A Correlational Study Examining the Relationship Between Police Officer Education and Supervisory Evaluations of Performance in a Medium-Sized Law Enforcement Agency in Tennessee

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There is no research-based consensus about the benefits of a postsecondary education as it relates to police officer job performance, leaving police executives with little guidance when establishing educational hiring criteria. The purpose of this quantitative correlational study was to determine the degree to which the possession of a postsecondary education degree was correlated with measures of police officer job performance in a medium-sized municipal law enforcement agency in the state of Tennessee. This measurement was accomplished by examining 206 numerical annual supervisory performance evaluations and education data for 85 police officers during a three-year period (2013–2015). This sample represented all nonsupervisory police officers employed by the agency of interest who received performance evaluations for the position of police officer during the study period. The study was designed to determine if a positive correlation existed between possessing a postsecondary education degree and supervisory ratings of police officer performance in four categories: general professionalism, productivity, technical knowledge, and management skills. No significant correlations were found in the sample between education and supervisory ratings of general professionalism and productivity. Significant positive, but weak correlations were found in the sample between education and supervisory ratings of technical knowledge (r = .172, p = .014) and management skills (r = .146, p = .036). This study showed mixed and inconclusive results about the relationship between police officer education and performance, consistent with existing literature. The study’s findings provided the basis for recommendations to law enforcement executives and future researchers wishing to gain further insight into the relationship between police officer education and performance.