US Justice Dept recommends police hire former criminals
The US Department of Justice has urged police forces to consider hiring people with criminal records, histories of drug use, and other previously disqualifying factors in a set of recruitment recommendations released on Tuesday.
The document was compiled by the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and Office of Community Oriented Policing Services with input from dozens of community and policing leaders earlier this year.
Explaining that law enforcement is having trouble finding and keeping new recruits who measure up to existing professional standards, the document suggests police departments reconsider categorically rejecting candidates with “minor, isolated criminal offenses, especially where offenses occurred a long time ago.”
Lesser convictions are likely the result of “minor unwise decisions” made before a candidate’s brain was wholly mature and capable of fully understanding the consequences of those decisions, the policing experts argued, insisting that recruiters should always allow candidates “room for redemption.”
Additionally, visible tattoos and other “grooming” issues should not keep an individual from joining the force, so long as they don’t indicate bigotry, the panel reasoned. Nor should a lack of educational achievement be a stumbling block – recruiters might consider scrapping written examinations altogether, and a candidate’s financial or credit history should also be deemphasized, they argued. Even physical fitness standards should be relaxed, as candidates can get in shape on the job, they added.
Indeed, the only factors that should disqualify a candidate from becoming a police officer are extremism, prejudice or bigotry (expressed or apparent in tattoos, jewelry or dress), a history of violent or “serious” crime, or “serious” misuse of alcohol or drugs, the panelists agreed, leaving it up to individual recruiters to define ‘serious’.
The panel stressed that their suggestions did not entail lowering hiring standards so much as “allowing for evolution of standards to align with the realities of policing in the 21st century.”
While the panelists blamed a “tight labor market” for recruiting difficulties, they also acknowledged that “frustrations” with police officers and “concerns about officer safety” were preventing people from applying. Black Lives Matter and the Defund the Police movement it spawned have not only increased public resentment of the profession but have helped fuel a spike in resignations among existing officers.
The Police Executive Research Forum revealed in January that 50% more officers resigned in 2022 than in 2019, while the total number of sworn officers employed in the US has declined by 5% since 2019.
Some states, including California, Illinois, and Colorado, have become so desperate to repopulate their police forces that they have invited illegal immigrants to join, a move many have condemned for allowing un-vetted individuals who broke the law to enter the US to wield power – and weapons – against law-abiding citizens.