CA PUBLIC SAFETY + REHABILITATION

The PEACE Act in California

New Educational Requirements for Law Enforcement Officers

A new California law, the PEACE Act, propelled by Assembly Bill No. 89, has changed the existing requirements for who could join the police force in the state. This bill arose from the need to minimize the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers. There have been growing concerns about fatal shootings by law enforcement officers that could have been avoided. 

The new law will raise the entry age to the police force from 18 to 21 and also ensure officers have a bachelor’s degree rather than the existing high school diploma requirement. The change in the age limit for a police officer is due to research that shows that cognitive brain development in humans fully develops in the mid-20s. Therefore, decision-making in difficult situations is handled better by newly-hired older police officers. They can make better judgments than newly-hired younger officers. It is better to have psychologically competent police officers to ensure public safety, especially in dangerous incidents they are likely to encounter. 

Studies also show that better-educated police officers are better fitted for their roles than their counterparts. They have fewer disciplinary issues and receive higher evaluations. Such officers are more likely to handle dangerous incidents better and are less likely to rely on physical or deadly forces.

To ensure that prospective police officers are adequately educated, the bill requires that modern policing degree programs be offered at the community colleges in California by 2025. The degrees will focus on teaching courses relevant to the job of a law enforcement officer. Such courses include psychology, law, ethnic studies, and history.    

Individuals from disadvantaged communities that wish to enroll in these programs will also be provided financial assistance. This initiative will encourage more diversity in the law enforcement agency. Moreover, more representation of people from disadvantaged communities in the police force can further reduce fatality in police officers’ engagement with such communities.

Historically, there has been distrust in police officers by minority communities due to racial disparity. However, having more people from such communities in the police force can increase the trust they have in the system. 

The PEACE Act is among the efforts to reform the law enforcement agencies in California. The use of deadly force and other misconduct by law enforcement officers in the state has resulted in the annual death of about 195 people. Officers will also no longer be allowed to use certain restraint techniques that can result in a fatal incident.