Missed it by THAT Much

There’s a growing belief, arguably evolving and still incomplete, that police officers should have some kind of higher education before they’re given guns and tasers and cars and sent out on the streets to keep us safe.  With that growing view, growing numbers of police departments are imposing such requirements on those who aspire to be police officers.

The city of Philadelphia implemented such a requirement in 2013 after a U.S. Department of Justice investigation of the city’s police department, requested by the city’s own police commissioner, questioned the caliber of the people to whom the city was issuing badges and batons.  The requirement:  60 hours of college credit, based on research that found that police officers who attended college perform better on the job, are more creative, are better problem-solvers, pose fewer disciplinary problems, are less likely to view force as their first option, generate fewer citizen complaints, and even use less sick time.

Which are some pretty compelling reasons to require more education, when you think about it.

But after less than three years with this requirement in place the city panicked when it didn’t have enough applicants to fill its latest class at the police academy and dropped the still-new requirement.  The argument was that too many otherwise-qualified applicants didn’t qualify because they lacked the 60 credits.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the reasoning offered by the city’s mayor:  that police recruits can’t afford to go into $100,000 in debt to get those 60 credits.

Which sounds almost reasonable, doesn’t it?  After all, while many people invest a great deal of money in the education they need to pursue their career of choice, more and more people are questioning the value of such large investments.

But there’s a flaw in the mayor’s rationale, the Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out:  people who want to be police officers don’t need to spend $100,000 to get the amount of education the city had been seeking.  Actually, it turns out it would cost only about $10,000 to get the needed 60 credits at the city’s community college.

So the mayor was only off by $90,000.

Because no one’s asking anyone to go to Harvard.

And a reasonable argument can be made that someone who’s not willing to invest that relatively modest amount of money and a little time in a classroom to get such a minor credential for what’s really a pretty good (albeit sometimes dangerous) job must not be terribly interested in being a police officer.

And that those “otherwise qualified applicants” aren’t really that qualified in the first place – and not terribly interested in becoming qualified, either.

Finally, something not to be overlooked:  Philadelphia’s mayor is clueless.

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