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Police and Law Enforcement Home  >  Entry Level Law Enforcement  >  Background Investigation: Will Blemishes Hurt Me?


Background Investigation:
ll Blemishes Hurt me?
Police and Law Enforcement News
Monday, January 30, 2012  2:38 a.m.

We frequently receive emails from aspiring law officers who are worried about the background investigation phase of the law enforcement hiring process.  Often, they have several blemishes in their history and are concerned as to how much of a problem they will pose when going through the hiring review.

We put together this article to help give applicants a good idea as to where they stand.

Having completed or assisted with dozens of background investigations, I can tell you that all is not lost because of a few poor choices.  Realistically, it is difficult to find applicants who have never had any problems in their younger years.

Agencies vary greatly as to tolerance for blemished histories but more and more are understanding that growing up will involve some poor decisions.  Even the most scrutinizing of agencies have built in allowances for blemished backgrounds. 

For example, the New Jersey State Police and the FBI - both known for brutal background investigations - have loosened their disqualification criteria when it comes to drug use.  Instead of automatic disqualification, both may allow candidates to continue through the process as long as the following apply:

1. No use of marijuana use within the last three years;

2. No use of other illegal drugs including steroids within the last ten years.

Previously, any history of drug use would instantly eliminate a candidate from consideration.

In determining whether a specific issue is fatal to an applicant's candidacy there are three primary considerations:

          -What was the issue?

          -How long ago was the issue?

          -What has he or she done since the issue?

What was the issue?

There are certain issues or incidents which will lead to automatic disqualification.  Obviously, if you had spent your early 20's robbing banks to support your crack habit, you're not going to work in law enforcement.  On the other hand, having tried marijuana, a DWI conviction, motor vehicle points or accidents are not necessarily going to knock you out of contention.

It is becoming more common for agencies to assemble and publicize lists of automatic disqualifiers.  Below are the disqualification criteria used by the New Jersey State Police:

Continued on Page 2



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