Eight things that disqualify you from becoming a cop

Eight things can disqualify you from becoming a cop, like serious misdemeanors, felony convictions, poor credit history, reports of domestic violence, and dishonorable discharge from the military. Other things like inappropriate tattoos and social media posts are also being looked at these days. You also need to pass the psychological screening to obtain a job.

If you’re looking for a job in law enforcement, you shouldn’t have any of these eight things on your record:

  1. felony convictions

  2. serious misdemeanors

  3. reports of domestic violence

  4. poor credit history

  5. dishonorable discharge from the military

  6. obscene tattoos

  7. inappropriate social media interactions

  8. fail the psychological screening

Some of the newer infractions being pre-screened in recent years have to do with tattoos and social media due to the scrutiny by the public of law enforcement. Once you are asked to take the test, not passing your psychological exam can also disqualify you from going further in the police program. These eight disqualifiers will not only prevent you from becoming a cop but could also prevent you from getting other jobs associated with law enforcement.

In our country’s current climate, being a police officer with a solid background is more important than ever. Many of the disqualifiers preventing people from becoming a police officer won’t be much of a surprise; things like reports of domestic violence and felony convictions are not usually things we associate with police officers. Other things these days are being looked at more in-depth, like inappropriate tattoos and social media posts. As the law enforcement profession becomes even more scrutinized, these types of things are being screened by departments all over the country—especially the larger departments in cities such as Los Angeles and New York. These aren’t the only factors departments are looking for, though. Read on to discover what eight things can disqualify you from being a police officer.


Eight things that disqualify you from becoming a cop

From being a police officer to a correctional officer, law enforcement jobs require a clean record and impeccable ethical and moral standards. These people are met with tough decisions every day that affect the lives around them in the communities they serve. They need to be above reproach—or at the very least, be able to show that indiscretions done in youth are long in the past. Some of the following eight disqualifiers can be appealed on rare occasions. Most cannot.
The following are put in order from somewhat likely to be appealable to least likely.

Inappropriate Tattoos

Tattoos have been a part of every culture since historic times. Some tattoos tell about significant memories in a person’s life, while others are symbols. In every job, they have protocols for whether tattoos can be uncovered or not. Tattoos reflecting symbols of hate or a past life of indiscretions that cannot be hidden will most likely disqualify somebody from being a police officer. It is not a judgment, but more of being sensitive to all individuals in a community.

What does this mean?

It means that witnesses, victims, and even suspects are more likely to be cooperative if they don’t feel threatened due to visible signs of somebody’s past affiliations. People can still be hired with these tattoos in certain situations, especially if they can be covered up. They most likely have to pass other screenings like the psychological exam and other department screenings to overlook inappropriate skin art.

Obscene Social Media Posts

Eight things that disqualify you from becoming a cop

Let’s face it, social media is here to stay. Many people build their impressions of individuals based on what is projected on social media sites. Right or wrong, this is what most people will see reflected in a person’s character. This is no different for somebody who is applying to be a police officer.

More and more departments are doing a more in-depth look into social media before interviewing possible candidates. They might go back only a year before somebody applies but could go back as far as three years. This means any obscene or severely harmful posts you may have posted in recent years could be seen as reflective of your world views. Police officers and law enforcement need to reflect a neutral attitude when it comes to all things political.

What does this mean?

This doesn’t mean that a police officer can’t have a point of view; it just means they shouldn’t blast it over social media. They have to work with people from all walks of life, races, cultures, and outlooks. People are much more likely to cooperate, and situations are much less likely to escalate if an officer can be viewed as neutral.

It also means don’t post things on social media that you don’t want possible employers to see in the future.

Poor Credit History

Our credit tells a story about our past, whether we like it or not. It shows how we manage our money, what we buy, how much credit we have, and how much debt we are in. All these things are essential to any law enforcement agency. Why you may ask? Because people who can’t manage their money and go into a lot of debt are more vulnerable to the criminal element. As a police officer, you are in contact with criminals who don’t want to be caught. Bribery and extortion can bring down even the most solid officer if they are in enough financial trouble.

What does this mean?

It doesn’t mean somebody with poor credit history can’t be hired. It means you should have at least three years of good credit and a low debt to income ratio before applying to any law enforcement job. It would help if you were financially stable. Each department might have a different policy on this, so look into what they want when applying.

Serious Misdemeanors

This category is a mixed bag. There are some misdemeanors that, after a while, can be appealed when applying for a law enforcement job. Some serious misdemeanors are set in stone as a disqualifier. Below, some of the different offenses are categorized into serious disqualifiers and ones to which you could appeal.

Eight things that disqualify you from becoming a copPermanently Barred Serious Misdemeanors

  1. Disorderly conduct and Simple Assault. Misdemeanor assaults of any kind can indicate issues with temper, even after several years. Any serious misdemeanor with this type of conviction will disqualify a candidate before an interview.
  2. Petty theft. Though some things done as a juvenile can be overlooked, anything done as an adult will be a disqualifier for law enforcement jobs.
  3. Minor Fraud. Stealing, for any reason, even small amounts, will disqualify you as a police officer.

