Highly educated: Records show two out of every three HPD officers have at least one college degree – highest percentage in history

Tom Kennedy

Records show Houston police officers are some of the best educated commissioned law enforcement personnel in the nation – two out of every three HPD officers has at least one college degree.

To boot, it appears that the 40 hours of annual in-service training could be the most required by any of the nation’s big-city departments when compared to the departments in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

The Badge & Gun’s request for the number of degree holders and training hours for those departments have still not been answered despite inquiries to sources in each of the three other departments. It appears NYPD and Chicago PD do not keep such records readily available to media like the B&G.

In HPD, on the other hand, each officer knows about the 40-hour requirement currently in place. In addition, Capt. Kristine Anthony at the HPD Police Academy provided the latest up-to-date data on HPD degree holders.

Seems like it’s fairly easy since the Union-negotiated bi-monthly stipends for officers holding college degrees – a benefit that has been in place for many years now. The information can be deciphered from payroll records.

Accordingly, the holder of a bachelor’s degree earns an additional $140 per paycheck, while a master’s degree holder earns an additional $240 and a doctorate-degree holder (including one with a law degree) receives and additional $340 per paycheck.

Capt. Anthony revealed to the Badge & Gun the following breakdown and percentage of HPD college degree holders:

 

  • Associate Arts (community college) degrees: 450 or 9 percent
  • Bachelor’s degrees: 2,154 or 41 percent
  • Master’s degrees: 806 or 16 percent
  • Doctorates (including law degrees: 41 or 1 percent

 

A source in NYPD said the nation’s largest city, with 34,500 commissioned officers, has had the 60-college-hour requirement for police cadets for at least 20 years. A source in Chicago PD confirmed the same requirement but pointed out that the department there (12, 244 officers) went through a few years where a four-year degree was a necessary qualification to get into the Chicago police academy.

For LAPD (10,000 officers) there is only a high school diploma or GED certificate required to qualify as a police cadet. A bachelor’s degree is required in LA if one wants to be promoted to sergeant and above.

As for annual in-service training requirements, the B&G was only able to confirm that LAPD requires 24 hours every two years, usually for basics such as gun qualification.

The last nine years have seen the number of college degree holders in HPD increase significantly. The last survey taken by the Badge & Gun in 2009 showed 51 percent of the department had at least one degree from associate arts and above.

According to figures released at that time, 1,750 officers held bachelor’s degrees, 575 had a master’s and 46 held doctorates, including law degrees. In addition, 311 had associate arts degrees.

We can’t yet say HPD is the best educated and most highly trained department in the nation but the record shows the department to be in that ball park among the leaders. We are awaiting the updated figures from these departments.

From the HPD Academy, Capt. Anthony said, “HPD is a highly educated, well-trained, and professional law enforcement agency. I’m proud of our officers!”

And obviously the leader of the Union that negotiated higher pay for higher education likes the HPD record.

“I think it’s great when you have a department where 67 percent have some sort of degree,” HPOU President Joe Gamaldi said. “It’s always a positive thing to have continuing education.

“Certainly we have been able to negotiate a great benefit where everyone is encouraged to go out and continue his/her education.”

And Gamaldi took care to remind us that the department furnishes officers in college with tuition reimbursements.

“You are able to go to school,” he said, “and once you have the degree you get even more money.”

History shows a stark contrast between today’s highly trained, highly educated HPD officer and those on duty in the post-World War II years, the 1960s, 1970s and part of the 1980s.

In the 1970s Homicide Division, for example, one detective was known as “the college cop” since he stood out as the only person in the division with a degree from the University of Houston. Also, Harry Caldwell, who graduated up the chain of command to become police chief, was just a few hours away from a doctorate degree.

Now there are UH degree holders throughout the department, including doctorates or law degrees.