Why you should consider a degree in policing
A career in law enforcement isn’t easy, but it can be very rewarding, both professionally and personally. As a police officer, you get to protect lives and keep people safe. It’s also a very respectable position, and people tend to rate officers highly.
Higher education was previously not a criterion for law enforcement officers. So, policing degrees is a relatively modern idea. However, the importance of getting a degree is a growing interest as times are changing and prerequisites are becoming more stringent.
The push for policing degrees is also fueled by increased crime rates and reports of police brutality against unarmed civilians, especially in the US. The effectiveness of the police force is being questioned, and fingers are pointed at the lack of adequate training.
Now, you can still join a police force without university-level education. However, with more focus shifting towards more training and credentialing requirements, there are many benefits of getting a degree. This article will highlight the major ones.
Benefits of a policing degree
If you’re looking to join this line of work, then you would do well to get university-level education – and what better option is there than a degree focused on policing? Below are the top benefits of a policing degree.
Less inclination to violence
Research on the behavior of college-educated and non-college-educated police officers shows that the former group is almost 40% less likely to use force. The use of force in question ranges from verbal threats to actually causing physical damage.
A similar study revealed that college-educated officers are less likely to fire their weapons on duty – almost 30% less likely, according to reports between 1990 and 2004. Also, officers with at least a two-year degree are less prone to losing their jobs on the basis of misconduct.
Skill enhancement and diversity
A policing degree will teach you all the necessary skills for the profession, but the learning curriculum is much broader than that of the police academy. A bachelor’s degree police officer will learn to hone transferable skills such as leadership, team building, management, and analytical skills. These can be applied to various other sectors and will come in handy even if you veer off to another career path after your studies.
Learning in a multicultural environment will also allow for more awareness and openness to diversity. Students often must do internships, community service or take a semester overseas as part of their coursework.
Identifying best practices
Getting an accredited degree can also increase your understanding of the law and courts, especially if you take political science or law courses. This helps officers to evaluate their department’s policies and practices.
Is a specific tactic achieving the intended goal? What is the impact in reality? A college education will strengthen the mental capacity to answer these questions. It will also instill some knowledge of scientific methods. Therefore, officers will be better equipped to identify quality information and adjust departmental policies based on the situation.
Opportunities for growth
Law enforcement may be a government arm, but it is a workplace like any other. Officers naturally want to move up the ladder, and a police degree facilitates this. Police requirements are changing in different parts of the world, and some countries have already set mandates for entry-level police officers to hold a degree.
If you decide to take this career path, you won’t just want to get any degree. A bachelor’s degree in policing will give you an advantage over others with unrelated degrees. The specific skill acquired during the course of learning will put you in a better position to get ahead faster.
Better prepared for leadership
Higher education can enhance your leadership potential as you’re more equipped with advanced knowledge to think quickly and provide effective solutions.
Non-college graduates within a police force may not be as focused on moving up the ladder as their more educated counterparts. This means that they are less mentally prepared to take on larger responsibilities in a leadership position. In addition, law enforcers with a graduate degree are more likely to be familiar with advanced concepts such as evidence-based policing. They are also more likely to administer reform efforts.
Problem-oriented policing is a proactive strategy to identify and analyze crime issues in a community. It requires officers to scrutinize the underlying causes of crime, develop appropriate responses, and assess the effectiveness of those responses. Similar to this is community-oriented policing, which emphasizes building relationships with residents to get a better idea of the crime problems.
College experience helps to develop and sharpen the knowledge and skills required to achieve these. Rather than wait for crimes to happen, you can work with community members to resolve issues that result in conflict and prevent problems from occurring in the first place.
Skills required to become a police officer
The great thing about this career path is that it is founded on several interpersonal skills that you may already possess. Here are some beneficial skills for this career.
A police officer, first and foremost, should know the law. However, while legislative technicalities can be learned within a course program, good communication is a trait that is often inherent. It can also be acquired through years of experience.
Police officers need to be able to adjust their communication strategies to connect with different kinds of people and relay the necessary information. This interpersonal communication is required daily when explaining the laws and regulations to the public, interacting with other officers, and even confronting criminals. It’s also necessary for written form when communicating details of a crime scene or writing reports.
