California Police Chief- Fall 2013 - Page 18

Vallejo Police Chief Bob Nichelini Higher Degree of Service More chiefs are more educated than ever before Bob Nichelini was a real oddity when he began his law enforcement career at the Oakland Police Department in 1971. Like most other newbie cops at the time, Nichelini was exmilitary, having served in the Air Force for five years. But unlike many other young police officers, Nichelini had a four-year college degree - a bachelor’s degree in history and geography. Today, it’s routine for rookie police officers to be packing a college degree in addition to a service weapon. And, at the top ranks of law enforcement, advanced degrees – a master’s, doctorate, law degree – have become common. About 62 percent of the state’s active police chiefs have advanced degrees, according to a recent survey by the 18 | Behind The Badge California Police Chiefs Association. The survey also found that 82 percent believe cops are more educated than a generation ago. Even more police chiefs – roughly 85 percent -- believe education has played a key role in the sustained drop in crime. Nichelini is reluctant to draw too direct of a link between smarter cops and safer streets, but the Vallejo police chief who earned a law degree while in uniform says there are undeniable benefits to having a well-educated police force. “We do a better job making sure that the people we arrest get prosecuted, which leads to a lower recidivism rate,” Nichelini said. Better-educated cops, he said, translates to more solidly written reports and an ability to deal with the public and