A proposed bill introduced in the California State Legislature last week would require anyone aspiring to become a police officer to be either 25-years-old prior to their training or have earned a bachelor’s degree.
“Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) said the change could help reduce the number of times police officers are involved in excessive use of force cases,” CBS Sacramento reported.
Currently, those looking to become police officers in the state are required to be 18-years-old with a high school diploma while California Highway Patrol applicants are required to be at least 20-years-old.
“Last week, a Sacramento County grand jury report recommended the Sacramento Police Department remove its college degree requirement and allow tattoos, piercings, and ponytails for officers as a way for the department to attract more recruits,” the CBS article said.
Currently, the department has 747 sworn officers, which is down 65 from the “authorized level.”
Jones-Sawyer’s bill implies that if police officers are more educated it will help reduce use-of-force incidents.
According to KTVU, the bill was inspired by a 2010 study that found that college-educated police officers in two different cities were “less likely to use force in encounters with suspects.”
Jones-Sawyer’s bill cites other studies also, like one from 2007 that discovered officers with a bachelor’s degree were “less likely to use physical force than officers with only high school educations.”
Another 2008 study of Riverside County Sheriff’s Department proved that “age and education of officers was the main determinant in the likelihood to resort to the use of force.”
According to Department of Justice data, California officers seriously hurt or killed civilians 703 times in 2019.
“These jobs are complex, they’re difficult, and we should not just hand them over to people who haven’t fully developed themselves,” Jones-Sawyer said in a press release.
The bill points out that police officers are “required to make split-second decisions to protect the health and safety of the public and address dangerous situations.” Scientific evidence has suggested that certain areas of the brain do not fully develop until the mid-20’s, particularly areas that affect judgment and decision making.
The bill contends that a young adult with a still-developing brain may have a harder time making split-second decisions than someone a little older or with more education.
If the bill is adopted, California would have the highest age requirement in the country for police officers while four other states currently require a bachelor’s degree or combination of education and experience, including North Dakota, Illinois, New Jersey, and Nevada.