The Discipline and Punish Podcast
The Discipline and Punish Podcast
E1: Are College Educated Police Officers Different? (w/ Professor Richard Rosenfeld)

On this episode, Professor Richard Rosenfeld and I discuss his most recent publication: Are College-Educated Officers Different? — Many people assume hiring officers with college degrees will improve policing. Are they right? We also discuss the importance of public trust in policing and the implications of the coronavirus (Covid-19).


A study of more than 60,000 police traffic stops found that college-educated officers were more likely than other officers to stop drivers for less serious violations, perform consent searches, and make arrests on discretionary grounds. These results are consistent with those of prior research indicating that college-educated officers are more achievement oriented and eager for advancement based on the traditional performance criteria of stops, searches, and arrests. The results raise questions regarding the recommendation of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing (2015) to improve police-community relations by hiring more college-educated police officers, especially in urban communities where concerns about over policing are widespread. If community engagement were to become a primary basis for professional advancement, however, the current results suggest that college-educated officers may adapt to the new standards as diligently as they have to the traditional criteria for reward and promotion in U.S. police departments.

A Curators’ Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Professor Rosenfeld’s research interests include the social sources of violent crime, crime statistics, and crime control policy. His current research focuses on explaining U.S. crime trends. Dr. Rosenfeld served as President of the American Society of Criminology in 2010.

Tom Baker has been a PhD student in UMSL’s Criminology and Criminal Justice program since 2017. Tom received his BA in Political Science from Arizona State University and worked as a police officer for approximately nine years. His research interests include police culture, use of force, and qualitative research methods.

Rosenfeld, R., Johnson, T. L., & Wright, R. (2018). Are college-educated police officers different? A study of stops, searches, and arrests. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 0887403418817808.

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