Fault Lines
18 October 2017

Age And Power: How Young Is Too Young To Be A Cop?

January 18, 2017 (Fault Lines) — Last week, a Contra Costa County, California Sheriff’s Deputy residing in Sacramento was arrested for allegedly shooting up his neighbor’s house after he “politely” crashed a gathering there. He arrived with some beer, was invited in and then:

He started creeping around the house, being all weird, talking to girls in very strange ways, being a little bit aggressive, said his former host and neighbor Joseph Lozoya.

So Kyle Rowland was ejected from the house. Twice. He vowed to return and he did, with a gun. He shot up the place and thankfully no-one was hurt before the people at the gathering wrestled it away from him. Witnesses said he had been drinking and police submitted blood tests to a lab to see if he was on something else.

He was a probationary Deputy and was fired immediately, according to Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Jimmy Lee. Former Deputy Kyle Rowland is only 23 years old.

Age is an often overlooked factor when talking about police issues. In fact, it’s blatantly missing from the mainstream media narrative when misconduct is reported. Age is a critical factor where maturity is concerned, and yet police departments across the country deliberately recruit candidates who are barely out of their teens, if that.

You might think Kyle Rowland isn’t a good candidate for the discussion on age in relation to policing. Especially since the facts have not completely come home to roost on last week’s incident. The reported behavior certainly sounds vaguely like he may have ingested something that did not agree with his mind, or perhaps he never drank to excess and alcohol doesn’t agree with him much.

But Rowland is a good reason to have this discussion because, as it turns out, he’s a fairly accomplished harmonica player and those don’t grow on trees. In fact, he’s really good, had his own band and regularly played festivals with respected world-class bluesmen.

So why would a guy who was a rising star in the music business suddenly trade it in to become a deputy? In California, deputies start out in the jail. So you have a musician trading lights, nights and glory for the cacophony and human misery experienced while being a jail guard. How many festivals can you play when you have a job as a deputy and a nearly two-hour commute from Sacramento to Contra Costa County?

Then he gets arrested. It sounds like something is going on with Rowland. What that is, we can’t know at this point. But if the recruitment age for deputies were higher, he would not have been a deputy while he was going through this challenging time in his life.

Simply put, at 23 years of age, very few people are going to have the maturity and experience required to properly handle the incredible power over others that police officers are given in this country. It is arguable that no one under 30 years of age should be given that amount of power, and then only after extensive training which certainly should amount to more hours than a beautician.

One group you may expect to react negatively to this notion are police officers. But sometimes, cops will surprise even jaded observers as these comments on the subject of recruiting young people for police work posted on a Police website reveal.

From Realpolice.net on the subject: Is 21 too young:

mcsap:

Legally no. Otherwise, ( IMHO) yes. Few 21 yr olds are mature enough to properly hold the position of a LEO.

Oldbillplod:

I was 22 but unlike the US I left school at 16 and had been working fulltime for 6 years

steelcityk9cop:

I was 22 when I started…. I was VERY mature and looking back I was not ready. I remember an FTO asking me at one point if I grew up in a bubble somewhere along the Garden State Parkway.

Menace:

I started at 32…I can’t imagine starting at 21…

Johninaustin:

I’d prefer it to be 25, mainly because the amount of schooling and life experience I’d like to see isn’t possible at 21.

Other sites may be frequented by young officers who naturally feel that being young is not an issue.  But professor of police science in the Department of Law, Police Science, and Criminal Justice Administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, and former police officer Maria (Maki) Haberfeld says:

[We] should be hiring older officers and putting them through a standardized, mandatory curriculum of training for all our law enforcement agencies. This training must cover a minimum number of hours that will approximate, at the very least, a two-year college degree. Don’t we owe it to our communities to give the officers we charge with guarding our lives at least as many hours of training as beauticians and hairdressers?

Unfortunately not enough research has been done on this subject, but what has been done suggests that younger officers don’t have the maturity or experience to make the proper decisions when placed under many of the daily demands of policing, and they are more likely to be involved in shootings.

In most of the recent high profile cases of police on citizen deaths, the officers were under 30. In many cases they already had significant disciplinary issues that had been going on for some time. Collecting real data on police killings is in its infancy and thus far the age of the officers involved has not been seen as a priority. That should change. People in their early twenties and up through to 30 are still going through biological and mental changes. We can’t assume that every young recruit is one of those rare mature for their age unicorns.

Neither the courts nor the Department of Justice have made progress or displayed much more than lip service to the need for holding cops responsible for misconduct and unneeded killings. Raising the age limit, introducing more detailed, focused screening and requiring higher education would be a good pre-emptive strategy for putting better prepared officers on the streets.

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  • Pointy Planes At Andrews High
    27 January 2017 at 8:41 am - Reply

    […] to make a better decision. Kids don’t, and that mental unpreparedness is a big part of why police departments are reluctant to hire teenagers and people in their early twenties. (It can, however, be an asset in the military; a tendency to […]