1 EDUCATION AND LAW ENFORCEMENT 1 Education and Law Enforcement: Final Version of Research Proposal Ralphie Manzano University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee
2 EDUCATION AND LAW ENFORCEMENT 2 Abstract Many studies have focused on the effects of higher education on police officers, arguing that higher education makes them better officers. However, what effect does this type of education have on their attitudes about police misconduct? Does it make officers with more education less likely to commit infractions because they have negative feelings towards such abuse of power? This research focuses on the relationship between officers educational attainment and their feelings about police misconduct. Using a sliding-scale questionnaire, officers of the Sarasota Sherriff s Office will record their education levels and their range of impressions about police abuse of power. Their responses will be collected and analyzed to determine the relationship between education and officers attitudes towards misconduct. The results of this study, and the conclusions drawn from it, may be helpful to the Sarasota Sherriff s Office, as well as other departments, in assessing the pros and cons of a higher education requirement and determining whether the education qualifications of candidates and current officers should be raised.
3 EDUCATION AND LAW ENFORCEMENT 3 Introduction Does higher education have an effect on police officers attitudes about misconduct within their department? This research focuses on whether officers with more education commit less infractions and display different attitudes towards police misconduct. Education requirements is a controversial issue in the law enforcement world. This research paper explores this issue, looking at the effects of a higher education requirement in law enforcement and examining the benefits and drawbacks of such a requirement. Furthering education would provide our criminal justice system with more knowledgeable, educated, and open-minded individuals. These effects would in turn lead to improved service and, consequently, law enforcement would gain more respect from citizens. These educated officers could then deal with complex and evolving societal issues. Royberg and Bonn (2004), stated that efforts to increase law enforcement requirements have been extremely slow and inconsistent across departments in the United States (p.472). This is one reason that our government should provide funding, increase pay, or offer other incentives to attract more educated individuals to law enforcement. According to Royberg and Bonn (2004), the trend in higher education has been recent, stating that from 1990 to 2000, the percentage of officers employed by a department with a degree requirement increased from 3 percent to 9 percent; for Sheriffs offices, the percentage with a degree requirement increased from 3 percent to 5 percent. However, the idea of law enforcement education is not new. In the early 1900s, Augustus Vollmer, an influential figure in early forming law enforcement, pushed for law enforcement education, which equipped law enforcement officers with more efficient problem-solving abilities. Travis (1995) stated that the first real emphasis on professional training and education for police in this country came from
4 EDUCATION AND LAW ENFORCEMENT 4 August Vollmer, the father of modern policing. As long ago as 1916 he proposed that police have college degrees. This research project investigates the relationship between higher education in law enforcement and officers attitudes towards misconduct by examining literature, methodology, expected findings, implications, and limitations. By examining this relationship, departments will be better equipped to determine how much education law enforcement candidates must have. Literature Review Theoretical Approaches Royberg and Bonn (2004) discussed the history, prevalence, lack thereof, and importance of education in our current criminal justice system. This study did not follow any form of theoretical approach, but instead chose to revisit past literature to unify it together to support the point of the study to require a law enforcement officer to acquire a bachelor s degree over a certain period, possibly be supported through federal funding. Royberg and Bonn (2004) bring up a valid point, arguing to recruit the educated instead of educating the recruited. This study discusses various aspects of law enforcement education, such as its importance related to community policing, complexity of society, and coping with change. A study conducted by Telep (2011) investigated the importance of college education related to policing and its advantages in avoiding misuse of power or attitude problems within a policing organization. Telep (2011) stated that when officers who had a four-year degree acquired at any point were grouped together, the effect of college on officer attitudes became slightly stronger (p.411). Next, in an article questioning the minimum age and education requirements, Decker and Huckabee (2002) placed an emphasis on education by applying results from several studies,
5 EDUCATION AND LAW ENFORCEMENT 5 including those where officers were tested for their ability to accept responsibility, problem solving ability, preparedness for court, and knowledge of the law. According to Krimmel (1996), most of the people that performed well on these exams had degrees (p.93). Although these researchers did use a theoretical approach as a framework, they effectively established their point by stating that while a college education provides benefits, it depends on the individual officers and how effectively they use their education (p. 793). Lastly, a study conducted by Manis, Archbold and Hassell (2008) examined the significance of education on the number and type of complaints received by an officer. Similarly, this study did not use any particular theoretical approach, but it did use analytical and numerical data to support its reasoning regarding the importance of education in law enforcement (p.515). Study Variables Telep (2011) had a dependent variable set as a scale occupied with nine answers that were intended to test an officer`s beliefs on abuse of authority (p.403). An officer s beliefs on abuse of authority can also be considered as a dependent variable in this research project. Telep s independent variable was the officer s level of education. The study demonstrated the relationship between higher education levels and a decrease in the likelihood of abuse of authority. Decker and Huckabee (2002) used several independent variables including education, race, gender, age, and law enforcement experience (p.797). These independent variables were used to determine the characteristics of a successful applicant and what requirements (education, training, or any other performance incentives) they had met that could influence on their performance.
