The effect of higher education on police behavior

Jason Rydberg, William Terrill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


In the past, police scholars have examined the impact of higher education on different measures of officer behavior, most notably arrest and the use of force. Much of this prior work has suffered from poor methodologies, such as inadequate samples and the inability to control for theoretically relevant variables. In addition, previous inquires have focused on but one single behavior per study. In an attempt to overcome some of these limitations, we examine the effect of officer education on three key decisionmaking points (i.e., arrest, search, and use of force) by relying on observational data from two medium-sized cities.The results of the analysis indicate that higher education carries no influence over the probability of an arrest or search occurring in a police- suspect encounter. College education does, however, significantly reduce the likelihood of force occurring. Results may be due to the amount of discretion officer's exercise in pursuing these behaviors. Recommendations for future inquiries revolving around theory development and the incorporation of research from the field of education are presented, as well as varying policy implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)92-120
Number of pages29
JournalPolice Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Arrest
  • Education
  • Force
  • Police
  • Search

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Law


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