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College cops: a study of education and policing in California

Christie Gardiner (Politics, Administration, and Justice Department, California State University at Fullerton, Fullerton, CA, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 16 November 2015




The purpose of this paper is to describe the state of police education in California. There is limited national data on the topic and this study aims to improve our knowledge by studying the state with the highest number of law enforcement officers in the USA.


A total of 162 local law enforcement agencies (police and sheriffs’ departments) in California completed a 32-question electronic survey about police education and training.


Findings reveal that California agencies are more likely than agencies nationwide to offer incentives to encourage officers to pursue higher education. Although most departments require only a high school diploma, 35 percent of sworn officers are college graduates. Most college-educated officers are employed by medium and large sized agencies in urban counties which pay above-average salaries.

Research limitations/implications

This paper demonstrates how the prevalence of educated police officers varies and that higher education requirements do not adversely affect the hiring of female officers. It also provides insight from police managers regarding their concerns about requiring a four-year degree and perceptions of whether college-educated officers are actually better officers than non-college-educated officers.

Practical implications

Research findings may be instructive to police managers wanting to increase the number of sworn officers in their agency who hold a college degree.


It adds to the literature by describing the education level of police officers in California and providing information about the educational requirements and incentives offered to officers by law enforcement agencies. No previous study has addressed this topic, even though California employs 12 percent of all sworn peace officers in the USA.



Gardiner, C. (2015), "College cops: a study of education and policing in California", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 38 No. 4, pp. 648-663.



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