Colorado has removed the minimum educational requirement for police officers under a new comprehensive police reform bill signed into law. The previous law required police to have an associate’s degree or 60 credit hours of college coursework. The new law permits a high school diploma or GED equivalent but requires police officers to undertake continuing education courses throughout their careers. Opponents argue higher education is crucial to effective policing and the change may undermine the professionalism of the profession. Supporters believe continuing education, training, mentoring and work experience contribute to effective policing and that removing the minimum educational requirement will increase diversity.
Colorado Moves to Clear Minimum Educational Requirements for Police Officers
On June 22, 2020, Colorado’s Governor Jared Polis signed a comprehensive police reform bill into law. The new law, SB20-217, aims to increase police accountability, transparency, and community engagement. One of the significant changes in the new bill is the removal of previous minimum educational requirements for police officers in Colorado. In this article, we’ll explore what the changes mean and how they might impact law enforcement in Colorado.
Changes to Minimum Educational Requirements
Prior to the new bill being signed into law, Colorado law required peace officers, including police officers, to have an associate’s degree or 60 credit hours of college coursework. The previous law also allowed peace officers to complete a high school diploma or GED equivalent with two years of continuous experience as a police officer.
Under the new law, the minimum educational requirement for police officers in Colorado is now a high school diploma or GED equivalent. However, the new law also requires peace officers to complete continuing education courses throughout their careers. Additionally, the new law mandates that the Colorado Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board develop a list of recommended college or university courses that will prepare police officers for their duties.
The Impacts of the Changes
The removal of the minimum educational requirement for police officers in Colorado has been met with mixed reactions. Supporters of the change argue that it will increase the diversity of the law enforcement workforce by removing barriers to entry, primarily for people of color and those from low-income backgrounds. Opponents of the changes, however, believe that education is crucial to effective policing and that the removal of the minimum educational requirement could undermine the professionalism of the profession.
One of the primary concerns raised by opponents is that higher education and broader life experiences help police officers make better decisions, particularly when dealing with complex situations. The changes could, therefore, result in less effective policing, with less emphasis on community relations and problem-solving.
However, supporters argue that education is not the only factor that contributes to effective policing. Rather, it’s a combination of factors, including continuing education, training, mentoring, and work experience. Furthermore, many policing organizations already provide substantial training and education for police officers beyond what is required by law. By removing the minimum educational requirements, there will be more flexibility for police departments to employ officers who may not have formal college education but have relevant work history, life experiences, and the potential to be successful police officers.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Will this change only affect new police officers?
No, the change in minimum educational requirements applies to all peace officers, including new recruits and existing officers.
What is the Colorado Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board?
The POST Board is responsible for developing and implementing standards and training for peace officers in Colorado.
What kinds of continuing education courses will peace officers need to take?
The new law does not specify the types of continuing education courses that peace officers will need to take. The POST Board will develop a list of recommended courses that will prepare police officers for their duties.
Will removing the minimum educational requirement result in less professional policing?
That is a possibility. However, continuing education, training, mentoring, and work experience also contribute to effective policing. Many policing organizations already provide substantial training and education for police officers beyond what is required by law.
What other changes are included in SB20-217?
SB20-217 includes several other changes designed to increase police accountability, transparency, and community engagement. These changes include requiring police officers to use body-worn cameras, mandating public release of body-camera footage of police shootings within 21 days, and establishing a database of peace officers who have been decertified or resigned while under investigation.