Author ORCID Identifier

Thaddeus L. Johnson:

Natasha N. Johnson:

Eric L. Sevigny:

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Objectives: The latest spate of deadly police encounters across the U.S. sparked renewed calls for agencies to hire more college-educated police officers. But educational attainment’s impact on police–citizen altercations remains unclear. Using secondary data, this study examines the association between officer education level and three outcomes: police shootings, violent arrests, and physical altercations. Method: Using the Police Stress and Domestic Violence in Police Families in Baltimore, Maryland data, we employ a doubly robust propensity score design to compare outcomes among 1,104 Baltimore police officers. Results: We find that, on average, officers with some college experience or a completed bachelor’s degree are 8%–10% less likely, respectively, to be involved in a shooting compared to officers with a high school education only. Conversely, results show null effects of college-education on violent arrests and physical altercations. Conclusions: Prior research suggests that college-educated officers are more effective at deescalating potentially volatile situations. Our research suggests this may be the case only during the most dangerous and fraught encounters, such as those that often lead to shots fired.


©American Psychological Association, 2022. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. The final article is available at