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From "The Cop Crunch: Identifying Strategies for Dealing with the
Recruiting and Hiring Crisis in Law Enforcement." Funded by the
National Institute of Justice. December 30, 2005
page 21 - Selection criteria:
"An emerging controversial issue, especially as "Generation X?ers are
added to the mix, is tolerance for minor infractions, such as
experimental use of illegal drugs. A growing tendency to tolerate some
history of drug use or other minor criminal activity has been noted
(Baxley, n.d.). The Baltimore County Police Department recently found
that 50% of applicants had experimented with drugs; the agency
continued its policy of automatic rejection for those who had used
hallucinogens or sold drugs. In Fairfax County, Virginia, compromise
was also reached; use of marijuana fewer than 20 times was allowed,
while use of any drugs within 12 months of the application led to
rejection. The Metro-Dade police department in Miami allowed one-time
use and some juvenile experimentation, but did not allow any use of
heroin, LSD, mescaline, opium, cocaine, or barbiturates. At the
federal level, the FBI bars drug use except experimental use of
marijuana, though those who have been rehabilitated may be considered
under certain conditions. Publication of specific drug use limitations
raises the possibility that applicants will learn what to admit and
deny during their application process (Roberg, Crank, & Kuykendall,
"Region's most wanted: police officers: Recruitment tactics include
incentives, fairs, even poaching," by Jaxon Van Derbeken and
Christopher Heredia, San Francisco Chronicle. October 1, 2006
"The hiring efforts pit department against department as they compete
for an applicant pool limited by demographic changes and by rules
about fitness, drug use and criminal history. Some departments are
relaxing those rules, trying to improve their odds of filling
openings. Statewide, just 2 out of every 100 people who apply to be
police officers eventually get jobs, experts say."
"Also, Oakland will no longer automatically rule out applicants with
past drug use convictions or gang affiliations.
"We all have something in our background we're not proud of," said
Sgt. Jon Madarang, supervisor of the police recruiting background
unit. "What we're more concerned about is what they've done since
then. If they bring a background that helps them relate to people in
that lifestyle, that would be a good thing."
"LAPD May Relax Its Hiring Rules; Chief Bratton proposes ending zero
tolerance of past drug use and bad credit. Some fear that lower
standards would bring problem officers." Wendy Lee, Times Staff
Writer, Los Angeles Times, August 29, 2005.
"Bratton said some of the LAPD's standards regarding drug use and a
candidate's financial history may be "artificially high." He is
considering reducing the department's zero-tolerance drug requirement
so it is in line with federal law enforcement standards. The FBI
requires its candidates to have no more than 15 uses of marijuana and
not within the three years before the application date. The FBI also
requires that other drugs, including steroids, not be used more than
five times and not within 10 years of the application date."
"The reality is, kids today ... may in fact have sampled drugs some
time in their life," Bratton said this month. "Does that mean we
should automatically disqualify them? I don't believe so."
"The move comes as the department is pushing to meet its goal of a
10,000-officer force by next summer. To enter the LAPD, candidates
must undergo a series of tests and evaluations, including a background
check, a psychological evaluation, a physical abilities test and a
polygraph. Only one in 12 candidates makes it through the process,
said Scott DeYoung, the department's chief personnel analyst."
"A little past coke use OK, says LAPD hiring policy. Police
recruitment rules draw the line at meth, heroin," BY KERRY CAVANAUGH,
Daily News.com 11/01/2006
"To help alleviate concerns that the Los Angeles Police Department has
loosened its drug policy for hiring recruits, the Personnel Department
and the LAPD said they've committed to rejecting applicants who have
tried methamphetamine, heroin and hard drugs other than cocaine.
Personnel and police officials noted Wednesday that they haven't
actually hired anybody who has experimented with those drugs, but they
wanted to make it clear they won't consider recruits who have tried
hard drugs other than cocaine.
And they said they will reject candidates who tried any hard drug as a
"The decision comes after several council members questioned the
LAPD's hiring standards, which were revised in 2003. The new standards
allowed the department to hire officers who had tried hard drugs once
or twice as teens if they were otherwise strong, responsible
From "Police Officer Recruitment: A Public-Sector Crisis," By William
J. Woska, J.D., Professor, Golden Gate University, Carmel, California.
The Police Chief.
"Historically, people who applied for sworn law enforcement positions
could not have misdemeanor or felony convictions, a record of prior
drug use, or a criminal conviction. Now, chiefs have to consider the
circumstances and the con-text. An individual convicted for using
marijuana several years earlier, with an otherwise clean police
record, may be considered an attractive applicant by many police
agencies, when he or she succeeds in other parts of the selection
process. Hubert Williams, president of the Police Foundation, a law
enforcement advocacy group, states that ". . . a few years ago, an
arrest record was a deal breaker. Now departments are asking whether
someone is salvageable."
"Police departments nationwide have had to adjust their hiring
policies because of widespread drug use in society as a whole. Even
the FBI has had to adjust its standards. Until 1994, the FBI had a
zero-tolerance policy disqualifying anyone who had used marijuana or
other drugs, even in one-time experiments. The FBI's revised policy
still disqualifies people
* who have sold illegal drugs,
* who have used drugs in the past three years,
* who have used marijuana more than 15 times, or
* who have used harder drugs, including cocaine, more than a total of five
times or any time within the past 10 years.
"Because of recruitment difficulties, the FBI is considering changing
its pol-icy further, judging applicants based on their "whole person"
rather than limiting drug-related experiences to an arbitrary number.
