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Proposed CA Law Would Require Police Officers To Be 25 Or Have A College Degree

You don't let an engineer build buildings and bridges if they don't have a whole whack of education and experience behind them because lots of lives are at stake. Same goes for doctors, nurses, pilots, nuclear technicians, and so on.

The men and women who carry guns and badges, enforcing the laws in many states, don't have to clear barriers nearly so high, however. But an assemblyman in California has proposed a law that would raise that state's hurdles to entry much, much higher.

At present, all anyone needs to apply to be a police officer in California is to be 18 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent.

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To join the California Highway Patrol, you have to be at least 20. Obviously, recruits aren't simply issued a gun and badge fresh out of high school but at present, those are the requirements for application.

Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a Democratic Assemblyman from Los Angeles, thinks the state's police officers need to be more well-rounded before patrolling the streets so he's proposed a law that would require applicants be either at least 25 years old, or have a college degree, The Sacramento Bee reported.

As Jones-Sawyer sees it, it's an issue of public safety.

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"These jobs are complex, they're difficult, and we should not just hand them over to people who haven't fully developed themselves," he told The Sacramento Bee.

Studies, including one by the National Police Foundation, have shown that college-educated police officers don't use force as often and face fewer complaints than police officers who don't have a college education.

Police use of force has obviously been a hot-button issue for some time now.

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In 2019, law enforcement in California seriously hurt or killed civilians 703 times, according to data from the Department of Justice. Of those 703 incidents, officers fired their guns in 283 of them.

Between a college education and hiring more mature candidates, Sawyer-Jones believes those numbers could be reined in. He cited research showing that a person's brain doesn't fully develop until the age of 25, particularly the areas controlling impulse management, planning, and working memory.

That same research was cited in changes made to California's youth offender parole laws, Vice reported.

If Sawyer-Jones's proposed law is successful, it wouldn't make California the first state with such stringent requirements of its officers.

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Illinois, North Dakota, New Jersey, and Nevada all require officers to have at least a bachelor's degree or a combination of education and experience, and many others have a minimum age requirement of at least 21, not 18.

Sawyer-Jones is hopeful that California will join those states. "This could be the beginning of changing the entire way that policing is done on the front end. Then we can let the bad cops retire on the back end," he said.

Meanwhile, some are suggesting that more recruits are needed and the greater requirements will counteract that.

CBS News reported that a grand jury in Sacramento recommended that city move in the other direction and scrap its college degree requirement, as well as allowing those with tattoos and piercings to apply, as its police staffing levels have dropped below "authorized levels."

What do you think? Should police officers be required to have an education or more maturity before receiving their badges? Let us know in the comments!

h/t: The Sacramento Bee

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