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Over the past several years, there has been a media spotlight on police misconduct. Allegations of racial bias and brutality have disturbed the hearts of the American people. But the vast majority of the men and women who put their lives out on the line for our citizens are good people. Serving in the police force is a difficult job. A stronger pay structure would continue to motivate and attract the best and the brightest. For police reform advocates, properly paid police are an important part of improving relations between communities, politicians, and law enforcement. That relationship has drawn renewed national attention — and come under unprecedented strain — in the last year, following the widely publicized shootings of several unarmed people, many of them black.
To be sure, police officer salaries should be increased to attract better candidates for the job. The pay varies radically across the country, depending on where the officer serves and the responsibilities of the job. A severely underpaid agency all but invites corruption when their officers can barely afford to live on their police salaries. Corrupt police officers in some cities, for example, have robbed drug dealers and even ordered hits on criminals, adding that such abuse of power also erodes trust between the officers and citizens. Police are not as likely to be fair and just when they could be scrambling with criminal gangs for the same dirty money. And when they’re put in this position, morally and ethically, many can be seduced. To be blunt, if city governments want to avoid corruption, then they must pay the cops a living wage.
Incentives for higher education can help sometimes, and police officers with college degrees are paid more. Police officers with more education may also be better able to adapt to proposed community policing initiatives, including public outreach and crime prevention initiatives. New research suggests that possessing a bachelor’s degree may improve certain aspects of field performance, including using less verbal and physical force than officers of the same experience without a degree.
Police departments place a greater value on educated officers because of the changing nature of law enforcement. In the community-policing model that’s gaining traction worldwide, police officers not only enforce the law but reach out to communities to organize events and find common solutions to local problems. The ability to adapt to new developments and critically solve problems in the rapidly-changing police profession is a must for any candidate. Officers with degrees will bring a diverse skill set to their department, earn a higher salary, and make themselves more eligible to further their careers through promotional opportunities.
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