The Influence of Higher Education on Police Officer Work Habits

Are street smarts better than book smarts? The question comes up often in policing and elsewhere. Television’s Apprentice, featuring billionaire Donald Trump, recently pitted a street-smart team of successful businessmen and -women who did not have college degrees against a book-smart team of college graduates.

In law enforcement training there are still some instructors who criticize the recruitment of officers who have college degrees. This criticism comes in the form of teasing or sweeping statements regarding the importance of street smarts and common sense versus book smarts, and behavior and comments placing added value on street smarts. Similarly, when officers enter the field training program, they are often assigned to work with veteran officers who utter statements similar to “Forget about what you learned in the academy, kid. Things are different in real life.”

With the help of the Saint Paul Police Department, the author conducted a study to determine whether the level of education of Saint Paul police officers is a good predictor of their work habits.