Military Service Could Replace College Requirements for Police Duty
By Sean Powers
What is needed to be a police officer in Illinois could change under a proposal that lawmakers are considering. The plan would allow communities to decide if they want to waive college degree requirements for military service.
To serve on the Pontiac police force, you don’t need a college degree, but Police Chief Jim Woolford said he would like to see that requirement change without excluding veterans.
“What we’re really seeing is the need for a mature officer," Woolford said. "Someone with some life experience and what better place to get life experience than in the United States military."
A plan in the Illinois legislature removes an associate’s degree requirement if a police applicant serves two years of honorable active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces or six months of combat duty recognized by the Department of Defense.
Military service could take the place of a bachelor’s degree for three years of honorable active duty or six months of combat duty recognized by the Department of Defense.
In both cases, a person applying to be a police officer must not have a dishonorable discharge.
State Rep. Josh Harms (R- Watseka) is sponsoring the measure in the House, and he said there is no reason to assume a veteran without a college degree is not prepared for law enforcement.
“My undergrad was in music,” Harms said. “Somebody who has that military training would at least be as qualified for police service as somebody with just any degree.”
Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) is sponsoring the bill in the Senate, which must take it up again since additional amendments were added.