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California Raises Minimum Age for Cops to 21 Years

In addition to increasing the minimum age for police officers from 18 to 21, the new law will also work to establish a college education requirement, involving courses in psychology, ethnic studies, law and others.

(TNS) — Police officers will have to be at least 21 years old in California starting next year under a new law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed on Thursday.

In addition to setting a minimum age for officers, Assembly Bill 89 sets up a process under which some type of college education could be required for officers in as soon as four years.

The bill raises the minimum officer age from 18 beginning in January. The change keeps California in line with age requirements in other states, where minimums range from 18 to 21.

The legislation's requirements are more moderate than initially proposed by bill author Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D- Los Angeles, who at first proposed a minimum age of 25 or a bachelor's degree.

When he introduced the bill, Jones-Sawyer cited research showing that brain areas dedicated to impulse control, planning and working memory don't fully develop until about age 25. California incorporated those findings into law when it extended youth offender parole to age 25, he said.

After the bill's signing Thursday, Jones-Sawyer said that while the age requirement falls short of what the science shows, it's "better than 18."

"It's an incremental movement which I think will have tremendous impact on reducing the amount of police violence out there in the community."

When the bill was introduced, Jones-Sawyer also cited a 2010 study that found college-educated police officers in two cities were less likely to use force in encounters with suspects.

The final version of his bill lays out a four-year process under which the California Community Colleges would develop a plan to implement a "modern policing degree program" with input from law enforcement administrators and employees, California State University representatives and community organizations by June 1, 2023.

The law provides for possibilities of a two-year program or a bachelor's degree.

The program must include courses in "psychology, communications, history, ethnic studies, law, and those determined to develop necessary critical thinking skills and emotional intelligence," according to the law.

Jones-Sawyer said the associate's degree option would help officers get started in their careers by age 21, but he wants to create enough incentives and grant opportunities to encourage most officers to obtain bachelor's degrees.

He said he wants to create a flexible education program that can be adapted to changing times and new technology.

The law says experience in law enforcement or the military should partially satisfy the education requirements, along with other post-secondary education.

The commission's report should include provisions for financial aid for historically underserved and disadvantaged communities, according to the law.

The law says the commission shall approve and adopt a final program within two years of submitting its report, in mid-2025.

(c)2021 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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