all you needed to rob a bank the the ability to write a note saying “Hand over the cash”. Now you need the computer skills to hack into a bank.

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