Author ORCID Identifier

Thaddeus L. Johnson:

Natasha N. Johnson:

Document Type


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Raising the educational standards for police officers represents a perennial police reform theme in the United States. Among other benefits, proponents herald college degree requirements as key to improving the quality and fairness of policing outcomes, including the chief formal response to crime: arresting suspected lawbreakers. However, the evidence-base regarding college education requirements’ consequences for agency arrest behaviors is formative for various reasons, namely the absence of studies examining whether these policies contribute to racially equitable arrest outcomes.

The presented data show steeper decreases in the racial gap in Black and White people arrested for degree-requiring agencies compared to non-degree requiring agencies between 2000 and 2016. Albeit encouraging news, the disparity rate for agencies with a college standard remains relatively higher. While this entry implies that college degree requirements alone will not resolve racial disparities in police arrests, it is premature to draw concrete conclusions about this often taken-for-granted association until more rigorous research is conducted.


Accepted manuscript version of a chapter published in Johnson, T., Johnson, N., Sepanik, S., & Lee, M. Higher Education in Law Enforcement and Racial Disparity in Arrests. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Criminology.

Reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press.


Available for download on Friday, November 22, 2024