he North Dakota Highway Patrol consists of 186 full-time employees of which 136 are sworn officers. Seventy percent of officers have bachelor's degrees, 18 percent have associate's degrees, 10 percent have two years of college, and 2 percent have less than two years of college.
We currently require a minimum education level of a four-year degree, although two years of work experience or military service may replace up to two years of college. Even though the number of applicants has declined in recent years, we refuse to lower our minimum requirements for new hires.
The desire to have an employee with four years of college education is directly related to the fact that many of our employ-research and interpret the laws, rules, and regulations they need to apply to the various situations they encounter. Education also enhances their communication skills, allowing them to resolve many disputes with minimal physical confrontation. In my 29 years of experience on the patrol, I have observed that a well-educated employee is more confident in his or her knowledge and abilities and more willing to resolve issues in a logical and reasonable manner rather than resorting to threats and unnecessary use of force.
Our agency defines use of force as the use of hard empty hand control or greater force. It does not include an officer drawing his or her weapon unless the weapon was used in a deadly force incident. During the previous three years, the department has averaged seven use-of-force incidents annually. During this same time, agency personnel averaged 70,516 citations and arrests annually. Put another way, for every 10,073 citations and arrests, an officer is required to use the force of hard empty hand control or greater just once.
Another area that has seen benefits is the way officers deal with the public. In the past three years, our department has averaged 16 citizen complaints annually. If we again look at the 70,516 citations and arrests made annually, we see that for every 4,407 arrests we receive a complaint from a citizen. It is important to keep in mind that citations and arrests account for roughly half of all the contacts we have with the public, when you take into account written warnings, highway assists, crash investigations, calls for service, minor incidents, and motor carrier inspections.
Although education is important, I feel just as strongly that education alone does not make a good law enforcement officer. We regularly train to improve our skills. Our supervisors, including our district commanders, are on the road leading by example. We constantly stress the need to conduct ourselves in a professional manner and we regularly promote our department values: loyalty, integrity, commitment, diversity, respect, professionalism, and accountability. ■