Bethel University received recognition this week for the role its criminal justice programs have played in recent improvements in the Knoxville, Tenn., Police Department. Police Chief David Rausch, head of the KPD, wrote that there has been a significant decrease in officer response to resistance, also known as “use of force,” and remarked on its link to education.
“The importance of education in the law enforcement setting could not be more significant than during these very trying times in our profession,” Rausch stated. “As we have studied the cause of these declines, we have noted one factor that cannot be overlooked -- the impact of education on decision-making.”
Citing a March 2009 article by Jason Rydberg from Michigan State University titled “The Effect of Higher Education on Police Behavior” published in Police Quarterly, Rausch noted the positive correlation between education and the reduction of force during police encounters. “The understanding is that education leads to a higher level of ability to assess a situation and develop alternative responses or use communication skills to solve problems during these incidents,” Rausch stated.
From 2006, when the Knoxville Police Department documented its highest number of “force responses,” to its most recent data for 2015, there has been a 69% decline in the use of force and a 101% increase in the number of officers with a four-year degree.
“Thanks in large part to the availability of online education, KPD has had a significant number of officers who have graduated from Bethel University in the past four years. This has also led to the desire of officers to continue their education,” Rausch noted. “We currently have 26 officers who hold master’s degrees, and 15 officers currently pursuing graduate studies. Again, this can be attributed to the availability of online education. The impact of education as discovered by Rydberg has been realized at the Knoxville Police Department, and the availability of degree programs like those offered at Bethel University is directly responsible for our success.”
Rausch indicated that police administrators around the country are seeking ways to “reverse the narrative and the challenges police departments are experiencing” in the current environment. “One of those solutions is the value of higher education. Bethel University has excellent programs to help officers reach their goal of a bachelor’s or master’s degree, which will ultimately help them become more professional in their service to their communities.”
Kelly Sanders-Kelley, Vice President of Bethel’s College of Professional Studies, was pleased with Chief Rausch’s endorsement of Bethel University, and even more pleased with the outcomes experienced by the Knoxville Police Department.
“During these times of civil unrest, officers are putting their lives on the line as soon as they put on a uniform,” she said. “For Bethel University to be part of the solution is exceptionally gratifying, and we are thankful for the sacrifices made by criminal justice professionals in Knoxville and around the country.”
For more information about Bethel’s College of Professional Studies programs, visit bethelsuccess.net or call 877-4BETHEL.