Street Smart vs. Book Smart

Many studies support higher education for police officers, encouraging the disciplines beyond what is actually taught. In Stoning the Keepers at the Gate , Lawrence N. Blum, Ph.D. describes several characteristics that formulate a good officer. A look at...


Blum says, "The officer with effective skills in adaptation can demonstrate controlled responses during emotionally charged and possibly dangerous conditions to maintain order and calm." For an ability to become second nature, and, therefore be useful during a chaotic event, an individual needs to have experience using it frequently under normal conditions. In college, the variety of classes required and the diversity of other students and staff allow students to learn how to adapt to a number of situations. The ability to "decide how to best respond" to situations occurs in written work, as well as, group discussions.


Probably one of the most necessary skills an officer should have, communication is a major acquisition in college. Officers must learn to communicate in a wide spectrum of ways, including exerting command presence and the ability to mediate. Cognizance of both verbal and non-verbal communications is essential. In police work, officers communicate in writing, via reports, and orally with citizens, co-workers and supervisors. Blum states, "Officers must be assertive and demonstrate effective interpersonal skills in all of their contacts with people. Officers must not experience emotional discomfort in anticipation of an interpersonal encounter, and they must not demonstrate an accompanying tendency to become anxious or insecure in how they deal with others."

English classes improve a student’s ability to use language clearly and concisely. Taking a foreign language allows them to communicate with a wider range of people. Public speaking classes increase confidence in the ability to communicate. Blum also explains officers need "the ability to receive, assess and integrate information from the environment." College courses can teach officers to do this successfully.

While the debate about whether an agency should require college credits continues, the benefits individual officers can gain from taking classes is great. Students grow personally and professionally and can take great pride in achieving a degree. Many of the courses are fun, especially when chosen due to interest. Another benefit can be gained when looking at what to do after police work. In a list of Tips for Career Management, Ellen Kirschman, Ph.D. writes in I Love a Cop, "Continue with your education and encourage your spouse to get a broad-based education that qualified him or her for other fields." You can even take classes together. After all, electives include everything from weigh-lifting to dancing, from art history to cooking and from inter-personal communications in relationships to understanding your teenager. A world of knowledge exists and it’s easier than ever to access it. Even when you feel you or your spouse is working 20 hours a day, adding personal enrichment activities to your life can make you physically, emotionally and mentally healthier. It's even better when you learn how to make an awesome cheesecake in the process.

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