If you want to become a police officer in New Hampshire, you have to undergo 684 hours of training at the N.H. Police Academy. That’s less than it takes to become a licensed barber, and less than half as long as to become a cosmetologist. 

Most people probably don’t think of police as being subject to occupational licensing, but that’s what the training and certification process amount to. And the level of training required to become a police officer is much less than is required for people entering many other occupations, none of which carry a gun and have the authority to use lethal force.

State law requires barbers to have 800 hours of training at barber school or 1,600 under the supervision of a licensed barber. We could be wrong, but we’re pretty sure no one’s ever been gunned down on the street by a hair dryer.

To become a cosmetologist requires “1,500 hours of training in a school of cosmetology” or 3,000 hours over two years under a licensed cosmetologist. 

That is, it takes 220% more hours of training to become a licensed cosmetologist in New Hampshire than it does to become a police officer. 

It takes a bachelor’s degree and 900 internship hours to become a licensed dietician.

It takes a four-year degree and three years of supervised professional experience to become a landscape architect. 

It takes 600 hours to become an esthetician, just 88 percent of a police officer’s required hours.

Either the required training period for police officers is low, or that of many other licensed occupations is far too high. Or both. 

One prospective to keep in mind when thinking about these requirements is that the state has an interest in maintaining a relative low barrier to entry for police officers. It’s hard enough to recruit officers in some communities. Raise the bar too high and artificial shortages will result.

Established and licensed occupations, on the other hand, have a strong incentive to erect high barriers to entry to reduce competition and artificially inflate wages. They regularly petition the Legislature to increase licensing requirements to produce these two effects. 

Additional hours of police training may or may not be needed. But when those hours are compared to training requirements in other occupations, it’s obvious that the discrepancy cannot be explained by the relative danger to the public posed by the particular occupation. The state needs to do more than rethink police training requirements. It needs to rethink the way it approaches all occupational license requirements.

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