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Surviving the Police Background Investigation

Surviving the Police Background Investigation

Sergeant Betsy Brantner Smith

Once you’ve passed the written test, the oral interview, the physical agility test, and you’ve successfully jumped through a few other hoops, you’re probably ready for the background investigation. How ironic that part of the process to become a crime fighter is to be investigated by one! In this competitive job market, the background investigation is becoming even more important to law enforcement agencies who want to hire the finest, most qualified candidates they can find.

The Beginning

The background investigation actually begins with your application, which you may have filled out months or even more than a year ago. Make sure your original application was properly and thoroughly completed. If you have changed residences, jobs, or any of your listed references have changed, notify the agency immediately. Part of the ongoing background investigation will be to judge your thoroughness and your ability to follow up without being prompted.

Prepare to be Violated

The preliminary investigation will cover your education, residential history, employment, driving record, credit standing, and any arrests or encounters with the police you may have had. Prepare to feel a bit violated. For example, a good background investigator will not only review your high school and college transcripts, but they are going to talk to your teachers and professors to ask about your attitude, your work ethic, and your demeanor in class.

He or she will not only find out your current credit score, but they will delve into you credit history to see how responsible when it comes to handling your finances. They will not only look at the various places that you’ve lived, but they will talk with landlords, roommates, and even your parents to see if you were a responsible resident. Remember, the goal of the background investigation is to determine if you have the moral, ethical and legal character required by someone who carries a gun and a badge.

Meeting the Family

The background investigator will then move on to even more personal issues, and will likely interview your family, your neighbors, your references and your friends. At my agency, our background investigators travel to each candidate’s home town, regardless of there they grew up, and talk to friends, neighbors, teachers, and of course the local cops. The investigator will obviously interview your references, but they are also interested in the people you didn’t list on your application. After all, we need to get an accurate picture of you and we can’t really do that by talking only to the people whose information you provided to us.

The investigators may choose random neighbors, the guy you sat next to in band, or even your first employer down at the Dairy Hut to chat with. Its okay to let people know that someone from a law enforcement agency may be contacting them, but do not ask them to lie about your background! The investigators are going to find out the truth regardless, and discovering that you have friends who are willing to lie for you will not speak well to your own moral character.

The Last Steps

You will also be fingerprinted, possibly drug tested, and you may be asked to take a polygraph examination. If you’re unsure about the background process, contact the agency’s recruiter, or in a small agency, contact a member of the command staff, human resources, or other appropriate person. Don’t worry in silence or rely on the possibly erroneous information provided by friends. Go straight to the agency, and if there is something bothering you about your own background, be forthcoming. If you had a DUI at sixteen, tell them. If you were arrested for shoplifting when you were 19, confess before they find out.

If possible, try to develop a relationship with your investigator, let them know that you are an “open book” and you are willing to help them find the sources they are seeking. Smaller departments will conduct their own investigations; larger agencies may hire an outside contractor to complete the investigation. Make sure that during the entire process you are available, transparent, and cooperative. Good luck!


Criminal Justice Career Paths


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    Precious00308

    about 1 month ago

    2 Comments

    I have a friend that is trying be chp officer..he failed to tell them he lived with a aunt..will they call the aunts old landlords.. Is that a fail?

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    Assert

    3 months ago

    2 Comments

    I am applying for a peace officer job and the background check information needs my college transcripts ,But I still owe the school money and they will not release them. Do i fail the background automatically?

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    zacharywolcott

    10 months ago

    2 Comments

    i've been in the juvenile system for about 3 to 4 years in group homes and in juvenile hall and i recently realized that, because of the correctional system i am the way i am. I would like to become an officer of the law and was wonderering if all this would effect my ability to do so

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    TeacherJeff

    11 months ago

    6 Comments

    The past seven years I have worked as an English teacher in Thailand. How would a police department do a background check on me. Some of the schools that I worked for have no one on staff that can speak english. Additionally there are a couple of schools/agencies that i left on bad terms with due to their criminal behavior towards me. Thailand is not a land of laws as we in America classify it. Many employers in Thailand would be sitting in prison in America if they were under American laws (ie not paying salary). How should I prapare a background check under the stated circumstances?

