Want to be a police officer. Question about past weed use, polygraph and honesty.
March 23, 2011 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Want to be a police officer. Question about past weed use, polygraph and honesty.

I want to be a police officer and I'm about to go through the hiring process. I know I'll be given a polygraph test and some of the question regard drug use. In the past, I have used weed. First time was about twenty years ago. Not much, just a bit and not for long. College. Even sold a joint. Additionally, recently I had another joint. I don't use anything else, and I won't be in the future.

My question is about how strict the police department hiring people are about past use of the stuff. I'm not so concerned with what I did twenty years ago, but they might look at the joint I had last year a little differently. I'm not sure.

What I am sure of is that they would look at me lying about it in the poly test much worse.

I'm thinking that the best approach is to be honest about all of it. I'd really appreciate your thoughts on the matter.
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you using your real name to ask this question?
posted by futz at 9:50 AM on March 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

My husband's sister trained to be a Sheriff in Colorado and was asked if she had used drugs within the past three years. She had smoked a joint at a party three years prior and told the truth. She was rejected from the program because drug use within three years made her ineligible.

So I guess it depends on where you are and what the policy is for where you're applying, but in my experience they do take it very seriously.
posted by Kimberly at 9:51 AM on March 23, 2011

Changes from department to department.

Madison, WI has a PD that's very up-front about wanting you to disclose completely and honestly - if they somehow find something you didn't disclose, there's no chance you'll get hired. If you smoked pot in college, that's not necessarily a bar to employment.

Some departments would never hire someone who's smoked pot.

I would agree with you that honesty is the best policy. Police officers need to be honest - there are few things worse than a corrupt, lying cop.
posted by kavasa at 9:53 AM on March 23, 2011

The general rule, as I understand it (I work closely with law enforcement), is what is called a "5-10 rule", meaning that use of "soft" drugs is acceptable if the use occurred over 5 years before testing, and "hard" drug use is okay if it occurred over 10 years prior to testing. I can also tell you that the local departments here officially operate under that guideline, but they commonly alter it to a "3-5 rule" for otherwise qualified applicants.

Above all else, though, what they want is honesty. Don't try to lie your way around it and hope for the best. Also, make sure your credit score is solid. Applicants with bad credit are the first to be weeded out around here.
posted by broadway bill at 9:58 AM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

An acquaintance who has been seeking police work lately tells me that he has been asked about any usage in the past three years.
posted by maurice at 10:14 AM on March 23, 2011

My brother is a Sheriff's deputy and had to go through the polygraph/drug use question. The most important thing is to be up front and honest about it. If you lie, you'll definitely be rejected. My brother smoked weed (not much and not for long) as a kid and had to tell them that during the poly, and he was completely fine. I do suspect length of time passed and the rules where you live would be the deciding factor.

Also I can second the credit score thing. Little brother had one small thing on his report from years prior and had to get it sorted before they would hire him. Apparently, it's worth all the angst, though. He's a dedicated, decorated cop who loves his job.
posted by mewithoutyou at 10:27 AM on March 23, 2011

Regardless of what you choose to disclose, anyone facing a polygraph should read http://antipolygraph.org/lie-behind-the-lie-detector.pdf
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:41 AM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

You should be upfront about the usage before the polygraph, if they catch you lying, you will be off their hire list. Honesty will help them see that you are sincere in wanting to be a police officer. The recent joint may be a problem, departments want people who follow laws, I was recently up for a job with our department, questions included holding, selling, using.....I know someone who lied about his prior usage, failed the polygraph, got called in about it, he explained his past, he was told he should have been upfront instead of lying and has been with the department over 20 years now.
posted by jennstra at 12:54 PM on March 23, 2011

You also don't say what state. In California, marijuana isn't even a (misdemeanor) crime anymore (unless you're dealing, etc), just a civil infraction (like a parking ticket). So you'd think (although I certainly don't know for sure) that it would be less of an issue than in a state with harsher drug laws.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:15 PM on March 23, 2011

I have a friend on the Oakland PD, and from what he told me having smoked pot is still a big deal for new hires.
posted by ryaninoakland at 6:01 PM on March 24, 2011

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