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Geometry for Police Officers

Date: 02/24/97 at 13:52:51
From: Heather Forhand
Subject: Geometry

How is geometry going to help me in my career as a police officer?  As 
far as I can see, the only math that I might need would be algebra 1 
and I've already had that. Why do colleges suggest that you have pre-
calculus? Why so much math?


Date: 02/24/97 at 20:36:18
From: Doctor Lisa
Subject: Re: Geometry

Hi Heather!

I teach math, and I'll try and answer your question as best I can. 
Geometry may help you as a police officer if you are trying to figure 
out where a car was coming from when it hit another car (the angles).  
It could help you determine where someone was standing when they shot 
or stabbed someone (once again, the angles).  It could also be useful 
in some detective work.  Some of the higher math may come in handy for 
forensic stuff - like figuring out how fast a car was going when it 
slammed on the brakes (which you can figure out from the length of the 
skid marks).  I'm sure there are other applications of math in police 
work - those are just a few I could think of off the top of my head.

I think colleges suggest you have pre-calculus so that you have the 
greatest number of educational opportunities available to you.  Let's 
say you change your mind and you want to major in business.  You need 
a decent amount of math for a business major (usually a year's worth - 
and there's some calculus in business math).  Or maybe you decide you 
want to major in pre-med.  You need a couple of semesters of calculus 
for that.  So they're trying to make sure you're prepared and don't 
have to take a lot of extra classes (which, of course, you would have 
to pay for :) ) to do what you want to do.

A good part of why we take a lot of math to go to college is to 
develop thinking and problem-solving skills.  As a police 
officer, you'll have all sorts of problems to solve.  Are they all 
going to involve math? No. But the skills you develop in math will 
help you solve the problem. For any problem, you'll be able to follow 
the steps of getting all the information, drawing a diagram if 
necessary, figuring out what you are trying to get, doing it, and 
evaluating your answer.

One of my former students who had a lot of trouble with math is 
majoring in criminal justice in college.  He had to take two classes 
of math (through college algebra, I think, which is an algebra 2 level 
course).  He hasn't said what math he'll have at the Police Academy 
(which he is attending soon), but I'm fairly sure that he'll have some 
specialized math while he's there.

I hope I answered your question.  Good luck in your senior year and in 
pursuing your career!

-Doctor Lisa,  The Math Forum
 Check out our web site!   
Associated Topics:
High School About Math
High School Euclidean/Plane Geometry
High School Geometry

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