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    kendrickllama

    about 1 year ago

    2 Comments

    im currently 16 but when i was a freshmen last year i got caught smoking weed at school...but only got suspended and didnt get arrested...
    after that happen i did a reality check and decided what i wanted to pick as a career. but recently a officer had told me they do background in transcripts.... should i be nervous about this?

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    sknick21

    about 1 year ago

    2 Comments

    I just started college for criminal justice and this article really gave me some good insight for the background investigation

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    abra10

    over 1 year ago

    96 Comments

    I had to pass a CBI for the position I had when I began the application process for the academy. During my first, fingerprinting and the background check occurred before I was considered for employment. I will not be fingerprinted for the academy until the first week of class. While I am not worried about this, I am confused as to why they would wait especially as the psych eval, housing deposit, cost of books, etc. are all payments that need to be made before classes begin or are due the day classes begin. A candidate who may not pass the background investigation will be asked to leave the academy and, by that point, they will have quite a bit of money invested into the program. Is this standard?

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    nottoooldtokickbutt

    over 1 year ago

    6 Comments

    My employment history was very unstable from the time I graduated high school at 18 years of age until around 32 years of age. I've had so many jobs during that time I can't remember them all, some I can't recall the time frame that I worked the job, and then there are three terminations all in my twenties, and two resignations with improper notice. Again, all of that occurred in my twenties to early 30's. I've since held a job during the first five years of the last decade for four years, but my wife did not like the city we lived in so we relocated, and took a job for a year in the new town it wasn't a good fit so I resigned and took a job and kept it for five years and was recently terminated due to restructuring. How do I handle that during the oral boards because I know its going to come up? Any advice is appreciated. BTW I'm 43 now for those who didn't feel like doing the math.

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    djspoon

    almost 2 years ago

    2 Comments

    Integrity folks, as long as you are honest about you're past and know you can continue with that honesty then you will not only pass any tests but you will stand out.

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    Lmcpeak

    almost 2 years ago

    6 Comments

    Oh and my credit stinks thanks to me trusting someone when I was young and buying them a car that they were supposed to pay on, it got repossessed. Plus they were supposed to help pay on the loan that financed the car and they left me high and dry. So my credit stinks and that was in 07'. I hope there is more to it then all that because to me that's the surface. I was a awkward weird kid, and as a young adult I was finding myself. Well I guess I'm still young adult 24, but I have grown so much and I always wanted this career now I finally feel ready..... I pray I can achieve this one day

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    Lmcpeak

    almost 2 years ago

    6 Comments

    So what if my childhood stank, I got moved around so much I did poorly in school (assuming I would indeed move again) but every job I have says I am a hard worker, and my neighbors speak highly Or at least good of me?

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    Anonymous

    almost 2 years ago

    Well, I'm 16 and I'm thinking about going into law enforcement once I'm out of school. I'm not going to lie, this article kind of makes me nervous though I should be okay. I've never broken the law in any way, nor do I have anything to hide, but I wish I knew more specifics about the background investigation. I'm not the greatest academic (I'm not terrible either...) and I really hope that won't affect anything. The part about them investigating my family concerns me a little. If your family or friends has been in the trouble with the police multiple times but you yourself have not, could you still be held accountable? It would be unfair if so.

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    uncledennis1

    over 2 years ago

    23110 Comments

    I am concerned about applicants now days.

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    uncledennis1

    over 2 years ago

    23110 Comments

    Beasy. It show a lack of good judgement on your part. You should have ran not walked after the first incident. Start using the big head.

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    nasincali

    over 2 years ago

    2 Comments

    Will things you have done when you where a kid under 20 years old . (Such as experiment with drugs ) Be auto DQ.
    Im over 40 now and have been a good person for over 20 years .NO drugs, alcohol , no tickets,good credit ect... Always wanted to be a PO. Took the test and passed and now the BI. I answered all questions honestly . I think my honesty is going to DQ me. I just couldn't lie . Not the way I wanted to start my new career !

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