Being a police officer these days is as much about brains as it is about brawn as more suburban police chiefs seek out job candidates with four-year degrees and previous professional experience, often in outside fields, including teaching, political science and corporate America, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Minnesota has long led the nation in peace officer standards; it's the only state to require a two-year degree and licensing. Now, a four-year degree is becoming a more common standard for entry. t's not a rapid-fire change, but rather an evolution sped up by high unemployment that deepened the candidate pool and gave chiefs more choices. Officer pay and benefits can attract four-year candidates. Officers are expected to juggle a variety of tasks and that takes more education.
Officers communicate with the public, solve problems, navigate different cultures, use computers, radios and other technology on the move, and make split-second decisions about use of force with high-tech tools on their belt. Many decisions are recorded by squad car dashboard cameras, officer body cameras and even bystanders with smartphones. Those higher community expectations and scrutiny are why Columbia Heights Chief Scott Nadeau said hiring officers with a four-year degree and life experience is a priority. “Officers with education seem to do better with problem solving,” he said. “You need that breadth of knowledge. You need to know what is the difference between an immigrant and a refugee.” When Nadeau was hired, chiefs sized candidates up, favoring those over 6 feet tall with broad shoulders. “Officers need to…understand the problem, provide a thoughtful analysis of alternatives, research best practices and assemble a plan that includes multiple stakeholders and leverages community resources to reduce or eliminate the problem,” he said.