Sacramento, CA – California lawmakers are considering a bill that would require aspiring law enforcement officers to have either a bachelor’s degree or be at least 25 years old in order to be eligible for hire anywhere in the state.
Current California law requires applicants for most law enforcement positions to have a high school diploma or an equivalency certificate and to be at least 18 years of age in order to qualify for employment.
Jones-Sawyer, chairman of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, said that making the changes outlined in the bill will lower number of police use-of-force incidents, The Sacramento Bee reported.
“These jobs are complex, they’re difficult, and we should not just hand them over to people who haven’t fully developed themselves,” he told the paper.
Jones-Sawyer’s proposed legislation would raise the minimum hiring age to 25, with the exception of cases in which the applicant has earned a bachelor’s degree.
According to the bill, people between the ages of 18 and 25 should not generally be allowed to work as law enforcement officers because their brains are not fully developed.
“Cognitive brain development continues well beyond age 18 and into early adulthood,” the measure reads. “Scientific evidence on young adult development and neuroscience shows that certain areas of the brain, particularly those affecting judgment and decision making, do not develop until the early to mid-20s.”
Law enforcement officers must “make split-second decisions,” and adults with “a still developing brain may struggle,” according to the legislation.
“The Legislature finds and declares that because there is a negative correlation between officer age and use of deadly force, increasing the minimum age of a police officer will likely result in a police force composed of more mature officers who are able to exhibit greater self-control, and who are less likely to utilize deadly force,” the bill reads.
The exception to the under-developed-brain-deficiency rule would be those “better educated officers” who have bachelor’s degrees.
“A 2007 study found that officers with a bachelor’s degree were less likely to use physical force than officers with only a high school graduation,” according to the proposed bill. “Better educated officers perform better in the academy, receive higher supervisor evaluations, have fewer disciplinary problems and accidents, are assaulted less often, and miss fewer days of work than their counterparts.”
If passed into law, California would have the highest age requirement in the nation, KTVU reported.
Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Illinois all require either a bachelor’s degree or some combination of experience and education.
However, many agencies have been ditching degree requirements as they have been unable to find qualified applicants who want to be police officers.
“This could be the beginning of changing the entire way that policing is done on the front end,” Jones-Sawyer told The Sacramento Bee. “Then we can let the bad cops retire on the back end.”