St. Louis police increasing education requirements for recruits

2012-09-20T00:15:00Z 2012-10-02T16:50:35Z St. Louis police increasing education requirements for recruitsBY CHRISTINE BYERS • cbyers@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8087 stltoday.com

ST. LOUIS • A study suggesting that better-educated police officers are less likely to resign or be fired has spurred the Board of Police Commissioners to arrange a partnership with local universities to seek recruits.

An internal study released Wednesday showed that a less-educated an officer is more likely to get into a career-ending situation. And about 39 percent of the last 900 officers hired had only a high school education or General Equivalency Diploma.

The board endorsed a plan for Chief Dan Isom and Lt. Col. Paul Nocchiero to enter an agreement with the University of Missouri-St. Louis, St. Louis University and Harris-Stowe State University. The goal over the next two years is to do all recruiting from the universities, he said.

The department will begin requiring at least a two-year associate's degree, and universities will get added job opportunities for students, Nocchiero said. "We believe this partnership will improve recruitment, retention, discipline, police services and overall employee satisfaction."

Since 1995, the department has required that recruits have at least 30 hours of college credit.

Jennifer Giancola, dean of the School for Professional Studies at SLU, said, "It's attractive for students to have clear career paths and it's also good to have three diverse institutions to chose from."

St. Louis County police require at least two-year degrees or four years of active military duty.

Nocchiero said the city department also valued military experience but had not decided how to factor it into recruitment.

He said he did not expect the plan to cost the department any money.

Also planned is reducing the academy to 20 weeks from 28, increasing field training to 36 weeks from 12 weeks, and reducing the probationary period to 16 weeks from 40.

The academy's continuing education coordinator, Sean McCarthy, found in the study of 900 officers that it cost an average of $400,000 to bring one to the seventh year of service, including training, pay and benefits. By his calculations, the department loses about a third of every recruitment class by that point, even though the expected value of a trained officer should equal about 25 years of service, given pension costs.

"That's about $5 million worth of talent we lose," McCarthy said. "If we believe education is the key to success, then we want to make sure everyone has that coming in."

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