Currently, a majority of the state recruits are between the ages 18 and 21 and this bill will require officers to be at least 25.
A new bill if passed by the California Legislature could make it mandatory for police officers in the state to have a 4-year bachelor’s degree or be at least 25-years-old. The bill hopes to ensure there are more responsible police officers among its ranks as a counter to rising instances of police brutality. The bill was introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer to the state Legislature Monday and said the conditions would improve the decision making of police officers, reported Sacramento Bee. Sometimes the difference between life and death for the African-American community hangs on the decision making capability and empathy of a police officer. “This data-driven bill relies on years of study and new understandings of brain development to ensure that only those officers capable of high-level decision-making and judgment in tense situations are entrusted with working in our communities and correctional facilities,” said Jones-Sawyer in a statement Monday.
As if now, a majority of the recruits in the state are between the ages 18 and 21. Currently, police officers are required to be 18 while California Highway Patrol Officers need to be at least 20. Should the proposed bill be passed, the state will have the oldest age requirement for police officers, according to The Hill. "The evidence is clear — the prefrontal cortex of the brain is not fully developed until age 25,” said Esteban Nunez, director of the Los Angeles-based nonprofit the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, in a joint statement with the Reggie Jones-Sawyer on Monday. Nunez also argued that a similar logic must also be applied to youth when being tried by the criminal justice system.
The bill will require all incoming local and state officers to have a bachelor's degree or be at least 25 years old. The bill cites various studies that back up the conditions mandated as part of the new bill. Of the six sources cited in the bill, a 2007 study found that officers with bachelor’s degrees were less likely to use physical force than their high school-educated colleagues. According to the Washington Post, the police force in California has been responsible for the death of 134 people in the state with more than half a month to go in December. Last year the police had killed 135 people in the state. The new bill comes in the wake of widespread protests against police brutality and structural racism in America. Breonna Taylor and George Floyd were just two of many African Americans who were killed by police this year.
It is not new for a bachelor's degree to be a mandatory criterion to be selected in the police force. Many countries all over the world require applicants to have a bachelor's degree. Officers in Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden are required to have some level of college education apart from their training. Meanwhile, in England and Wales, officers are required to have a four-year degree as of this year. In the US states, like Illinois, New Jersey, and North Dakota, require state officers to complete at least two years of college to enter the force. While no study captures the direct correlation between mandated degrees and police killings, the three states featured at the bottom 11 states with the lowest number of police killings in 2019, according to MappingPoliceViolence.org.
Many in the police force have voiced their opposition to the bill. “We have not taken any official position on the bill, but worry that this approach would derail recruitment efforts of military veterans under the age of 25, and of those from disadvantaged and underrepresented communities who may not have every opportunity to get a Bachelor’s degree prior to seeking a career in law enforcement,” said Erik Maness, a member of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and President of the California Peace Officers’ Association, reported VICE News.