Sarasota Police Department Lowering its Requirements
An article was recently released by Channel 10 News that read “Sarasota Police no longer require college degree.” Why would the Police Department lower its requirements? Isn’t upholding the law one of the most important and critical jobs in our community? Well apparently, over the next 4 years the police department will lose around 40 of its officers due to retirement, and they are desperate to fill their numbers.
They claim the reason they are lowering this standard is because a two year college degree has “discounted a number of individuals that had good qualities” and they want to “hire a more diverse group of police officers to include Women, Hispanics and African Americans” said Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino. Becoming a police officer involves extensive training and some believe not having a college degree should not be held against an applicant who is willing to serve and protect their community. Will this change in requirements have people lining up asking for a job? Probably not.
The cost and training to become a Police Officer is extensive, besides the physical training, you have to attend the Police Academy. Most of the police academies in Florida are pay-your-own way academies and citizens who want to serve their community just cannot afford to go. Dropping the college degree will not help increase the amount of applicants unless the Police Department can cover some of the cost of training.
The police department should help pay for the academy training and also help qualified candidates earn a two year college degree. Don’t lower the standards for becoming an officer, but instead make it easier and help applicants meet the requirements. A two year college degree gives students a knowledge that is more than just educational, it is a knowledge of social skills, ethics, critical thinking, team building, and the list goes on. A degree is more than an expensive piece of paper, as my high school English teacher, Dr. Burns once said “You will learn more socializing between classes then you will ever learn sitting in a college classroom.”
President Obama even understands the importance of going to college and earning a two year degree. In his January 2015 State of the Union address he stated that “Community College should be as free and universal in America as high school.” His plan would allow the federal government to pay 75 percent of the cost of a community college. If we have learned anything from our History, education bills are a huge game changer for America. President Lincoln launched the Morrill Act in 1862, which donated land so that each state could establish colleges and universities. Then again in 1944, President Roosevelt passed the GI Bill so that servicemen returning from World War II could have free tuition. President Obama’s plan, if it passes, is a huge step in making sure everyone who wants an education can earn one, and will no longer make having a two year degree an excuse for not attaining the job that you want.
Most Universities even have Criminal Justice classes such as the State College of Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University and the University of Florida. Maybe universities and police departments partnered up, they could make the police academy part of a two year degree, instead of finding ways to increase the number of applicants by lowering its requirements. Police Departments should be talking with universities trying to make the requirements more affordable so that citizens could meet them and not avoid them. This would make a huge impact on how the community views its police officers and would be the stepping stone for police departments to build stronger ties with its communities.
With all of the bad press that law enforcement has received lately do you really want to lower the requirements and put potentially unqualified people in life changing positions? It seems like the last thing we need right now are officers who shoot first because they don’t fully understand the situation. They might react with deadly force instead of thinking of alternative ways to deescalate the situation.
Being a police officer is a huge responsibility and a responsibility not to be given out lightly. Don’t lower the requirements, but help give the average citizen the tools to meet the requirements and exceed them.