Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education


Grace Telesco

Committee Member

Maria Levi_Minzi

Committee Member

Tina Jaeckle


Criminal Justice, Higher Education, Police Leadership, Police Supervision, Qualitative


A first-line police supervisor holds a large influence over street-level police officer behavior (Ingram, et al., 2014), but little consistency exists between police agencies regarding the minimum educational requirements necessary to successfully perform the functions of a first-line police supervisor. This study explored the experiences of criminal justice degree holding first-line police supervisors in using the content of their college curriculum to guide street-level officers in acceptable use of force practices, professional communication with the public, and discretionary decision-making. Employing a grounded theory method of inquiry with a constructivist approach, this study utilized semi-structured, one-on-one interviews to examine the ways in which criminal justice academia is translated into practice to address these outcomes of police/citizen contacts.

The results suggested that first-line police supervisors with criminal justice-focused college degrees find practical value of their degrees toward their ability to form and maintain influential relationships with their subordinates, understand and interpret how the activities of their subordinates affect whole communities, and assist their subordinates when engaging in complex decision-making. This study adds to the literature surrounding potential benefits of higher education in policing, specifically at the first-line supervisor level and describes the benefits of college education as a minimum requirement for supervisory roles. Recommendations for future research are included.