It would consider the circum-stances of an applicant's previous drug
use, such as the person's age, and the likelihood of further use. The
relaxed standard is already in use at most other U.S. intelligence
"The Austin, Texas, Police Department has established a prior-use drug
policy that revolves around the experimental versus the habitual user.
Rather than disqualifying an individual for prior drug use, the police
department tries to distinguish between the individual who has used
marijuana or other drugs on several occasions as opposed to a person
who has regularly used drugs over an extended period of time."
"FBI might relax drug rules in hiring." by Associated Press. October 10, 2005
"The FBI, famous for its straight-laced crime-fighting image, is
considering whether to relax its hiring rules over how often
applicants could have used marijuana or other illegal drugs earlier in
Some senior FBI managers have been deeply frustrated that they could
not hire applicants who acknowledged occasional marijuana use in
college, but in some cases already perform top-secret work at other
government agencies, such as the CIA or State Department.
FBI Director Robert Mueller will make the final decision. "We can't
say when or if this is going to happen, but we are exploring the
possibility," spokesman Stephen Kodak said.
The change would ease limits about how often - and how many years ago
- applicants for jobs such as intelligence analysts, linguists,
computer specialists, accountants and others had used illegal drugs.
The rules, however, would not be relaxed for FBI special agents, the
fabled "G-men" who conduct most criminal and terrorism investigations.
Also, the new plan would continue to ban current drug use."
"Trying harder to fill depleted ranks." Law Enforcement News. Dec. 2002
"In Waco, under a new standard applied in August, applicants may not
have smoked marijuana in the previous two years. The old policy called
for the rejection of applicants who had smoked marijuana more than 50
times. Anyone who has tried drugs such as heroin, cocaine, or
methamphetamine - even once - continues to be automatically
"I don?t know if it actually would make a difference in the numbers or
not, but you?re kind of getting into the age of applicants that the
majority seem to have used marijuana," said Sgt. Sherri Swinson. "What
we?re doing is looking at the overall person."
"The Virginia State Police in February implemented new guidelines that
allow those who have tried heroin, cocaine or any other Schedule I or
Schedule II drug more than five years before applying to still be
considered. Use of those drugs more than once, however, means
automatic disqualification, as does any use of LSD or PCP. Applicants
who have smoked pot more than once can also be considered, but not if
they have used the drug within the previous 12 months. And a DUI
conviction, as long as it occurred more than five years before
applying, is no longer a deal breaker."
From "Becoming a Police Officer in Nashville."
Previous Drug Use Criteria
* Marijuana use will be viewed in the context of the applicant?s age at the
time of use, the recency of use, and the frequency of use. No marijuana
use will be allowed within 2 years of the date of the application.
* No other illegal drug use within 7 years of application. Combined use of
other drugs besides marijuana must not exceed 5 times.
From "PAST DRUG USE, FUTURE COPS, " by JESSE KATZ, TIMES STAFF WRITER
"Nobody expects police departments to hire saints. The job is tough,
and recruits with street smarts often edge out those with unblemished
resumes. Even so, the confessions of Ellis "Max" Johnson II, one of
Denver's newest officers, were startling in their candor. Under
questioning from background investigators, Johnson admitted he had
used drugs on approximately 150 occasions--not just marijuana, but
also crack, LSD, speed, PCP, mescaline, Darvon, Valium."
"And God knows what else," groaned Denver Councilman Ed Thomas.
Although personnel files are among the most closely guarded of police
secrets, a copy of Johnson's was leaked to the media after he entered
the academy last fall, sparking a fierce debate over the city's hiring
practices. Many here called him an embarrassment to the badge, even a
threat to public safety. But Denver's Civil Service Commission, which
sets the criteria for police hiring, insisted that the 40-year-old
former karate instructor had been clean since 1987 and deserved a
"The commission then revealed an even bigger secret about police
recruitment, one that is true for many metropolitan departments
rushing to expand: Among new hires, prior drug use is the rule, not
the exception. The pharmacopeia Johnson sampled may have been extreme,
but with their frankness coaxed by a polygraph, 84% of Denver's police
applicants--and at least 65% of its recent hires--have acknowledged
some past experimentation, according to civil service records.
"Let's wake up," said Paul Torres, the commission's former executive
director. "The days of Mayberry are long gone."
Read entire article....
From "Think Locally, Act Nationally."
"Some departments could develop their own strategies to recruit new
officers. These departments could, for example, analyze the skills
needed among future officers, forecast the number of personnel needed
for future challenges, and survey young people to gauge their interest
in police work. Surveys on youth demographics and attitudes could also
indicate whether the departments need to make changes to attract the
best candidates. Further strategic planning might also help resolve
debates within many departments over whether to modify entry
requirements, such as accepting candidates who are less physically
* who have histories of prior drug use,
or who have financial debts - or, conversely, requiring successful
candidates to have accumulated a greater minimum number of college
From 'Mile High Cops - Denver - 52 of 80 new police recruits admit to
prior drug use -
Reason, Nov, 2000 by Katherine Mangu-Ward
"The first obstacle to securing a position in the CIA is its strict
policy against hiring anyone who has used illegal drugs. Apparently,
local police do not face nearly so stringent a requirement. Jesse Katz
of the Los Angeles Times recently obtained redacted versions of the
applications filled out by Denver's 80 new police recruits last year.
Fifty-two of them--that's 65 percent--confessed to prior drug use. In
surveys of the general population, by contrast, only about half of
18-to-34-year-olds admit to having used an illegal drug."
relaxing policy for police or FBI and prior drug use
prior drug use police or FBI recruits
prior drug use does not disqualify police or FBI recruits
whole person relevant in police recruiting
FBI and past drug use
police hiring and drug policy