Austin police applicants only need elementary education

Mar 27, 2013 by

Those hoping to become an Austin police officer no longer need college creditto apply to work for the department under a new policy aimed at expanding the applicant pool.

With some exceptions, the department had required people to have 30 hours of college credit — about a year of higher education — to be eligible to apply to be a police officer, Assistant Chief Brian Manley said.


But thinking that qualification could bar applicants who couldn’t go to college but would otherwise be good candidates, the department eliminated the requirement this month, Manley said.

A high school diploma or a General Educational Development certificate is required, he said.

“Sometimes kids don’t have the financial means to go to college,” Manley said. “Sometimes they have to go immediately into the workforce to support sick family members.”

Because the department also recently changed the requirements of the reading comprehension exam that applicants must take to show they can perform at a college freshman level instead of a high school junior or senior level, Manley said officials are confident only qualified candidates will make it into the police training academy.

For that reason, Austin Police Association President Wayne Vincent said he’s not concerned that this change will lower the department’s academic standards.

“We do not want to see a good candidate turned away just because they could not afford to go to college,” he said.

Only a handful of police departments in Texas require that officers have a college education, said Tom Mijares, a criminal justice professor at Texas State University and a former police officer. Others, including Austin, have financial incentives to pursue higher education.


Austin police officers with an associate degree receive $100 extra per month, Manley said, while officers with bachelor’s and master’s degrees receive $220 and $300 extra per month, respectively.

Nationwide, nearly all local police departments had a minimum education requirement for new officers in 2007, according to a December 2010 report by the U.S. Department of Justice. An estimated 16 percent of departments had some type of college requirement, according to the report. And an estimated 16 percent of departments that served a population of 500,000 to 999,999, such as Austin, required that new officers have a two-year college degree.

No departments that size in the report’s sample required new officers to have a four-year college degree that year. An estimated 68 percent required a high school diploma.

Still, Mijares said he thinks the Austin Police Department should have a higher education requirement.

A police department should reflect the composition of the city it serves, and with several higher education institutions in and around the city, Austin has a high level of education compared with other cities in Texas, Mijares said.

Also, criminal justice and law enforcement are getting increasingly complex, he said. If a high school diploma is the only requirement, “we’re going to have a workforce that’s not as versed in the technology that is changing,” he said.

via College requirement dropped for Austin police applicants | www.statesman.com.

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