The Boise Police Department has decided to lower its hiring standards to expand the pool of potential candidates while more accurately reflecting the wider community.
It will be easier to become a Boise police officer after the department has eliminated certain educational requirements for applicants.
Previously, the department required that applicants have at least 60 college credits — the amount required for an associate’s degree — to be an eligible candidate.
However, the 2021-founded Training, Education and Development Division (TEDD) felt that this requirement was an unfair barrier to employment.
The division, which aims to provide officers with avenues for education and growth throughout their careers, felt that the initial requirement “limited both the size and ability for the applicant pool to accurately reflect the community.”
They also noted that the Idaho Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) commission (which certifies officers) does not require college credits to become a licensed police officer.
“While we value higher education, we understand that given different life circumstances, it may not be a viable or logical option for many people to attend college prior to pursuing a police career,” Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee said in a press release.
The policy change comes amid a staffing shortage faced by the department. Officials hope that lowering standards will fill vacancies and give opportunities to aspiring officers who are unable to afford an education.
Boise Police currently has 298 sworn officers, although it is authorized to have 328.
Deputy Chief Tammany Brooks said there are over 100 applicants for entry-level officer positions right now — 12 of whom are lateral officers who want to move to Boise.
“Our recruiting efforts have really paid off, and we’ve seen an increase in applications coming into the police department this year when compared to the previous couple years,” Brooks said.
According to the press release, the department is still “seeing fewer candidates.”
Brooks himself said he is evidence that college credits should not prevent entry-level candidates from getting their foot in the door and having a successful career.
Brooks began his career with just a GED degree — or the equivalent of a high school diploma.
“College was never something that I had really considered,” he said.
He eventually obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degree through continuing education and graduated from several police leadership schools. Now, he hopes to give future officers the same opportunities he had.
“I was fortunate enough to get into this profession without having a college degree, but recognize that there was value in developing myself through my career and obtaining a higher education,” he said. “I sit here today as the deputy chief of police.”
Boise police officials say that applicants will still have to meet certain requirements, such as having a high school diploma and at least three years of full-time employment experience or other relevant life experience. Once hired, the department will assist officers in obtaining the 60 credits over the next five years.
TEDD works with the College of Western Idaho (CWI) to allow officers to get college credits for their academy training and to give officers a higher education either at CWI or Boise State University (BSU) upon transferring.
“Policing is an evolving profession, and we recognize the need to hire people who are willing to adapt and learn along the way. During our hiring process, we want to equally value someone who attended college and someone whose eagerness to provide or explore took them in a direction other than college,” Chief Lee added.
Deputy Chief Brooks said that officers are also paid while training at the academy over those 26 weeks. After graduating, cadets continue their training in the field for four to six weeks.
New officers earn about $56,000 a year.
Brooks said that the priority when hiring a police officer is their character and not necessarily their credentials.
“Our priority needs to be placed on the content of someone’s character, and ensuring that the people that we’re hiring have strong moral fiber and high ethical values and that we can train them through the police academy and through ongoing continual training to be a police officer,” he said.