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  1. #1
    Scooley01 is offline Rookie
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    Thoughts on my situation?

    Recently, I started considering a LE career as I approach the end of my undergraduate schooling. I looked into the process and found a mountain of information, with lots of info pointing to disqualification for past drug use.

    When I first started college, I hung out with some folks that weren't great for me...partying all the time, etc. It actually hurt my grades considerably hanging out with them so much, until I finally made a conscious decision that school was the most important thing to me, and that I needed to re-evaluate my friendships.

    Part of hanging out with these folks was that they smoked marijuana a lot. I was initially uncomfortable with the idea, as I'd never done it before (even in high school), but I did eventually join in with them...probably no more than half a dozen times. Towards the end of the time I spent with this group of friends, I actually purchased marijuana from one of the guys. I ended up feeling really awkward afterwards, and he offered to give me my money back a couple days later with no hard feelings.

    Now, several years down the road, I am considering how this will affect me in the recruiting process for the local PD force, and I'm worried I may be disqualified for drug use, or the fact that I technically sold a drug. Even if some people might not view getting a 'refund' as selling, in my head I know what that is, so I'm sure it'll show on the polygraph.

    It was isolated, about 3 years ago, never before and never since...I just hate that I feel like I might never be able to join the force because of some bad decisions I made as a freshman in college!

    So I'm curious to get general opinions on this...am I going to be disqualified because I used drugs those few times? Or because I 'sold' once?

  2. #2
    Broke Hoss's Avatar
    Broke Hoss is offline Corporal
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    From my experience as a background investigator for my department, I would say your situation wouldn't be an automatic disqualifier from our hiring process. But it is something that we'd be looking closely at during the background investigation. I would work hard at confirming your story of "never before and never since". I would also be looking at how often you were using at the time & insuring that it stopped, completely.

    If I was able to show an improvement in your decision making & productivity afterwards; that would definitely help you overcome this.

    Now, how you look at it may affect your polygraph results, I don't know. But if you are showing deception on a question pertaining to drug use, particularly the sale, it would not bode well for your prospects.

    What I'm saying is; this is not a deal breaker. We realize everyone has made poor choices. What we tend to look at is if they learned from them and how previous experiences will affect their decision making now.
    Blessed are the the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. MATT 5:10

  3. #3
    Scooley01 is offline Rookie
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    That's kind of what I was hoping to hear. The main thing I'm hoping is that my honesty about the situation instead of pretending it didn't happen would count for something. And as for never before and never again, I was a goody goody in school so I didn't even have a sip of alcohol outside my parents' house until I was in college, and I'd imagine drug testing would help corroborate the 'never since' part. It was just one semester of bad decisions...I'm already having to explain that period of time to admissions committees for grad school as it's caused a major deficit in my GPA.

  4. #4
    Rhino's Avatar
    Rhino is offline Meat-eater & Fire-breather
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    In today's economy, you may get a lot of doors closed in your face. But this would happen regardless of your past. You may be tempted to lie- or at least omit the truth- in frustration. But don't. Just keep filling out applications and be honest.

    I don't know where you live, but I highly suggest starting out in a large agency while you're young. There you are more likely to get lots of good training and experience. Then if you want to go to a smaller agency after that, you will certainly have the resume to go virtually any where.
    "If everyone is thinking alike, then someone isn't thinking." -Gen. George S. Patton

  5. #5
    Broke Hoss's Avatar
    Broke Hoss is offline Corporal
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    I'd imagine drug testing would help corroborate the 'never since' part
    Not for us, we'd be talking to those you smoked with & confirming the story with as many people who knew you in college as we could; to include the guy who "refunded" your buy.

    The main thing I'm hoping is that my honesty about the situation instead of pretending it didn't happen would count for something.
    ANYTHING short of complete honesty will get you dropped from the process. Deception, whether overt or by omission, is an automatic disqualifier.
    Blessed are the the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. MATT 5:10

  6. #6
    Scooley01 is offline Rookie
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    You'd need to talk to people I don't have contact with anymore?

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scooley01 View Post
    You'd need to talk to people I don't have contact with anymore?
    Oh yeah. They dig deep.

    Just remember, the process is not a test to see if you have always been an angel. Nobody can pull that off.

    The process is a check of two major things. One is to confirm, like Broke Hoss said, that your decision making has improved and you are no longer doing "dumb stuff" that we all did as kids.

    The second part is that it's an integrity check. We've all been stupid but can you admit it and be honest about it? Often in our job our word in court that something happened is good enough to put people in jail or prison. So what does your word mean? Can we hire you and trust you now? The only way we have to measure that is the background investigation.

    The only thing I see bad about what you are talking about and whether you can get hired is that many departments will have a minimum time requirement from the last use. Some may be three, some five, some seven... So look carefully before you waste your time filling out paper. You can even call the department's recruiter and ask, "Hey I did pot 12 times in college but quit 3 years ago, do you have a minimum amount of time from last use before I can apply?" They'll tell you right up if it's an automatic disqualifier for 5 years or whatever.

