I was impressed by the hate-filled speech of one of the Ferguson cops (who had something like 35 years on the force). He seemed to have no doubt whatsoever about his opinions, most of which seemed quite irrational to this observer. How could any intelligent person believe what he apparently believes? Sure, intelligent people can be hateful. But this officer's ideas didn't seem to even make superficial sense.
I ran across something that might be a clue to this conundrum: If you're very intelligent, you literally are not allowed to be a cop! At least in certain locales in the U.S.:
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.
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.
"Might be unwise"… I must say that I agree with that comment.
It seems a bit politically incorrect to even mention that this is going on in at least some places. But, it is going on, and ignoring potential problems doesn't make them go away.
Police officers have situations of life and death in their hands every day. And they have to examine the evidence around them to determine what actions to take, and sometimes the correct choice is not obvious. There are many personal characteristics a person can have that will help in such situations. Even-temperedness, compassion, and other components of “emotional intelligence” are important.
But old-fashioned IQ seems like it would be important as well. On IQ tests, you’re presented with some information and are asked to draw correct inferences. A police officer has to do exactly that when confronted with evidence. And, often, in order to be safe or to keep someone else safe, he must be able to draw those correct inferences exceedingly quickly.
And, I must also suspect that IQ is helpful with self-critical abilities -- the abilities necessary to consider whether one's own upbringing-based assumptions, often including assumptions about the inferiority of other ethnic groups, might be problematic in some way.
I'm not sure how tightly police force IQ's cluster around 104, but it may be that almost half of police in New London have an IQ below the population average. I don’t know whether similar rules exist elsewhere, but if an explicit rule exists in New London, one can easily imagine that the same situation exists implicitly in many locations without such rules. That would seem to make the situation of something like 6 bullets pumped into an unarmed kid seem a bit more potentially understandable. (Although, of course, in Ferguson, the officer in question may have had a very high IQ combined with a completely callous attitude. The point of this post isn’t to explain what happened at Ferguson. It's to point out a potential problem in police hiring practices.)
A friend suggested to me that the police force is probably largely self-selecting anyway, so laws like the one discussed above probably don't matter very much. But my response is that if that's true, we should raise taxes a little bit to pay officers more so there are more higher-IQ candidates to choose from.
Because, I don't know about you, but if I were in the position of that kid in Ferguson, I wouldn't want the decision whether or not to kill me to be made by someone of below-average intelligence. I'd want that decision to be made someone who has greater than average skills at making correct, rational inferences.