Idaho PD lowers educational requirements to become a police officer

The Boise Police Department previously required candidates to have an associate degree; future officers will only need a high school diploma or GED


By Ian Max Stevenson
The Idaho Statesman

BOISE, Idaho — Want to be a police officer? The Boise Police Department just made it a little easier.

The Boise Police Department is changing its hiring criteria for new recruits, scrapping a college requirement in an effort to hire applicants who reflect the city’s population.

Up to now, the department has required that applicants have 60 college credits, or the number usually needed for an associate’s degree, before applying.

A division formed by the police department in 2021, the Training, Education, and Development Division, found that the requirement “limited both the size and ability for the applicant pool to accurately reflect the community,” a news release said.

‘Seeing fewer candidates’

The change in requirements comes as the department is under-staffed, and as other police departments in the West have faced policing challenges because of short staffing.

Boise Police is authorized to have 328 sworn officers, and has 298, Deputy Chief Tammany Brooks told the Idaho Statesman in an interview.

There are over 100 applicants for entry-level officer positions right now, and 12 applicants from lateral officers, who are officers at other agencies who want to move to Boise.

“Our recruiting efforts have really paid off, and we’ve seen an increase in applications coming in to the police department this year when compared to the previous couple years,” Brooks said.

But the department is still “seeing fewer candidates,” according to the release.

[RELATED: State your case: Should prospective cops be required to have college degrees?]

Brooks said Boise has not had to reassign officers away from certain divisions.

In Boise, the numbers of top crimes — murder and negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and arson — declined by nearly 16% between 2020 and 2021, continuing a decline since 2017 interrupted by an increase in 2020, according to department statistics.

Boise offers 26-week police academy

“Sometimes people’s life circumstances either prevent them or redirect them away from obtaining higher education immediately following high school,” Deputy Chief Tammany Brooks told the Idaho Statesman in an interview.

“Our priority needs to be placed on the content of someone’s character, and ensuring that the people that we’re hiring have strong moral fiber and high ethical values, and that we can train them through the police academy and through ongoing continual training to be a police officer,” he said.

New officers will still be required to have a high school diploma and at least three years of continuous work history.

Candidates are paid while they learn during the department’s police academy, which is about 26 weeks long, Brooks said. Afterward, new officers go through between four and six months of field training.

New officers earn about $56,000 per year, while lateral officers earn around $71,000, according to the department’s website. Officers with more experience earn more.

Other departments in the country also have 60-credit requirements, though some have recently opted to remove them. Chicago did so for some new recruits earlier this year, as has Philadelphia. Like Boise, other departments have made changes as recruiting new officers has become more difficult.

Boise has also partnered with the College of Western Idaho to allow officers to continue their education while on the force, and which will allow new recruits to get college credit for their time spent in the police academy.

[RELATED COVERAGE: Chicago PD revises hiring standards amid staffing shortage]

The force’s training division “has also worked with CWI to identify options for officers to continue their education at CWI and potentially transfer to ( Boise State University) or another affiliated college/university to work toward a bachelor’s degree,” the release said.

The department still will strive for new officers to get at least 60 credits within their first five years, he said. Officers who attend school are not eligible for tuition reimbursement, however.

Brooks said that any degree that can teach someone “critical thinking skills, proper writing skills, research and evaluation skills” would be useful to an officer.

‘College was never something that I had really considered’

The deputy chief told the Statesman he grew up without a lot of money and dropped out of high school.

No one in his family had gone to college, and he started working at age 10.

“College was never something that I had really considered,” he said.

[RELATED COVERAGE: Mayor Adams considers dropping NYPD college credit requirement]

In Antioch, California, the town where he grew up, he was able to join the police force without a college degree.

Early on, the police chief there asked him what he wanted to achieve in his career, and he said he wanted to be a police chief himself one day.

“Well, you’re never going to become a police chief as a high school dropout,” the chief told him.

Brooks said he took that advice seriously and went to earn a bachelor’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in leadership. He later became police chief in Antioch.

“I was fortunate enough to get into this profession without having a college degree, but recognize that there was value in developing myself through my career and obtaining a higher education,” he said. “I sit here today as the deputy chief of police.”

NEXT: How to become a police officer: A roadmap to success

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