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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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    Anonymous

    over 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.

  • White_shirt_max50

    uncledennis1

    over 2 years ago

    23312 Comments

    I am concerned about applicants now days.

  • White_shirt_max50

    uncledennis1

    over 2 years ago

    23312 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.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    nasincali

    almost 3 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 !

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    keronspoony

    about 3 years ago

    24 Comments

    @csaenz, when you are arrested, your fingerprints get taken by the department and are kept on file. So the department at which your applying takes your fingerprints to see if you were ever arrested. Also, if a candidate ever committed a crime and were not caught but their fingerprints were left at the scene and the police department has that evidence on file and somehow they get a match with your prints which linked you to that crime, you will be disqualified and more than likely arrested. That's why they need it.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    csaenz

    over 3 years ago

    2 Comments

    What do they need or look for with your finger prints???

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    mrose75

    over 3 years ago

    56 Comments

    @ bazooka212020 - Please take this as constructive! I mean no disrespect here, but based on your post, I think you should be more concerned about improving your grammar/writing skills than your mistake from 7 years ago. Passing the written test with a competitive score and filling out a thorough application will require much greater writing skills than is shown here. Work on that, then be honest about your mistakes. Most agencies are not looking for perfect people. If you're open and honest about what you've done and you can articulate what you've learned from your mistakes, you may have a shot (depending on what it is, of course - some things are going to be a absolute NO). Best of luck to you, Sir!

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    bazooka212010

    over 3 years ago

    2 Comments

    "Well, at the age of 32, I am really motivated by become a member of criminal justice carrer.But early on my live I screw up I was arrested I will not disclouse the reason,because I don't feel proud of it."That's the reason that i want to know if for this mistake that i commited 7,years early I wouldn't be a candidate for this field that I love so much.Hopefully it won't be.looking foward I am inrolled in the Strayer University, in Orlando, fl for a bachelor in criminal justice homeland security, and I want to see if someone can give a suggest if this matter of case that been arrested 7 years earlier would afect me for this carrer.Thanks and God bless you.

  • Karen3-mail_max50

    kstrain

    about 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    I have no appropriate words to describe my desire to be an officer; specifically in corrections. A goal I've held for a long time. My issue is all financial and I cannot figure out how to get out of it. I probably have years worth of bills ahead of me, but I'm getting older by the minute. Is there truly any way to impress upon a department that I understand that I alone own the mess and will work on it, but in the interim I truly, honestly desire to hold a position in the best profession. I have spent my working years in the medical field, and of late am so unhappy because all I think about and desire to do is join a department. Is there hope? My window of opportunity may close far sooner than it should.

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    Anonymous

    about 5 years ago

    being 36 ans trying to get into the field does not make me nervous but the credit check thing does and the grade thing. i was not a "great Student by any means but that was over 14 years ago. My credit is actually good but with today's economy I needed to make some changes there also. I hope that does not hurt my chances when In exit the academy.

  • 1393794_10151798561878138_392793313_n_max50

    Blueblood1974

    about 5 years ago

    5202 Comments

    Good information.

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    Capt_EvanScott

    about 5 years ago

    146 Comments

    If you don't meet the criteria and are still obsessed with being a LEO, open you're own security firm & hire some retired or moonlighting officers. You'll still have to pass the state exam and their investigative process which is not as stringent or invasive. Learn how to sell you're experience on protecting lives & property, plus you can possibly employ & help an officer out of work. There are also franchises you can buy. Contact me if interested in a possible business oppty. I am in the Broward County Area of South Florida at Evansentangel@yahoo.com

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    frenchie1010

    about 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    If I already have, and have maintained, a top secret security clearance with the US Navy, will i still need an investigation done?

  • Junior_officer_max50

    Jesse77

    about 5 years ago

    4 Comments

    Just finished my oral interview and i am not sure if a particular questioned asked may hurt the outcome.

    Question: During my oral interview for Irvine PD in CA i was given a scenario where a 16 year old individual had located the gun of a police officer and as I (a police officer) walked in what would i do if the 16 year old was pointing the gun at the other police officer. Are police officers trained shoot to kill regardless of the circumstances or are they trained shoot to wound???i said shoot to kill because the life of a police officer is at harm...

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    BLUEOFWATER

    about 5 years ago

    222 Comments

    THANK YOU I NEEDED TO READ THIS. I DO FEEL SORT OF INTEMEDATED, BUT I NEED ALL THE INFO I CAN GET

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