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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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    MrsMartin81

    3 months ago

    2 Comments

    I am currently 32 years old and striving to become a Police Officer . Wish me luck. Will update
    North Carolina

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    bmasters83

    6 months ago

    2 Comments

    I'm trying to hired on with the Portland Police Bureau in a non-sworn position, and the BI has asked me to come in for a final background check? Is this good? Bad? Does this typically indicate a pass on the investigation and a move toward HR?

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    MaybeSCMPD

    6 months ago

    2 Comments

    I applied to Savannah Chatham police department. I was told I would be processed for the July 7 academy. I called my recruiter and was told to call human resources. I called HR last week. Does anyone know what happens after HR gets an employment fiel?

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    Chazellan

    7 months ago

    4 Comments

    Just for info... I am 41 now.

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    Chazellan

    7 months ago

    4 Comments

    I have been a police and fire dispatcher for 10 years. I also went through the police academy. I have passed 2 backgrounds, 2 polys, 2 psychs, 2 drug tests etc. I applied for a new job with a smaller agency. They do not do their own backgrounds. They have a smaller staff the the larger one I work for now. I was completely honest as with my other ones. I passed my oral panel, was live scanned, went through my personal history statement with the lieutenant, and was taken to city hall by the lieutenant to sign release forms. I was really excited. I want this more than anything. Other than the embarrassing "I tried marijuana and coke when I was 17 and I got in trouble for a friend putting stuff in my purse at Kmart and I put it back on the shelves at 12 yo lol, and the problem with a new employee harassing me and me documenting it all last year" , I told them everything. I haven't heard a word. The background investigator hasn't contacted any of my references yet. Is this normal? Should I call the lieutenant and ask or just wait it out? Thank you.

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    Precious00308

    9 months 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

    11 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

    over 1 year 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

    over 1 year 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

    almost 2 years 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

    almost 2 years 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

    almost 2 years 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 2 years 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

    over 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

    over 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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