A California legislator is proposing the state require people to get a bachelor’s degree or turn 25 before becoming a police officer.
Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, introduced the bill on Monday to the state legislature that is aimed at minimizing police use of deadly force. Supporters of the bill say that more mature and more educated officers are likely to exhibit greater self control and less likely to use deadly force.
“This data-driven bill relies on years of study and new understandings of brain development to ensure that only those officers capable of high level decision-making and judgment in tense situations are entrusted with working in our communities and correctional facilities” said Jones Sawyer, who serves as the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee chair, in a statement.
Currently, police officers in California must be 18 years old and have a high school diploma or the equivalent.
If the bill is passed, California would have the highest age requirement in the country, according to the Sacramento Bee. Most states’ minimum age requirement falls between 18 and 21. Illinois, North Dakota, New Jersey and Nevada each require a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent combination of education and experience, the Bee reported.
California law enforcement agencies seriously injured or killed civilians 703 times in 2019, according to Department of Justice data.
The bill cites multiple studies as the basis for its proposal, including a 2008 study of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department that found that age and education of officers was the main determinant in likelihood to resort to the use of force. Jones-Sawyer also cites neurological research that found that parts of the brain dedicated to judgment and decision-making don’t develop until the mid-20s.
“It is with similar logic that youth must be treated as youth by our criminal justice system,” said Esteban Nuñez, director of Advocacy at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, in a statement. “This legislation will reduce the risk of unlawful or impulsive use of force by requiring law enforcement officers to have more full brain maturation before entering high-stress, high-stakes situations.”
Shaun S. Rundle, deputy director of the California Peace Officers’ Association, told USA TODAY his organization has concerns about the legislation, saying that it could limit people who do not have access to higher education.
“We have not taken any official position on the bill but worry that this approach would derail recruitment efforts of military veterans under the age of 25, and of those from disadvantaged and underrepresented communities who may not have every opportunity to get a bachelor’s degree prior to seeking a career in law enforcement,” Rundle said in a statement. “Increased targeted education through the academy setting would be more of a meaningful approach.”
Jones-Sawyer’s proposal must be voted on in the Assembly and Senate and approved by the governor before it becomes law, the Bee reported. The Assembly and the Senate have adjourned until Jan. 4.
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