6 EDUCATION AND LAW ENFORCEMENT 6 Manis, Archbold and Hassell (2008) used four dependent variables to help explain their research: nature of complaints, frequency of complaints, outcome/disposition of crime, and discipline handed out to officers (p.513). The independent variables were limited to amount of education, years in service, college major, and officer age. Methodology Telep (2011) effectively used his independent variables, which included the level of education received before hiring and current state of education. He then combined these independent variables with several binary variables (variables used to display two different outcomes) to help recognize other causations to this issue. Telep (2011) argued that education can have a beneficial impact on officer ethics, stating one-way education is hypothesized to affect policing is by making officers more ethical and classes on diversity and interpersonal skills could make officers more tolerant and respectful of the community they serve (p. 405). Telep (2011) effectively used the two-stage stratified cluster sampling approach (an economical method of sampling, intended to study large clusters with similar traits) to support his idea that officers with a bachelor s degree were less likely to engage in any activity that was abusing their authority (p.406). Decker and Huckabee (2002) gathered data from an Indianapolis Police departments that maintained the personal files of their officers. These files had information that was self-reported, but most of it was gathered through a background investigation. These files consisted of applications from candidates who were recognized as successful police applicants.. They defined successful police applicants as those who were initially hired by the IPB in the eight separate recruit classes from July 22, 1992 through October 14, 1996.
7 EDUCATION AND LAW ENFORCEMENT 7 Manis, Archbold and Hassel (2008) conducted their study with one agency consisting of 129 officers (p. 512). They then collected information from the office s internal affairs department and collected formal complaints (those filed against officer) and informal complaints (those received by phone, , etc.) (p. 513). Furthermore, through this data they studied both the frequency of and reasoning for the complaints. From this research, they differentiated and identified the officers receiving complaints and examine any correlation to the officers educational attainment. Findings Based on their findings, Royberg and Bonn (2004) established that college-educated law enforcement officers had a better chance to receive a promotion (proxy for success) or to succeed in a department. However, they had difficulty finding a strong relationship between higher education and policing, stating that not all of the research findings on higher education and policing are either positive or have significant findings. Other studies had made similar findings. For example, in one large-scale reanalysis of survey findings in a 1977 study, Worden (1990) found that the effects of higher education on attitudes and performance were so small that they were not statistically significant (p. 475). This research concluded with the fact that 25 percent of Americans have degrees, and that this profession is behind the current societal trend in degree attainment (p.483). In contrast to these previous findings, Telep (2011) found that higher education leads to better policing, stating: Findings suggest that higher education has a positive impact on police officer attitudes regarding police abuse of authority. The results do not point to a particular type of education or a particular time of degree acquirement that
8 EDUCATION AND LAW ENFORCEMENT 8 completely explains this impact, although a bachelor's degree has more of an effect than an associate's degree (p.414). He suggested that even education has its limitations, and positive impacts also depend on the individual and their quality of education. Decker and Huckabee (2002) discovered from their research that 34.7% percent of the successful applicants they interviewed for law enforcement positions had a four-year degree (p. 798). Decker and Huckabee also concluded that in order to obtain officers with more education, recruitment would have to be more aggressive, and pay would have to increase (p. 800). In conclusion, the Manis, Archbold, and Hassell (2008) study considered many officer complaints in a specific department, whether the complaints were related to college major, and whether a degree was earned. Their findings concluded that college major had no impact on the amount of complaints that an officer received. Actually, the study revealed that people with degrees in this department were more likely to commit an infraction and get more formal complaints. However, this research was gathered from a department in Los Angeles. Perhaps this result could be just be limited to this department, or may possibly be representative of other police departments as well. New Approach Due to the limitations that previous research exhibits, this research will focus on the relationship between higher education and officers attitudes in a department. This research will help reveal the relationship that education shares with the health and demeanor of a department. Through operationalizing education, it will become easier to display whether these variables place any limitations on a law enforcement career, and it will help indicate any significant
