Democratic California Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles has proposed AB-89 to require law enforcement officers be a least 25 or have a bachelor’s degree or an advanced degree from an accredited college or university.

The national study by Christine Gardiner, professor of criminal justice at Cal State Fullerton, Policing around the Nation: Education, Philosophy, and Practice, shows the role of higher education in policing. Her statewide study shows California has more college-educated officers than most places across the nation. 

Gardiner’s national survey concludes:

  • The chief/sheriff’s education level makes a difference in how an agency operates
  • A college degree is usually required to promote to higher ranks
  • Almost one-third of sworn officers in the United States are college graduates (with four-year degrees)

“Increasing education requirements for officers is a promising idea to further professionalize police and improve the practice of policing,” Gardiner says. “Changing education standards at the state level is smart because most agencies set their minimum standards equivalent to state standards and because it will level the playing field for all agencies in the state. It is important to provide financial backing to ensure future officers from all backgrounds can afford to enroll in college and agencies can afford to pay them.”

Current state law requires police officers be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent. California Highway Patrol officers must be at least 20 years old.

About Cal State Fullerton: The largest university in the CSU and the only campus in Orange County, Cal State Fullerton offers 110 degree programs, and Division 1 athletics. Recognized as a national model for supporting student success, CSUF excels with innovative, high-impact educational practices, including faculty-student collaborative research, study abroad and competitive internships. Our vibrant and diverse campus is a primary driver of workforce and economic development in the region. CSUF is a top public university known for its success in supporting first-generation and underrepresented students, and preparing all students to become leaders in the global marketplace. Our It Takes a Titan campaign, a five-year $200 million comprehensive fundraising initiative, prioritizes investments in academic innovation, student empowerment, campus transformation and community enrichment. Visit fullerton.edu.