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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
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    DC
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    Default How to Best Disclose Past Mental Health Issues As a Police Officer Applicant

    My question involves labor and employment law for the state of: Washington

    This is a brief overview of my mental health history:

    At sixteen, following suicide of close family member, threats of divorce from close family members, etc:

    • non-suicidal self-harm (2-3x)
    • "planned" suicide attempt


    Discussion with mental health professionals concluded this was a result of circumstance, not mental illness. Basically, it was for attention because my family wasn't addressing the loss. None of this is recorded anywhere, but I will disclose.

    At eighteen:

    • non-suicidal self-harm (multiple times)
    • diagnosis of suicidal ideation
    • diagnosis of clinical depression
    • 2 ER trips (no suicide attempts), recorded as depression & suicidal ideation/superficial lacerations (respectively)
    • Took 3x dose of antidepressants (non-suicidal confirmed by psych)


    Most of this occurred before I had medical help at all, and was dealing with a few comorbid medical issues severely impacting my health (which are now treated). I have not attempted suicide, been hospitalized or involuntarily committed. I am on medication and completely stable out of therapy. Per my psych's evaluation, I'm resilient, good at handling stress and no longer depressed.

    I realize this all looks bad for my prospects of becoming an LEO, but I am determined not to let a few unstable years as a teen block me out from a dream job. What's listed above is representative of a very small part of my life and I do not have a pattern of impulse control issues.

    I have no criminal history, no traffic violations and have passed state/federal background checks for access to CJIS. My employment and academic records are strong and steady.

    I fully intend to disclose everything I have listed; honesty and integrity is important to me. My question is what would be the best way to address this history with agencies, and for the background investigators out there, what would you want to see to reduce liability concerns?

    Thank you in advance for your time.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
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    3,566

    Default Re: How Should I Disclose Past Mental Health Issues As a Police Officer Applicant

    You don't mention your current age. But I will say if the NCIC system were working like it should you wouldn't even be able to purchase a firearm.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    1,244

    Default Re: How Should I Disclose Past Mental Health Issues As a Police Officer Applicant

    The background investigator is not going to ask you about your mental health history for two reasons. First, a police investigator lacks the training and expertise necessary to properly evaluate mental health matters. Next, this is a medical issue. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a prospective employer is prohibited from inquiring about medical issues except in connection with a bona fide offer of employment.

    Should you pass the screening process and score high enough to be hireable, in most states, every law enforcement candidate is then evaluated to determine if they are free from any emotional or mental condition that might adversely affect the exercise of the powers of a police officer, and to otherwise ensure that the candidate is capable of withstanding the psychological demands of the position. Whether you can be hired will depend on your mental state at the time of processing, as determined through a series of written and in person psychological evaluation as administered by a licensed psychologist. Your prior mental health history will be considered as part of the overall picture, but your current mental state will be the key decider.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    California
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    Default Re: How Should I Disclose Past Mental Health Issues As a Police Officer Applicant

    In addition to what L-1 stated, if any of your issues resulted in an INVOLUNTARY COMMITMENT, then you may be statutorily prohibited from purchasing or even possessing a firearm. If these were consultations, then there should be no mandatory legal bar.

    As mentioned, your state of mind now will be key, as will the time that has passed between these incidents and today. If you are 21, and the last round of diagnoses occurred at 18, I would expect you to be a likely non-hire. If you are in your mid to late twenties, your chances are better. Those issues at age 18 will be very concerning to a potential employer.
    **********
    Retired Cal Cop Sergeant & Teacher

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM

  5. #5
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    Dec 2017
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    DC
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    Default Re: How Should I Disclose Past Mental Health Issues As a Police Officer Applicant

    Quote Quoting cdwjava
    View Post
    In addition to what L-1 stated, if any of your issues resulted in an INVOLUNTARY COMMITMENT, then you may be statutorily prohibited from purchasing or even possessing a firearm. If these were consultations, then there should be no mandatory legal bar.

    As mentioned, your state of mind now will be key, as will the time that has passed between these incidents and today. If you are 21, and the last round of diagnoses occurred at 18, I would expect you to be a likely non-hire. If you are in your mid to late twenties, your chances are better. Those issues at age 18 will be very concerning to a potential employer.
    I was never involuntarily committed and am still legally allowed to purchase/possess firearms.

    I'm currently 20 and planning to put about 10 years between me and these incidents before even applying to police departments. Hopefully ten years of having my life together will be enough time. I'm doing great now.

    Thanks for your advice.

    [/QUOTE] You don't mention your current age. But I will say if the NCIC system were working like it should you wouldn't even be able to purchase a firearm. [/QUOTE]

    Not necessarily. I would have to be involuntarily committed, which I never was. In Washington State you have to actually attempt suicide to be committed, which I never have.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    California
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    Default Re: How Should I Disclose Past Mental Health Issues As a Police Officer Applicant

    Are you still taking antidepressants or medication for any mental health related condition? If so, that could very well disqualify you down the road. If you have such a diagnosed condition, it might be best to keep treating it and consider some other career path rather than risking your health by getting off a treatment regimen that provides for long term health.
    **********
    Retired Cal Cop Sergeant & Teacher

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
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    DC
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    Default Re: How Should I Disclose Past Mental Health Issues As a Police Officer Applicant

    Quote Quoting cdwjava
    View Post
    Are you still taking antidepressants or medication for any mental health related condition? If so, that could very well disqualify you down the road.
    I am but I have confirmed with a couple local officers that medication isn't an automatic DQ and it won't be an issue for getting hired in my area.

    Thanks again for the help

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    California
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    Default Re: How Should I Disclose Past Mental Health Issues As a Police Officer Applicant

    Quote Quoting xbar
    View Post
    I am but I have confirmed with a couple local officers that medication isn't an automatic DQ and it won't be an issue for getting hired in my area.

    Thanks again for the help
    Not automatic pursuant to the law, but, an agency that takes on an officer who is taking psych medications for a current condition will be taking on a perceived risk, and that information can very possibly come out in a civil suit or criminal prosecution where your judgement is in question. However, that part of the background would be addressed and considered only after the rest of the background had been completed. None of us have any way of knowing how that would come out as we do not know your condition or why you have to take meds ... or, what happens if you do NOT take them. All of this will be looked into at the end of the background when the medical/psych portion is conducted.
    **********
    Retired Cal Cop Sergeant & Teacher

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
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    3,566

    Default Re: How Should I Disclose Past Mental Health Issues As a Police Officer Applicant

    Quote Quoting Rock Knocker
    View Post
    I think that at least in Washington, that once an officer starts taking medicine, that is his or her own private buisness and there is no duty to disclose. But that is once they are in the door.
    And the same people that got that lobbied for that will be the first people that complain when a cop on psych meds shoots someone.

  10. #10
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    Dec 2017
    Location
    DC
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    Default Re: How Should I Disclose Past Mental Health Issues As a Police Officer Applicant

    Quote Quoting cdwjava
    View Post
    None of us have any way of knowing how that would come out as we do not know your condition or why you have to take meds ... or, what happens if you do NOT take them. .
    I'm just on an antidepressant. Never been on anything else, i.e., antipsychotics.

    The rest of my background comes up clear. I've passed multiple checks many times for other state/legal positions.

    "And the same people that got that lobbied for that will be the first people that complain when a cop on psych meds shoots someone."

    I'm pretty sure someone being on antidepressants is unremarkable considering they're one of the most prescribed medications in the country, and the public likely wouldn't have access to that information anyway.

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