The Criminal Justice Degree and Policing: Conceptual Development or Occupational Primer?

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Criminal Justice, Forensic Science, and Security


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to assess the value that police officers with criminal justice degrees place on their personal educational experiences, while also comparing those perceptions with officers educated in other academic disciplines. Its focus also rests on the degree's contribution to conceptual and managerial skills, as opposed to mere occupational expertise. Disagreement between the academic and law enforcement communities concerning the value of criminal justice education creates an imbalance eroding potential benefits. Recent studies highlight this division as even pre-service majors regard the degree as unrelated to most policing functions. Design/methodology/approach - Police departments with 50 or more sworn officers from across the State of Alabama (United States) were the data collection sites (n = 21). In total, 16 departments participated and 1,114 officers (57 percent) responded to a mail survey (2002). Findings - The paper finds that officers with criminal justice degrees (n = 299) reported that the degree substantially improved their knowledge and abilities on a wide range of areas from the criminal justice system to conceptual and managerial skills. Responses did not differ significantly from officers educated in non-criminal justice academic disciplines. Practical implications - The paper demonstrates that college-educated police officers regard the criminal justice degree as more than mere occupational training. Originality/value - The paper equips police managers with tangible findings that police officers with criminal justice college degrees value its mental and conceptual contributions.

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Policing-An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management





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