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Is it a problem if a cop is TOO smart?

January 2, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
I guess New London, Conn. doesn't want its police officers to be too smart.

Last week a New York appeals court ruled against Robert Jordan, a man who claimed discrimination because he'd been turned down for a job in the New London PD. Jordan scored too high on the department's entrance exam back in 1996 and the higher ups said he'd be too bored by routine police work The appeals court said he wasn't discriminated against because the same standards applied to everyone who took the test.

Jordan, a college graduate who took the test in 1996, had a score that would give him an IQ of about 125. According to ABC News, the average police officer nationwide has an IQ that is about 104. An average IQ is somewhere around 100, depending on the test that is being used. Jordan's 125 IQ would put him in bright normal range, but it doesn't exactly make him Sherlock Holmes.

It's probably debatable how well such tests can measure how well a person will actually do on a job, since book smarts don't necessarily add up to street smarts or physical fitness or honesty or emotional intelligence, all traits I'd like to see in a police officer. That doesn't mean that the ability to observe closely, quickly analyze information and make insightful decisions – all associated with a higher IQ – should be undervalued. Shouldn't we want police detectives, the men and women who investigate crimes, to be smarter than average?

I'm also sure that stake-outs and patrols can get pretty monotonous, but I doubt that a cop with a 104 IQ enjoys those things any more than the cop with a 125 IQ would. Boring things are part of every job. Jordan probably knew what he was getting into when he applied for the job but they didn't give him a chance to become a beat cop or to rise through the ranks.

It's been about 16 years since he filed his lawsuit. Jordan, now 49, works as a prison guard and says he doesn't plan to appeal any further.

This decision will have the greatest impact on future police officers, including bright men and women who might be turned away by similar policies, and on the people who rely on those police departments to investigate crimes and put away bad guys. Intelligence really shouldn't rule any of them out.


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