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Readers respond: What should be the minimum age requirement to become a police officer?

More than 4,000 Police1 readers answered our poll – here’s a summary of what readers had to say

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This information comes from recent Police1 polls. Polls are updated on the P1 homepage each month and open to all P1 readers. Make your voice heard HERE in our latest poll.

Under a proposal introduced by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, California police officers would have to be 25 or get a bachelor’s degree. If passed, California would have the highest age requirement for peace officers in the country.

“These jobs are complex, they’re difficult, and we should not just hand them over to people who haven’t fully developed themselves,” said Jones-Sawyer, who is chairman of the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

We asked Police1 readers what they thought the minimum age requirement should be for police officers. Sixty-three percent said it should be 21 years of age; 29% agree with the proposed increase to 25 years of age.

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Read on for more reader responses on this topic sent by email and posted in Police1’s LinkedIn group and on Police1’s Facebook page.

look at maturity and life experience, not age

We have hired people in their late 20s and early 30s who didn’t make it. I think it has to be a maturity level of emotions and a completely clear understanding of what LE actually does and sees and experiences rather than posting an age requirement. — David Garcia

I started as a reserve deputy at the age of 19. As the head of my office, I would not make that type of decision to hire such a young person regardless of how mature they are. You can hire too young, but I believe you can’t hire too old. I think 24-28 is a great range for a first-time officer. A little maturity and life experience are necessary for this type of career. — Chris Matthews

Age doesn’t matter. Relevant education, life and work experience, and maturity matter. To gain most of that takes a certain time, so I would say 18 is illogical, even 21 isn’t old enough in most cases. Kids who go straight into an academy after high school should have a transitional stage where they work with training officers or have other positions like in detention that are easier to monitor instead of sending them out on their own. — Dominique Gourdon

The age doesn’t need to change, but I do believe anyone who wants to be an officer should be required to have at least one year of jail experience. The minimum age for that is 18. — Dustin Bresko

In the past, many applicants had already been in the workforce, or military before the age of 21. Life experience should be weighed for hiring criteria. If the applicant has military experience, greater weight should be given. — Tim Koren

What law enforcement can learn from the military

I spent 22 years in the USAF Security Forces. Airmen at 18 carry weapons and are entrusted with the security of nuclear weapons one day, conducting law enforcement activities the next and deployed to a war zone the next. One thing I found over the years is that age and book smarts do not guarantee you’ll be a good officer. Setting an age limit that substantially reduces your pool of potential applicants is counterproductive. — John C. Brocker

I do think that 21 is reasonable. We send 18-year-olds to war equipped with significant firepower, but they are normally closely supervised by NCOs who are older and more experienced. In law enforcement, there is far less direct supervision, widely varying situations but extreme scrutiny after the fact. A few more years to mellow a bit and experience life seems prudent for law enforcement, but 25 years of age seems extreme. — J. Filice

If I can serve my country in the military at 18 the same rule should apply to serving my country domestically. Science does show that cognitively individuals are still developing until their mid- to late-20s, however, age does not factor in lived experiences that influence the ability to process or connect with others during traumatic experiences. Those prior life experiences can lend more credence for the officer supporting their community and increased empathy. These should ALL be factors taken into consideration when choosing the proper application, not solely based on age. — Angela Matthews

I respectfully disagree with the military and police comparison. Have done both and retired from both, I can provide clear evidence of the differences. Joining the military at 18 years of age, you are controlled, directed and told what to do for years. It is a closed and controlled environment, and you have specific responsibilities. A police officer is on his/her own after approximately 8-9 months in California, and much less time in other parts of the country. Much life experience is needed and should be required, prior to taking on the numerous and complicated responsibilities of law enforcement. — Donald Jenkins

Treat policing seriously

I was reading about California raising the minimum age to be a police officer. I believe this is going in the wrong direction. We should look at Germany and the Polizei. It’s treated more seriously over there. They go to school to be a police officer starting at age 17. They begin going on duty at 18 while they continue to be in school to learn to become a police officer. I believe it takes three years of schooling and training to become a German Polizei. Cops in the US do not get enough training and education. — David Fortini

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses

I was an LEO when women were first getting hired. I started the academy at 29 and was the second oldest person in my class. My roommate in the dorm was 19; she could run like a deer, jump over the 8' wall like it was a bump on the road, and generally made me feel old. My saving grace was that I had a BA in criminology and had worked as a county investigator. I held classes in our TV room on the law and evidence. We each have our strong and weak suits. — Judith Laskowski

Don’t lose your applicant pool

You’ll lose a huge applicant pool by age 25. Many young men and women won’t wait before trying to get on with a career. I was a 21-year-old Army veteran for my first police job and had some trouble because of immaturity, but people vary. I say leave it at age 21 and let the vetting and training process work. — Scot Levno

NEXT: Why the next generation of cops need a criminal justice degree

Nancy Perry is Editor-in-Chief of Police1 and Corrections1, responsible for defining original editorial content, tracking industry trends, managing expert contributors and leading the execution of special coverage efforts.

Prior to joining Lexipol in 2017, Nancy served as an editor for emergency medical services publications and communities for 22 years, during which she received a Jesse H. Neal award. In 2022, she was honored with the prestigious G.D. Crain Award at the annual Jesse H. Neal Awards Ceremony. She has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of Sussex in England and a master’s degree in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California. Ask questions or submit ideas to Nancy by e-mailing