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Can College Educations For Police Reduce Deaths of Black Citizens?

Police forces requiring at least a two-year college degree for employment are less likely to employ officers who engage in actions that cause the deaths of Black and unarmed citizens, finds a study of data from 235 police departments from 2000 to 2016, write Georgia State University criminologists Thaddeus and Natasha Johnson in The Conversation. The study also found that blacks were no more likely than whites to die during police encounters in places where police are required to have more college education. Earlier research had concluded that officer education level and police department college requirements do not significantly affect deadly police outcomes.

The Johnsons used a dataset that included about one-fifth of all documented police-involved fatalities and a quarter of Blacks killed by police in the U.S. from 2000 to 2016. The authors say college requirements for officers are associated with as much as three times lower rates of police-related fatalities involving Black people than police forces without a college degree requirement. More-educated police were responsible for unarmed citizens dying at a rate two times lower than their counterparts. High-profile police killings of Black Americans, including George Floyd in 2020, have underscored long-standing issues with racial disparities in police-caused deaths, renewing renewed questions about police recruitment, hiring standards and educational requirements for police forces. The Johnsons say their study shows that an associate degree requirement, at minimum, shows the most promise for reducing the frequency of fatal police encounters.


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