    I'll give you another piece of advice. Getting this job is usually about how bad you want it. Most of us have applied at more places than have offered us jobs. Just keep at it.
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  8. #8
    Rhino's Avatar
    Rhino is offline Meat-eater & Fire-breather
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scooley01 View Post
    You'd need to talk to people I don't have contact with anymore?
    YMMV. But be prepared for the worst, hope for the best.
    "If everyone is thinking alike, then someone isn't thinking." -Gen. George S. Patton

  9. #9
    dot4x4 is offline Officer First Class
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    Like has been said already, call the recruiter at any agency you are looking at. I made mistakes in High School that I am still explaining about every time I go for a Supervisor Position, or yearly eval, or we get a new Chief etc... and at a few places I applied at. Don't give up and be HONEST. When I did my background check the gentleman doing it said that I was first person in 12 years that he did not have a "AH HA" moment with. They will talk to everyone. I had to dig up people's phone numbers and track down addresses from people I went to High School with. If you don't have a Wife and Kids to tie you down look at larger departments and be willing to travel. Look at Alaska, California, Florida... Basically every place with a big metro department.

    Be prepared for ALOT of waiting. Count on 6 months to a year from time of application, testing etc... to academy. Don't write off Corrections either. You will either love it or hate it, but MANY have made good long careers out of being "Part time prisoners".

  10. #10
    Scooley01 is offline Rookie
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    Well I was definitely hoping to stay local...There are two departments within minutes of my house. I go to Texas A&M in College Station, so College Station PD and Bryan PD are both 'local.' I have a job now, so it wouldn't be a huge deal if the process took a while.


    What happens if they want to talk to someone I can't track down?

    This is a little outside the topic at hand, but can you offer any suggestions on how I might utilize my degree (Psychology) in this field of work? As in, are there specific positions as an officer I might be able to take that would allow me to use my degree?

  11. #11
    Jks9199 is offline The Reason People Hate Cops & Causer of War
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scooley01 View Post
    That's kind of what I was hoping to hear. The main thing I'm hoping is that my honesty about the situation instead of pretending it didn't happen would count for something. And as for never before and never again, I was a goody goody in school so I didn't even have a sip of alcohol outside my parents' house until I was in college, and I'd imagine drug testing would help corroborate the 'never since' part. It was just one semester of bad decisions...I'm already having to explain that period of time to admissions committees for grad school as it's caused a major deficit in my GPA.
    Quote Originally Posted by Rhino View Post
    In today's economy, you may get a lot of doors closed in your face. But this would happen regardless of your past. You may be tempted to lie- or at least omit the truth- in frustration. But don't. Just keep filling out applications and be honest.

    I don't know where you live, but I highly suggest starting out in a large agency while you're young. There you are more likely to get lots of good training and experience. Then if you want to go to a smaller agency after that, you will certainly have the resume to go virtually any where.
    Honesty carries weight. Especially if you can show that you've moved forward, and are making better choices. We don't want angels for cops; we live and work in the dirt, and you have to be able to handle it.

    For the poly -- DO NOT LIE ABOUT IT! The examiner will review your statements, and compose the test based on them. So, for example, if the question is "have you ever used marijuana?" for most, your question after full disclosure, would likely be "Other than what we've discussed, have you ever used marijuana?" So start out honest with the applicant unit; tell them. If it turns out to be a disqualifier, they'll tell you upfront, and appreciate you saving them the time. Be honest with your background investigator. And be honest with the polygrapher.

    As to the large or small agency... It kind of depends. There are pros and cons. There are threads on that; I'm not rehashing them here. I like smaller agencies -- but advancement tends to be slower, but you get to to know your coworkers and community more. A big agency gets more opportunities to do specialties -- but competition is harder for them, too. And so on...
    Voting against incumbents until we get a Congress that does its job.

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    All opinions expressed are my own and are not official statements of my employer.

  12. #12
    cinman1802000's Avatar
    cinman1802000 is offline Officer First Class
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    I tell a roomful of potential recruits to think about the following:

    Let's say each one of you are in top physical condition, you've each performed well on the written examination & preliminary interview. Each of you come with good references & steady employment history.

    The background investigations begin & reveal that in the past you experimented with drugs, or perhaps you were even considered a pothead. Could have been 2, 4, even 10 years ago. You've been clean & sober for as long as you can remember.

    The applicant next to you has never experimented with drugs, or been known by others as a pothead.

    Who do you think will get the job?l
    "If everything is under control, you're just not going fast enough"---Mario Andretti

  13. #13
    Scooley01 is offline Rookie
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    Well in the event that I'm in a recruiting class full of perfect angels, I'll try not to feel too bad that they win out.

    But in reality, every candidate is going to have some sort of negatives...not in perfect shape, not perfectly clean past, etc. In fact, in some alternate universe I could see my situation being a plus in some department's eyes...I've made a mistake, had the good sense to knock it off, and be completely open/honest about it with my investigator. Couldn't a person who has made mistakes and learned from them potentially be more valuable than someone who has never made mistakes in life?

