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Back to Archives | Back to August 2006 Contents 

Charleston, South Carolina

By Reuben M. Greenberg, Chief of Police (Retired), Charleston, South Carolina

onsidering today's job market and the past difficulties faced by departments attempting to recruit just enough employees to fill the ranks, many executives must wonder if requiring the college degree is responsible for low recruit totals. That is not Charleston's experience at all. The Charleston Police Department has a large surplus of well-qualified applicants with bachelor's degrees and higher.

Attracting college-educated personnel means retooling the traditional recruiting techniques. The secret to successful recruiting in Charleston is extensive outreach to all colleges in the southeastern United States. Professors and department chairs are frequently reminded of the police department's interest in hiring their graduates. Personal visits are made to college campuses for job fairs and other relevant occasions.

In recent decades, commissions at the federal, state, and local levels of government have reviewed, analyzed, and made recommendations for improvements in a number of disputes to which the police have responded and in which they have been involved. For example, police have encountered confrontations such as those involving organized labor groups, student groups, and ethnic residential groups. The task of these commissions was to determine ways to prevent and minimize the level of violence, injury, and loss of life in these situations. Commissions at all levels of government closely examined the role of the police in their response to law violations and in controlling and managing these confrontations and disturbances.

Unfortunately, several commissions concluded that police tactics and actions in responding to the disturbance resulted, in many respects, in exacerbating and compounding the situations the police were assigned to control. In some cases, the commissions reported that the actions of the police were counterproductive to public order. In certain instances, the actions of the police made the incident worse and more disorderly than it otherwise would have been.

In determining the reasons for this failure, the commissions cited the lack of training and education exhibited by the police and their leadership.

Often, local police have the lowest standards for education and training. During the time of these commission reports, the law enforcement profession deemed high school graduation or the industry standard of a GED education a sufficient educational requirement. But a careful and thoughtful analysis of critical situations beyond their routine daily assigned duties reveals that low education requirements were dangerous and unfair to these officers and the people they served. In some cases, officers who had not graduated from high school had to guide people through complex, life-threatening situations far beyond the officers' abilities and training.

Law enforcement-as long as it carries the possibility of having to take a life or to deprive someone of his freedom-is one of the most important actions of government agents. No one should expect just to get by and perform this duty inexpensively. The profession has a duty to establish college educational standards and to seek recruits who understand the many complexities of the job. Law enforcement needs to seek practitioners who are capable, and the departments should properly select, train, and pay them. ■



From The Police Chief, vol. 73, no. 8, August 2006. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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