Serious Misdemeanors with Possible Appeal

  1. Public Intoxication. DUIs are considered felonies, but obnoxious intoxication in public areas might be appealable depending on the applicant’s age and circumstances of occurrence.
  2. Reckless Driving. Again, most situations may be non-negotiable, but some departments might look at the applicant’s age and circumstances surrounding the conviction.
  3. Poor Driving Record. Some speeding tickets could be overlooked. Just don’t show an extreme pattern of poor driving if you wish to become a police officer. Driving is a massive part of the job, and law enforcement needs to be good examples for the public.

What does this mean?

As a police officer once told me, it comes down to when an applicant performed the act and when they decided to become a police officer. If you perform illegal activities while wanting to be a law enforcement officer, you probably won’t be considered trustworthy enough to be upholding any laws.

Dishonorable Discharge from the Military

Military service usually feeds into law enforcement jobs. This means people with military experience typically do well as police officers. The military instills discipline and a measure of following orders law enforcement is usually seeking. The military’s structure and qualifications for entrance align with law enforcement standards. This is why you will see a lot of former military personnel in police jobs.

What does this mean?

If an applicant has been dishonorably discharged from the military, you will most likely not be looked at for a law enforcement job. There are the occasional small-town departments, which could give someone a chance after looking at the discharge reason. This is very rare and shouldn’t be relied upon, though.

Reports of Domestic Violence

Though this can be considered either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity, it’s being listed separately for a reason. This can be a huge indication of how a police officer handles stressful and sometimes violent situations. If there is any indication that somebody will go the way of violence when their control is threatened, this is somebody departments, or agencies do not want. Control of one’s emotions is critical to the job. Police are under extreme scrutiny. If there is even the slightest appearance that their actions are unwarranted when dealing with suspects, this can be detrimental to the reputations of them all. If somebody can be violent towards a loved one, they can be violent towards a stranger.

What does this mean?

If you have any conviction charges related to domestic violence, you will not be considered for a law enforcement job. Domestic violence can be a sign of other, more debilitating mental illnesses, and anybody experiencing such impulses should seek professional assistance.

More tips on becoming a cop HERE.

Felony Convictions

This should go without saying: if you have broken the law to the point of it being a felony, then you probably are not suited for a job in law enforcement. Though anybody with such a conviction knows it, some of these crimes could be looked at with varying degrees of severity by the offender. The list below is not comprehensive, but it gives you an idea of what some of these crimes look like.

  1. Driving Under the Influence or DWI/DUI. Though most people think of this as driving while intoxicated by alcohol, this could be any substance controlled or otherwise. In some states, marijuana is legal, and some people look at this as acceptable to use while driving. It is not. Under rare circumstances, some departments might look at the age of the applicant and when the DUI occurred. It never hurts to ask the department or agency you’re applying to.
  2. Felony Assault. There are varying degrees of assault, ranging from minor scuffles warranting a misdemeanor conviction to felony assaults where somebody ends up in the hospital. These are definite disqualifiers.
  3. Perjury. Lying in court is a felony. Police officers need to be honest citizens. Perjuring oneself is a felony and instant disqualifier.
    Vehicular Homicide. Any conviction of vehicular homicide for any reason will be a disqualifier for law enforcement.

What does this mean?

This means that if you have a felony conviction of any kind, you probably don’t want to apply for a law enforcement job. Felony convictions also make it difficult to obtain other job opportunities.

Failing the Psychological Screening

You could have an utterly spot-free record and still not be considered after failing the psychological screening. This sounds worse than what it actually may mean. As a police officer, you are often under a lot of stress and sometimes see or experience the worse humanity has to offer. Due to this, a lot of people are not suited for the job. This doesn’t mean you have a mental illness; it may just mean your personality is better suited for a different position.

What does this mean?

If you fail the psychological screening after initially passing all other areas, it will be disappointing for sure. There are other law enforcement jobs not associated with police operations where you could still serve. Seek these jobs out and realize being a police officer takes a different mindset.

Though being a police officer is a rewarding, often exhausting job, it has many benefits. Some of these, like serving the community, can be a positive experience. Law enforcement needs honest, hard-working, and dedicated individuals serving amongst its ranks.

Related Questions

What are the qualifications for being a police officer?

You will need to meet these qualifications if you would like a job in law enforcement:

  1. Be a United States Citizen
  2. Be 21 years old but no older than 37 years of age
  3. Have a High School Diploma or GED
  4. Must have a driver’s license
  5. Background Investigation complete
  6. Registered with the selective service if applicable

Can I still be a police officer if I got a DUI when young?

Whether or not you can be a police officer and have a DUI conviction depends on the court case and how many years it has been since the offense. It would help if you were completely honest with the department or agency you apply to about any convictions in your past.

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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.