9 EDUCATION AND LAW ENFORCEMENT 9 relationships within the variables. Ryberg and Terril (2010) state that it is important to recognize that Although studies such as this show much potential for evidence of a beneficial effect of higher education to be found, scholars and practitioners also need to remain open to the notion that higher education may be unrelated to some dimensions of police performance. (p.114). This is important because anything can go with any new approach, and limitations are always to be expected with research. Methodology Methodological Overview: This proposal provides a new approach to this research problem by emphasizing the relationship between officer education and police attitudes towards police misconduct, including abuse of power and common infractions. The theoretical approach will be that officers who obtain a higher level of education will have negative attitudes towards police misconduct. During the course of my literature review, It has been recognized that the general theoretical approach is that more officer education results in better officers. The theoretical approach to this research proposal also supports this. Telep (2011) states that when officers who had a four-year degree acquired at any points were grouped together, the effect of college on officer attitudes became slightly stronger (p. 411). Officers who have more education will be less tolerant of misconduct. In conclusion, the unit of analysis to be used in this research will be the individual officer-level unit of analysis. Study Variables: The dependent variable in this study is the officers attitude towards abuse of power or police misconduct, which may be affected by officers level of education. Telep (2011) stated that if higher education has a beneficial impact on attitudes, then college educated officers
10 EDUCATION AND LAW ENFORCEMENT 10 should be more likely to answer strongly disagree to all questions. This study will be measured using a likert scale survey to get responses from its officers. This scale will measure the attitude of an officer towards police misconduct or abusive power. The main independent variable is officers level of education. This is the main variable will be used to predict an officer s attitude towards abuse of power and misconduct. This key variable will be used to determine the relationship between an officer s attitude and his or her conduct. Education could range from high school education, some college but not a college degree, or a college degree. Level of education was defined by Kakar (1998) as four levels of education high school, AA degree, more than two years of college and Bachelor s degree. (p.636).this variable will also be measured through a likert scale. This measures education indicators of an officer through a five point scale, and this lists different satisfaction ratings. This is supported by Kakar (1998), which stated, Means for these three groups were compared to detect significant differences in their performance on all performance categories. The mean and standard deviation for each performance indicator were calculated and the analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to distinguish differences between the groups. The groups measured in this were the four different educational levels mentioned above. Control variables include officer ranking, age, gender, years within a department, job satisfaction and interpersonal and communication skills. These are variables that can alter measures and can affect the internal validity if not accounted for. These variables may influence the outcome of this research and can create limitations. This is supported by the Telep (2011) study, which included binary variables, such as marital status, officer rank, and ethnicity, which can affect the results (p. 404). Hypothesis:
11 EDUCATION AND LAW ENFORCEMENT 11 H1: As individual officer s level of education increases, it is hypothesized that the officer s tolerance for misconduct will decrease. Sample: The population being studied in this research will consist of the officers of the Sarasota Sheriff`s department. According, to the Sarasota County Sheriff`s website, they have up 1000 officers. Telep (2011) has guided my sample design but he takes a different approach in gathering data from over 5000 departments. This will be approached differently by focusing on one location to place focus on an area. Data: Measurement data for the dependent variable will be obtained by surveying officer attitudes towards misconduct. Also, measurement data for the independent variables will be gathered in the same manner. These officers will be surveyed about their officer ranking, job satisfaction, and other variables listed in the above section. After collecting data about officers education and their attitudes about police misconduct, this information will be used to determine if a relationship exists between more education and negative attitudes about police misconduct. In the alternative, it would also analyze for a relationship between less education and positive attitudes about police misconduct. Expected Findings: The Telep study hypothesized that higher education any form of post secondary education beyond a high school diploma will cause officers to display more preferable attitudes. Using a 1998 Police Foundation survey, this study predicted that officers with postsecondary education will disagree more with statements supportive of unreasonable extensions of police authority, the code of silence, breaking the rules to get the job done, and
