Evaluating and Utilizing Specialized College Courses for Police Officers

Training police officers has long been a priority of law enforcement agencies in the United States. In fact, the first successful law enforcement departments established in the New England states in the early and middle 1800s were patterned after Sir Robert Peel’s police agency in London, England, for which training was an innovative requirement. By the early 1900s, police agencies across the United States were encouraging more specialized education and training for police officers. This educational emphasis was due largely to the influence of respected proponents such as August Vollmer, the police chief of Berkeley and, later, Los Angeles, California. The increase in crime and the waves of social change of each successive decade made the need for police training and education increasingly apparent through the 1960s. In response, formal police training simultaneously evolved during these decades. However, the rate of officers receiving a college degree increased very little, which was due mostly to the high cost of attending college and the attitude that field-specific training was more important than a college degree.