Listening is a primary form of communication and can be reassuring when faced with distressed victims. Active listening involves non-verbal cues such as smiling, nodding, body posture, and small verbal confirmation directed towards the speaker. A good listener will be able to take notice of the essential details of their surroundings, which is handy for surveillance.
This skill helps officers engage with the public. It also enables communication with other law enforcement officials and helps with relaying details to emergency response and legal teams in court hearings.
In tandem with active listening, observation skills enable officers to take note of and identify small details. A high level of attentiveness will allow officers to notice changing patterns in behavior, which can point out clues in a crime and hopefully lead to the perpetrator.
Attention to detail is a trait that many people already have, but with the proper training, police officers should be able to not only have a keen eye but also identify what can serve as potential evidence.
The ability to walk or run long distances is a standard part of police training. Stamina training also includes the lifting of heavy objects and staying alert on your feet for an extended amount of time. Solid physical stamina is a useful characteristic for police officers, who often have to chase down and restrain suspects.
While patrolling can be done in a police vehicle, there may be a need to survey extensive areas on foot. Naturally, staying fit and keeping a healthy exercise routine benefits the job, especially for field agents.
Law enforcement is a career path of service to the public, so it requires a high degree of selflessness and sound knowledge of the surrounding community. Police officers need to understand the kind of community they’re tasked to protect, the resident demographics, poverty levels, crime rates, and other pertinent factors.
Having good public awareness makes it easy to communicate effectively with members of the community. When patrolling or providing protection, officers should know what crimes are most common and the areas with higher incidences of criminal activity.
Mental agility and critical thinking
Another beneficial trait for police officers is mental agility. Law enforcement officials often have to make decisions on the spot or in a short amount of time, and these decisions may have life-saving impacts for the officer and members of the community.
A good critical thinker is able to take in a situation, consider the options, and make sound judgments within a limited timeframe. You should also be able to think quickly on your feet, especially in the face of danger, and effectively solve problems that arise along the way.
The whole point of being a police officer is to uphold moral standards within a community. It is expected, therefore, that officers should also live by the moral code. They should not engage in activities that are against the law or the norm of the community.
Police officers should maintain a high level of integrity to enable them to make decisions with good judgment. In fact, law enforcers are expected to have higher moral standards than regular members of the public, as they are called to fight against criminal injustice within their community.
Learning first aid is a valuable skill for any individual. However, it is even more so for police officers, who are often the first emergency response at a crime or accident scene. Officers may have to provide emergency aid before the ambulance crew arrives, so it’s crucial to have basic knowledge of how to care for patients. First aid treatment includes stopping excessive bleeding, treating spinal injuries, and performing CPR.
Policing is largely a team effort, and officers are often paired with a partner from the start. If you already know how to work well with others to accomplish tasks, then you have a solid skill to become a police officer.
Police officers not only work with fellow officers in their station, but they may also have to team up with other law enforcers they don’t know. Officers must be able to adapt to new environments and unfamiliar faces in order to carry out the assigned tasks effectively.
Civilians look up to law enforcers for their courage in facing dangerous and life-threatening situations. It takes bravery to engage criminals and chase down suspects fleeing a crime scene. It also takes a lot of courage to head into a dangerous situation to rescue civilians and get them to safety.
As a police officer called to a conflict scene, you need to deescalate the situation before it gets out of hand. Conflict is inherent in law enforcement and is often the foundation for criminal acts. The best police officers should be tactful in calming disputes and always strive to keep the peace.
Conflict resolution usually requires persuasiveness and assertiveness. You should be able to convince someone about the right course of action while demonstrating authority.
While police officers have to follow the law, it’s also vital to possess empathy and compassion. This is essentially the ability to understand someone else’s feelings and put yourself in their shoes. Compassion will prompt you to put that understanding into action.
While this may seem unrelated to the job of a police officer, empathy enables you to view situations from all angles. As such, you’ll be able to provide help to anyone who may need it and positively impact the lives of others. In addition, empathy helps foster positivity and trust within the community. Emotional support is a much-needed attribute to provide healing in traumatic circumstances. Showing empathy isn’t reserved for victims alone. It’s also necessary to empathize with crime suspects.
Policing is one of the essential jobs in the world. You have nothing to lose when you get a police degree – you can only benefit. If you already have any of the skills mentioned above, earning a degree is a platform for you to enhance those skills. You can also opt for some strategic methods for development, such as volunteering for community events, asking for feedback, and reviewing local and state laws.