(3) The Background Check!

There are a few more things that will disqualify you from being a cop (police officer). I want to talk about the Dishonorable discharge from the military again. Now notice I did not say “Other than Honorable”. I said “Dishonorable”. I get that question a lot also. Police departments don’t really care if you failed out of basic training because you hurt your toe or whatever reason. As long as it’s not a dishonorable discharge you will be OK in this area, as long as you have a valid explanation for the discharge.

When in doubt you should of course ask the agency you are trying to apply to if something in particular bothers you or you’re not sure if you are disqualified. It is much better to ask BEFORE you even apply to save yourself the time and money, in addition it will come out in the background if you try to hide something, and that of course is an immediate disqualification.

Also once you’re disqualified from one department, sometimes, not all the time, departments will ask on the application if you applied to any other departments. If you put yes and were disqualified from that process they will want to know why. They may call that agency to find out why. Think about this, department A disqualifies you, and department B hires you. Then you do something wrong and they find out in the lawsuit against the department you were turned down by department A. It may not be good for department B. But it is not always the case. Just because you’re disqualified by one department does not mean you will be disqualified by all. Do not give up if you feel this is your calling.

• You must successfully complete a background investigation!!!

Background investigators will take your application you filled out, and all the paperwork and copies of things you submitted and check to make sure you completed it honestly. They will pull your credit report, check with your past employers, even talk to your neighbors in your neighborhood. They will ask you questions about things you put on your application. Try to catch you in a lie. You would be surprised at the number of people that lie on some part of the application. If you’re going to do that, you are not starting your law enforcement career very well.
Driving Record
Some of the things they check and look at negatively are having a bad driving record - I mean tickets for things like speeding, reckless or careless driving, running a red light, or other tickets that show a disregard for safety. A history with a lot of tickets also is a no go in most cases. I saw a person post a question in an on-line forum and ask if they would qualify after having 8 tickets and being arrested twice for not paying tickets. What do you think! Suspended licenses are usually a no go also. You should have a clear record for a period of time before you bother to apply or make sure it’s a minor ticket like a taillight out or something. A clear record for 3-5 years will get you by this one, or a minor ticket or two will be OK most of the time. Remember the agency has to trust you with a patrol car that you at times will have to drive in emergency mode, kind of hard to justify that in court when you had reckless driving tickets.
Credit Check

The BI will check to see if you have bad credit. This one is different for different agencies, but all seem to be looking at it more. If you have bad credit (really bad, bankruptcies, or a lot of outstanding debt) you are a liability for bribery or other problems like theft. You may at times in this job find yourself handling large sums of cash and being in debt makes you a liability when doing that. The temptation is too much for some in need. So police departments really look at this. I have carried and had in my possession in excess of three quarters of a million dollars. And yes the thought went through my mind, "Where could I live on this for the rest of my life." But the thought lasted as long as it took to think it and that was it.

Drug Use. 

An item in the background investigation that really hurts a lot of applicants is one I get questions about a lot, past drug use. First let me say again each department may be a little different but most are along the same lines. Hard Drugs used even in the last 20 years is a disqualification most of the time, heroin, Speed, LSD, addiction to prescription drugs are a few automatics for most police departments. Most agencies will not touch you if you were dealing drugs at all (that is a felony in case you did not realize it). I actually had a kid ask me if he was disqualified if he had dealt pot back when he was a teenager (7 years ago), he just admitted to a felony, so of course you can guess the answer. If you used drugs in the last 3 years or so most agencies don’t like it. If you’re 5 or more years out, it depends on what it was and how often. Daily usage is a sign of a addictive personality and not a good candidate, weekly is still not good. Using a couple of times in a 5 year period is better.

Past Employment

They look at past employment, having 20 jobs in a 5 year period is not good. You should show some kind of ability to hold a job. Getting fired for failing to show up to work, calling in sick all the time, and having an ex-employer tell us that you were the "worst" employee they ever had does not look to good. Agencies depend on you to show up to work on time and ready to work. So do the other guys/gals on the shift.
Social Networking Sites
Something fairly new and a big concern now is if you have a "Social Networking Site" of your own. That’s what they call the sites where you post your entire lives and everything else about yourself that you should not be posting on-line . If you have a MySpace or FaceBook page, make sure it is something you would want your prospective employer to see. They are hiring people (like me) to look them up and give them copies of everything found there. Also do a web search for yourself and any user names that you use or used in the past and see what you find. They are checking things like that. Remember, never write or put anything on-line that you would not want your current or future boss to see as he/she just might have seen it already!
If you have a specific question that you want to ask about your background, you can ask it here in private: Chris's All Experts Police Careers Page. I will do my best to give you an honest assessment of your issue, but remember you want an honest answer, and you may not like what you hear if its something that really is an issue with most departments.


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