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  1. #1
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    Jan 2011
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    Default Can I Become an Officer if Record Was Expunged

    My question involves a background check in the State of: Maryland / Pennsylvania.

    When I was 19 I was arrested and charged with trespassing and destruction of property no less then $500. A friend and I went to a high school rival afterhours (tresspassing) and flipped a set of bleachers (dest. Of property). The arresting officer said that we “didn't do a dollars-worth of damage” but had to arrest us anyway to “teach us a lesson”. I got to experience due process first hand and went through probation before judgment. Two years later the incident was expunged and for the most part I've stayed out of trouble and haven't been arrested since.

    I'll be graduating from a state university within a few months. I've made the dean's list several times, I have no parking tickets or moving violations. I have good credit, I pay my taxes. Now that its been over 7 years since this stupid mistake I've been thinking about life and wondering if law enforcement is for me. Truth is its always what I wanted to do but my parents discouraged me from looking into it from an early age. A dream deferred I guess but I always say that “its the ones who love you the most, hold you back the most”. I talked it over with my wife and ironically, shes completely behind my interest in a career in law enforcement.

    I'm very interested in becoming an officer however I have smoked marijuana in the past. Besides alcohol those are the only drugs I've used. I experimented with marijuana a few times marijuana (an estimated no more then 5-7 times between ages 19-25) but my 'last dance with Mary Jane' was in December of 2010.

    I know (I'm going on but just bear with me) an officer who serves who waited 1 year before applying to a department for the same reason. I'm very serious about becoming an officer and am trying to get some insight if I would be qualified given my history and background.

    At this point I'm wondering if I even have a chance and if I do, do I need to wait a while before applying. If so I'm going to take the built-in waiting period and train harder and study for the officer exam (already checked out a few books from the local library). Just need some advice. Thanks for reading.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Can I Become an Officer if Record Was Expunged

    You didn't get an expungement in two states. Laws vary by state.

    Many states give law enforcement agencies access to expunged records for personnel purposes.

    If you have a criminal history that's know to a law enforcement agency, you can expect to be at a disadvantage in the hiring process. If you're also found to be using illegal drugs, fuggedaboutit. ("My last dance was last month?" Not the best sales pitch.)

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
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    3

    Default Re: Can I Become an Officer if Record Was Expunged

    Thanks for getting back to me. What I meant is all of this happened in MD but I may be moving to PA in the future. I realize that this might put me at a disadvantage but its likely that I'll be waiting a while before applying. At this point I'm just trying to see what my odds are.

    Last dance with Mary Jane is a Tom Petty reference. As for that its something that I'm no longer doing. Like I said before I know I'm not perfect but I've come around and law enforcement is a career I'd like to do.

    Thanks for taking the time to get back to me.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Can I Become an Officer if Record Was Expunged

    Honestly? If the last illegal drug use was in the last 5 years, then I'd suggest waiting 5 years. There are very few departments hiring, and they have lots of applications to choose from with no drug use or drug use from many years ago - so even if any particular agency had a policy of no drug use for 2 or 3 years (that's usually a MINIMUM, and usually for civilian employees....more strict for sworn officers), you'd be up against a LOT of people, without the drug issue, for very few jobs.

    If you were my kid, and I were giving you advice about how to increase your odds of getting into the law enforcement field, I'd tell you to:

    a) stop any and all illegal drug use immediately
    b) not associate with those who may have "colorful" pasts or criminal activity (background checks are extensive - and the company you keep can absolutely impact hiring decisions)
    c) keep up to date with your payments and not get heavily into debt (not all agencies pull credit reports, but for those that do, a problematic credit reports can indicate potential issues with responsibility, or increased risk of malfesience)
    d) get some college credits under your belt, or even a 2 or 4 year degree - doesn't have to be in criminal justice - a good portion of police work is psychology/sociology - CJ classes won't hurt, but you'll get the CJ training you need in the academy and from your trainer in your hiring agency (courses in family dynamics, substance abuse, crisis intervention, child abuse, and domestic violence will serve you well)
    e) get to know yourself, your temperament, and your "buttons" and coping mechanisms well - and make sure to work on replacing any BAD methods for coping with stress (drugs, alcohol) with GOOD methods (exercise, sports, meditation, etc.)
    f) spend a year getting in tip top shape (run baby, run)
    g) take a technical writing course at your local community college (your cases are only as good as your reports)
    h) increase your computer literacy (especially Word for writing reports, and Access, just to be familiar with how the many databases you'll use work at a fundamental level) and get familiar with common tools of the trade like Google Earth and Google Maps
    Catherine NeSmith
    Executive Director
    AARDVARC.org, Inc.
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    Fave Big Bang Theory site: Sheldon Cooper Fans

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Can I Become an Officer if Record Was Expunged

    Quote Quoting antmarch
    View Post
    Last dance with Mary Jane is a Tom Petty reference.
    And "one toke over the line" is a Brewer and Shipley reference. And "I went outside and smoked myself a jay" is a Paul Simon reference. The issue isn't the musician; it's that "last month" isn't a particularly long time ago.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    California
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    Default Re: Can I Become an Officer if Record Was Expunged

    Your expunged record, was it a felony or a misdemeanor?

    Even if the expunged record is not a felony, agencies will look into that and evaluate it with the totality of your circumstances A solid work history, education, etc. can all work on your behalf.

    Aardvarc provided you a good list of suggestions, heed them and you will improve your chances.
    A Nor Cal Cop Sergeant

    "Make mine a double mocha ...
    And a croissant!"


    End of Watch: Deputy Danny Oliver

    End of Watch: Detective Michael Davis, Jr.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
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    3

    Default Re: Can I Become an Officer if Record Was Expunged

    My expunged record was a misdemeanor. I realize that I have a tainted record however, I do have a good education, good work history, and excellent credit. Hopefully these things will outweigh my foolish actions of the past and I have the opportunity to help better my community. I just realized that I needed a change from my career path and I'm turning things around (not that I was ever a vagrant) but I've decided that I need to be doing something more meaningful.

    I know a few retired officers, sworn officers, and a detective. Should I ask them for letters of recommendation?

    Thank you all for your time and input. I've already increased my PT and have been studying for the police exam.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    California
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    15,355

    Default Re: Can I Become an Officer if Record Was Expunged

    Letters of recommendation will be nice later on, but the initial process may not require them.

    Prior convictions - expunged or not - will be evaluated by the agency for relevance. They will try to put the incident in context of your age and maturity at the time and look at what you have done since then. The more time between the incident and now, the better.

    Some agencies have a zero tolerance policy for some things. Some may not accept applicants that ever used drugs, others may be willing to consider it.

    About all you can do is give it a go and be completely above board when/if it gets to the background process. If you are received as trying to be deceitful, you could get effectively blacklisted.
    A Nor Cal Cop Sergeant

    "Make mine a double mocha ...
    And a croissant!"


    End of Watch: Deputy Danny Oliver

    End of Watch: Detective Michael Davis, Jr.

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