  14. #14
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    luckyme is offline The bastard you love, the hero you hate
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scooley01 View Post
    So I'm curious to get general opinions on this...am I going to be disqualified because I used drugs those few times? Or because I 'sold' once?
    At my place you wouldn't be. We don't have any "automatic" things to disqualify you or a set period of time. Once you pass a written test, physical test, psych and poly, it's a board interview where this would be addressed. You would need to satisfy the panel of cops that is was a mistake, you're past it, and not a future risk.


    As everybody else has said, we've all done stuff we shouldn't have and be prepared to apply to a LOT of places. If the agency your applying for is the highest paid, best equipment, etc.. you'll have a hard time getting in without experience. Consider doing some ride alongs, be a reserve officer, work in the jail for a year or two to get your foot in the door. Good luck to you.

  15. #15
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    Let me say this being the old hardass I am. First you gave the impression of being surprised about having to list these "potheads" on your application, wondering why a dept.would contact them. Second, I read you went from using to selling?

    On the first, your reaction tells me there is more to your background than you let on.
    On the second, your done. I don't know of a dept. that would hire you in my state.
    "Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character."
    Albert Einstein

  16. #16
    Scooley01 is offline Rookie
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    Of course there's more to my background than I said here...surely a background check for a job like this covers more than would fit in a short forum post.

    Second, I didn't go from anything to anything. I said I used marijuana recreationally with friends, I purchased some marijuana from one of those friends, and got cold feet and decided I didn't want it, so I got my money back. Thus I feel like in my head I "sold" the pot...Not sure how you can infer anything other than what I explicitly stated there.

    And of course I think it's weird that you need to talk to those folks. If I tell you something during my background check, you polygraph me on it and I pass, why would you need to further corroborate it? Do you think those people (Who I no longer speak to or get along with) are going to be very happy that I gave their names and numbers to the police and told the police they use/sell drugs?

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scooley01 View Post
    Of course there's more to my background than I said here...surely a background check for a job like this covers more than would fit in a short forum post.

    Second, I didn't go from anything to anything. I said I used marijuana recreationally with friends, I purchased some marijuana from one of those friends, and got cold feet and decided I didn't want it, so I got my money back. Thus I feel like in my head I "sold" the pot...Not sure how you can infer anything other than what I explicitly stated there.

    And of course I think it's weird that you need to talk to those folks. If I tell you something during my background check, you polygraph me on it and I pass, why would you need to further corroborate it? Do you think those people (Who I no longer speak to or get along with) are going to be very happy that I gave their names and numbers to the police and told the police they use/sell drugs?
    I stand corrected on "selling". You still don't understand the background process. This profession wants those applicants of the highest character, honesty, ethics and morals. I stated before you seem to have more to hide by not wanting investigators to interview your former friends. You made your choices in life and they have consequences. Time to rethink a LEO CAREER. My opinion of course.
    "Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character."
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  18. #18
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    Anyone that has ever done a background on an applicant will tell you that the people you list are not the ones we want to talk to, we look for the people that you don’t list. You would be crazy to list a bunch of people that would say something bad about you in an interview. Our job as an investigator is to find the people in your past that will give us the unvarnished truth about you and your history. If you have been honest and told the whole truth about your past then whatever is said or found out about you will not come as any surprise to the background investigator and it will actually show you are honest. Most places have a time limit on the drug use, for us here its 10 year. If you used in the last 10 years we don’t look any further in to the background also if we catch you in a lie on your application we turn it over to the Training and Standards Division and you will never be sworn in our state. So the best advice is to research the agency you want to apply to and see what their drug use policy is on hiring and always just be honest with them.

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    If your use wasn't comparable to that of an addict, maybe it wouldn't matter much. Although you did it several times, you easily quit, and that's far from being an addict. Maybe they would consider that as something like a "soul-searching" expedition, where you explore the world regardless of doing what's right or wrong.

  20. #20
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    I worked 3 years in the HR background unit and tested applicants on the polygraph. Everyone else has said "complete honesty" and do not hold anything back. Absolutely Agree. Often a question is asked: today, have you lied to me about anything we discussed??. The big three issues people get fouled up with are: drugs, theft, and sex crimes. You may be asked if you were truthful in all parts of your application.

    You may be asked about "holding back information" about yourself. All questions and issues will be reviewed before the poly exam, exactly the same questions. The poly is a job interview so dress accordingly. Do not look for advice on how to hide something and still pass the poly, or fool it, that is deceptive behavior and the examiner may fail the applicant if they have prepared or studied the poly to avoid certain issues.

    The agency Investigator must track down all your references, finances, schools, and employers. REASON: a report will be written on your stability, your character, and your suitability for a position of public trust. That report will b read by the Appointing Authority aka The Chief, where the accept/reject decision is made.

    If you are concerned about something, ask the HR unit for a copy of the "administrative standards". The disqualifying issues should be clearly stated there.

    Good luck
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