12 EDUCATION AND LAW ENFORCEMENT 12 statements about outsiders being too concerned with police brutality (401). After analyzing its results, the Telep study concluded that higher education does correlate to officers attitudes regarding abuse of authority. However, the results indicated that while the attitudes are statistically significant, they are not particularly sizeable (406). Based on the Telep study s findings, the expected findings for this capstone course s research is similar. The hypothesis is that officers with higher education (measured on a sliding scale) will have more negative attitudes regarding police misconduct than those with less education. Because of the benefits gained from higher education, officers will be less likely to succumb to pressure and abuse authority. Implications: The Telep (2011) research had important implications regarding police policies and practices. This study started out with the general premise that more education leads police officers with preferable attitudes those that idealize the profession, and decrease the likelihood of abuse of power. The study implied that by attending and graduating college, police officers, using the skills and knowledge they have gained during undergraduate study, may be able to resist peer and work pressure in order to avoid police misconduct. Further, a postsecondary education may diminish police abuse of power and not reporting abuses. Similarly, the study for this course anticipates important policy considerations regarding police education, policy, and practices. This study is significant because it can highlight a department weakness, allowing the department to change in order to correct the problem. If this study correctly hypothesizes that more education creates officers with negative attitudes towards
13 EDUCATION AND LAW ENFORCEMENT 13 misconduct (implying that these officers are less likely to engage in abusive or unethical police practices), department policies and requirements may change. Perhaps departments will encourage or require candidates or even established officers to meet a minimum education requirement to obtain or retain employment. Alternatively, departments could require continuing education to shape officer attitudes that discourage improper conduct. Limitations: The Telep study pointed to several relevant limitations: job status, job satisfaction, and interpersonal and communication skills. These areas were not labeled limitations in the study, but were brought up as different variables that may not be accounted for. These areas may have an effect on officer attitudes (for example, a high-ranking officer may have more negative attitudes about misconduct than a lower-ranking officer with less to lose), but were not measured as education was. Similarly, in this course s study, these areas will also be limitations. Officers of different ranks and with varying job satisfaction may view misconduct differently. Further, officers may have different interpersonal and communication skills that may not have been obtained through education. These skills have an effect on how they deal with co-workers, supervisors, suspects, and the public and may have an effect on attitudes about misconduct. Last, this study focuses only on the Sarasota Sherriff s Department, a relatively small sample. Because the sample is small, it may not be representative of all, or even most, departments in the state or country.
14 EDUCATION AND LAW ENFORCEMENT 14 References Baro, A. L., & Burlingame, D. (1999). Law enforcement and higher education: Is there an impasse? Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 10, Carter, D. L., & Sapp, A. D. (1992). College education and policing: Coming of age. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 61(1), Decker, L. K., & Huckabee, R. G. (2002). Raising the age and education requirements for police officers. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategy and Management, 25(4), Kakar, S. (1998). Self-evaluation of police performance: An analysis of the relationship between police officers education level and job performance. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 21, Krimmel, J. T. (1996). The performance of college educated police: a study of self-rated police performance measures. American Journal of Police, 5(1), Manis, J., Archbold, C. A., & Hassell, K. D. (2008). Exploring the impact of police officer education level on allegations of police. International Journal of Police Science and Management, 10(4), Roberg, R., & Bonn, S. (2004). Higher education and policing: Where are we now? Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, 27(4), Rydberg, J.,& Terrill, W. (2010). The Effect of Higher Education on Police Behavior Police Quarterly, 3 (1):
15 EDUCATION AND LAW ENFORCEMENT 15 Telep, C. W. (2011). The impact of higher education on police officer attitudes toward abuse of authority. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 22(3), Travis, J. (1995, February 10). Education in law enforcement: Beyond the college degree. Retrieved from