Can you join the force if you have a record?
March 28, 2007 1:42 PM   Subscribe

Does having a minor arrest record automatically disqualify one from joining the police force?

If, say, I have been arrested and fined once for being drunk and disorderly, is this sufficient for the police to reject me as a candidate, if I wanted to become a cop? I imagine this might vary on a state by state basis; let's say the state is Connecticut. If you don't know about CT, but do know about another place, please tell me what you do know, anyway. If this all seems terribly hypothetical to you, that's because I'm writing a story, not actually thinking of becoming a cop.

posted by fugitivefromchaingang to Work & Money (16 answers total)
From my understanding, it's not unheard of for a cop to have a prior.
posted by thetenthstory at 1:52 PM on March 28, 2007

No felonies. Misdemeanors are fine.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 1:54 PM on March 28, 2007

Also, you could call their personnel dept and ask.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:59 PM on March 28, 2007

It depends on the place you're applying, and whether or not that arrest is merely a symptom of a larger problem (for example, if your background check would turn up a history of drunken shenanigans for which the ticket was the only time you got caught).

That said, the larger the city you're applying the less likely they'll care, and it sounds sort of the type of thing they'd overlook with a writ of "Boys will be Boys."
posted by drezdn at 2:00 PM on March 28, 2007

In New York City (from the book Blue Blood) you'd just have to fill out some paperwork explaining what happened.
posted by drezdn at 2:01 PM on March 28, 2007

Any felony disqualifies you. More than a couple of misdemeanors, will two. A single misdemeanor is unlikely to disqualify you unless it was an offense indicating "moral turpitude" (basically, dishonesty) or the facts show the conduct was serious enough it could have been charged as a felony or that it was gang-related.
posted by MattD at 3:57 PM on March 28, 2007

And, of course, being a fugitive from a chain gang would probably disqualify you. I'm just sayin', is all. In case you know anyone that applies to.
posted by lostburner at 5:42 PM on March 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Generally, no, it won't. But you'd best disclose it on the application or it could come up to bite you later!
posted by drstein at 7:28 PM on March 28, 2007

my brother had a minor offense a few years before starting the police academy. the overachiever is currently our county's (well deserved) deputy of the year.

it may vary by state and branch, but as long as you disclose everything up front, you should be fine. they're going to find out anyway (incidentally, when he was sitting for his boards and applying for the sheriff's department, little brother also had to sit for a polygraph and answer lots of questions about instances of drug use and other delinquent behavior in the distant past, and even one tiny hit on a joint had to be disclosed and could potentially disqualify the applicant - so i think they're looking for a well rounded picture). they look at everything from your credit history to your MVR to your sealed juvenile record.
posted by mewithoutyou at 7:45 PM on March 28, 2007

um, "you" meaning "the character in your book", obviously.
posted by mewithoutyou at 7:47 PM on March 28, 2007

It depends on where you are and what you did. A stripper I knew was training to be a police officer and she got a DUI. If she were male it'd have been the end of her career (her own words). In Wisconsin DUI offenses are amplified. They're not quite felonies but they are a lot more damaging than misdemeanors.
posted by substrate at 7:49 PM on March 28, 2007

In the 70's, they were less fussy about such things, I happen to know. It is often said that the line between a cop and a crook is a fine one. Once a cop told me that he felt some of the best cops were those with some priors in their youth.
posted by Goofyy at 9:50 PM on March 28, 2007

Axel Foley wasn't always a cop. He broke an occassional law or two.
posted by papakwanz at 11:21 PM on March 28, 2007

Domestic violence misdemeanors will usually disqualify you in the U.S. because of the federal law prohibiting such folks from possessing weapons.

(This is also obviously a problem for the military and can be a bar to (re-)enlistment.

For federal law enforcement there are strict rules about past drug use too, regardless of convictions.
posted by Jahaza at 3:20 AM on March 29, 2007

Thanks everybody. I actually have Blue Blood at home but just haven't had chance to read it yet.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 8:34 AM on March 29, 2007

A non-violent felony conviction is not an absolute bar to employment as a police officer in NYS.

I know of one person who had applied for and was granted relief from his conviction allowing him to become a police officer.

See a related answer with resources I provided here.
posted by mlis at 8:28 PM on March 29, 2007

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