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Calif. police groups back requiring college classes for recruits

Proposed legislation would require recruits to supplement academy training with college courses focused on community relations

By Suzie Ziegler

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Two California police organizations proposed legislation Thursday that would raise standards for police recruiting and training, according to the Associated Press.

Under the proposed legislation, prospective officers should have to complete college classes that the groups said would prepare them “to meet the expectations of a modern police force,” reported the Associated Press. Those courses could include classes on mental health, social services, psychology and communication.

Education requirements for police officers haven’t kept pace with the evolving nature of the job, said Eric Nunez, president of the California Police Chiefs Association.

“The 685 hours required by academy training is woefully inadequate given the breadth of duties and expectations placed on officers today,” Nunez told AP.

Brian Marvel, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, says changes must be “a cultural shift” within police ranks.

The proposed classes would supplement academy training, though the state’s police standards board could give officers credit for prior experiences.

According to the Associated Press, officers who lacked a college education accounted for 75% of disciplinary actions and officers with college degrees are less likely to use force.

Police unions in San Jose, San Francisco and Los Angeles said in a joint statement that they encourage higher education for officers. At the same time, the unions worried the proposal could be a barrier for people of color, military veterans and those who can’t afford college.

The two groups’ proposal would allow high school graduates to continue to serve so long as they complete additional required college work, according to the Associated Press.

Several states already require a bachelor’s degree, associate degree or some requisite number of college credits. The difference for California, the two groups said, is that the required coursework would target specific areas to help officers better relate to the community. The groups also said they want to work with state schools to eventually develop a pre-professional degree specifically designed for law enforcement.

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