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credit: bouldercolorado.gov

credit: bouldercolorado.gov

During my early career in law enforcement, I had the odd distinction of having two separate police chiefs in two separate law enforcement agencies in two separate states tell me that I was too intelligent to be a policeman. Readers may debate my intellect, as they often do, but I tell this little morality tale not to pat myself on the back of my brain, but to set up the story that follows. Those hapless police chiefs were giving me a more or less backhanded compliment. They weren’t my fans, yet I was so productive they couldn’t fire me without far more mistakes on my part than ten men could make. Yet, they obviously didn’t realize what they were saying about themselves and their own agencies, nor did they apparently appreciate the inherent irony.

My experience has taught me that police chiefs, sheriffs and politicians in general want police officers to be only smart enough and no smarter. Unfortunately, they really can’t say just what “smart enough” is. It’s rather like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who couldn’t come up with a definition of pornography in Jacobellis v. Ohio, but noted “I know it when I see it.”

In 2011, I wrote about race based hiring imposed on police agencies by the Obama Administration. That’s bad enough. Racial quotas are an unmitigated disaster for public safety. But now we have the New London, CT police department that apparently knows what “smart enough” and “too smart” are. And a federal appeals court agrees. From Powerline: 

Kurt Vonnegut’s classic short story “Harrison Bergeron” is clearly fiction, right?  Right?

Check out this story from ABCNews today:

Court Okays Barring High IQs for Cops

A man whose bid to become a police officer was rejected after he scored too high on an intelligence test has lost an appeal in his federal lawsuit against the city.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld a lower court’s decision that the city did not discriminate against Robert Jordan because the same standards were applied to everyone who took the test.

“This kind of puts an official face on discrimination in America against people of a certain class,” Jordan said today from his Waterford home. “I maintain you have no more control over your basic intelligence than your eye color or your gender or anything else.”

Jordan, a 49-year-old college graduate, took the exam in 1996 and scored 33 points, the equivalent of an IQ of 125. But New London police interviewed only candidates who scored 20 to 27, on the theory that those who scored too high could get bored with police work and leave soon after undergoing costly training.

The average score nationally for police officers is 21 to 22, the equivalent of an IQ of 104, or just a little above average.

ABC News adds: 

The average score nationally for police officers is 21 to 22, the equivalent of an IQ of 104, or just a little above average.

Jordan alleged his rejection from the police force was discrimination. He sued the city, saying his civil rights were violated because he was denied equal protection under the law.

But the U.S. District Court found that New London had ‘shown a rational basis for the policy.’ In a ruling dated Aug. 23, the 2nd Circuit agreed. The court said the policy might be unwise but was a rational way to reduce job turnover.

Jordan has worked as a prison guard since he took the test.

A prison guard. Now there’s irony.

Sadly, this is not surprising. I certainly knew my fair share of intelligent cops, but the reality is that in any career, most people will be average or close to it, a few will be exceptional, and some will be awful. Most police agencies require at least a high school education, though some don’t go that far. Some actually require at least two years of college, but those are few and far between.

One can make a pretty good argument that a bachelor’s degree tends to make a cop more well-rounded and capable, but great cops are born, not made. Some people simply have the genetic endowment that produces excellent police officers. They see and understand things that others will never manage.  It has surely been my experience that great cops are born and not made.

Yes, most people can learn most things most of the time. If this were not true, would anyone feel safe driving? But shouldn’t we expect a higher standard of those entrusted with the lives of others? Shouldn’t we want the most intelligent, otherwise fully qualified, people we can find to be police officers?

The Second Circuit is likely right on the law. The issue is what we expect of our politicians and hired managers. Actually, it’s really about what we expect of ourselves.

Police officers are expected to make decisions that would stymie Solomon, make them in fractions of a second, and be 100% accurate and correct. What’s amazing is they usually meet this standard.

So there is the question, gentle readers. What do you think? Should we strive to hire the most intelligent police officers we can find, or are those that score at least 20, which is probably a bit below average, more than good enough? Who do you want investigating the crime when you’re burglarized? Who do you want responding to the 911 call when someone is breaking into your home at zero-dark thirty?  The 20 or the 27?