California considers requiring police officers be over 25 or have bachelor’s degree
A California legislator proposed a new law Monday that, if passed, would require police officers to have a bachelor’s degree or turn 25 before beginning their careers.
Democratic Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer introduced the proposal Monday and said the measures could reduce the number of police shootings, The Sacramento Bee reported.
“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, chairman of the Assembly Public Safety Committee.
California state law requires peace officers to reach 18 years of age with a high school diploma or equivalent, and state highway patrol officers must be 20.
Data from the California Department of Justice shows state law enforcement either seriously hurt or killed civilians 703 times in 2019. Police fired guns in 283 of those reported incidents.
Jones-Sawyer said that cities with more college-educated police were less likely to use force during encounters with suspects, citing a 2010 study.
A nonprofit research organization called the National Police Foundation found evidence to support Jones-Sawyer’s position, citing data reports noting college-educated officers typically use force less often and have fewer complaints filed against them.
Some states — Illinois, North Dakota, New Jersey and Nevada — already require a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent combination of education and experience to become an officer.
“This could be the beginning of changing the entire way that policing is done on the front end,” Jones-Sawyer said. “Then we can let the bad cops retire on the back end.”
If passed, California would become the state with the oldest age requirement for officers, as most states range between 18 and 21.
The Peace Officers Research Association of California and the California Police Chiefs Association have supported increasing education requirements for officers.
The proposed measures will face several hoops before becoming law, such as a vote in the Assembly and the Senate, followed by the governor’s approval.