Deep Background

Federal agencies propose loosening background check rules for police

The DOJ and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in a recent report that police departments should consider loosening their background screening practices because they tend to disproportionately disqualify minorities – which in turn worsens distrust of police in many communities.  Police agencies should consider easing reliance on criminal records because “excluding applicants regardless of the nature of the underlying offense, or how much time has passed since an offense occurred, or without any consideration of whether the candidate has changed in the intervening period, can be a significant – and unwarranted – barrier,” the DOJ-EEOC report said.  It recommended removing as disqualifiers past drug use regardless of frequency or amount of time passed, and proposed loosening credit check standards because on average minorities “are more likely to have lower credit scores.”  The report followed a DOJ conference in Washington, D.C., weighing the same issues.  A USA Today article on the gathering quoted Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus as saying that many police background screeners “are looking for reasons why someone shouldn’t be a police officer. They become the culture keepers” who recommend people who are ethnically or culturally like them.  “Magnus highlighted the case of one model candidate, who required the chief’s personal intervention, after she revealed deep personal hardships that background investigators viewed as reasons for her rejection,” USA Today said.  “The woman’s parents were both in prison; there were gang associations involving other members of her family. Despite those links, the woman was raising two sisters.  ‘This woman was the model of responsibility,’ the chief said. ‘This was an incredible story, and the background investigators said, ‘Hell, no.’”

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