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  • Background Advice

    I posted this several years back, but I think it's very appropriate today as well:

    Ok, I wanted to take an opportunity to address backgrounds on here, since this is a very common topic. Let me start by saying that I have been a cop for 8 years now myself and my resume/background had a few…..let’s say….hick-ups. My hick-ups in my background though, much to my amazement, caused me very little grief when I began applying for agencies. What I have learned, is that no one is perfect. There are a few agencies that I know of in the Twin Cities that have sometimes posted job announcements where it seems as though they are looking for a “flawless” candidate.

    The truth of the matter is that police departments realize that not all applicants are perfect. The biggest thing in submitting a background packet is honesty. Don’t ever think for one minute that you just can omit something, cross your fingers and hope the dept. doesn’t find out. This is 2010…almost all agencies maintain an internal database of contact with people ranging from being the complainant of a barking dog call to a verbal warning about speeding and most certainly when you are listed as an “arrestee” or “suspect”. When filling out the “police contacts” portion, take a few minutes of YOUR time and call all LE agencies in which you have ever had contact with whether it was a victim, suspect, witness or “other”. Make sure that you tell your backgrounder more than s/he will ever need to know. This shows your honesty, candor and tells the department a great deal about your character.

    Next, be honest about everything. If you got fired from a job, mention that. If you had an ex call the cops when you were in an argument, mention that. If you volunteered ANYWHERE, mention it. The time will come during the process where you will have the opportunity to explain the situation(s). I have seen more people get washed from backgrounds because they lie than I have seen get washed for the contents of their backgrounds. Things that you think are a huge deal, may end up to be nothing in the grand scheme of a complete background. I know several agencies that only look at the last 10 years of your life (outside of criminal convictions). The agency wants to get an accurate picture of who you are today and the type of person you are now.

    Finally, don’t try to guess what the department wants for answers on questions. If you are anyone but yourself, or if you misrepresent who you really are, then you may make it through the process (sometimes); however you and/or the dept will ultimately be unhappy once you start if you are anyone but your true self. There needs to be as much of a fit for you with the department as there is for the department must to like you. Another way – the department must be a good fit for what you are looking for in a career. Agencies sometimes modify their expectations of candidates with the changing of chiefs or other administration. Just because you don’t make it through the process with agency “X” this time, doesn’t mean that you won’t a year from now. You will change and the dept. will change.

    I know that it’s tempting right out of SKILLS to apply for any job on the POST Board website; all the coppers on this site were there once as well. Save yourself a great deal of heartache and figure out what you want out a LE career. Some people want a slower pace of a smaller town, others want to be running through back yards, some want a special purpose agency and others yet would be completely content working as a bailiff or detention deputy. Figure out what you want, then find agencies that encompass what you are looking for. After you have a list, go on ride-a-longs with those agencies and talk to the officers to get a feel for the place and see if it’s something you want to be part of. In the realm of consumer goods, this is called MAKING AN INFORMED DECISION. You owe it to yourself to do a little bit of legwork to learn about where you want to work.

    So be honest, be yourself and always provide more info than is asked of you in your background packet. Also, take 10 extra minutes to go through the packet before you turn it in to ensure that you have all the zip codes, area codes, phone numbers, spelling of names, CORRECT addresses and enough waivers filled out (always make like…30 copies of waivers and sign them all). Also, before you fill it out, make a copy of the blank background packet in case you make a mistake. Once it’s completed, make another copy of the finished packet for your records (all the info is compiled so you don’t have to look it up again).

    I just saw in today’s news that LGA (local government aide) from the state was cut again which translates into less cops for another year. The job market is tough – what have you done do distinguish yourself from any other applicant???
    "In Valor There Is Hope" - Tacitus

    "We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm" - George Orwell

  • #2
    Wow....thanks topace! You've given me hope.....


    <<<With a mugshot like mine, you tend to get discouraged from pursuing a career in LE

    Comment


    • #3
      I truly believe you are right on with doing some research about places you would like to work. I have worked for three police departments and have seen numerous people go through the process. These people go through the process the department spends thousands of dollars training them and the people quit because the department is too busy(call volume) or they didn't have/do this or that. It's frustrating when they could have figured these things out but everyone wants the "job" instead of figuring out what is right for them. For example: I personally will never apply for Mpls or St. Paul because I would not like the overbearing call load or the State Patrol because I like the variety of calls that a city or county can bring. We all have 2-4years to figure it out.
      "We Train to Fight, We Fight to Win, We Win to Survive, We Survive to LIVE!"

      The views expressed in the above post are the sole opinion of the author and do not reflect any official position by the author's employer and/or municipality.

      Comment


      • #4
        I think that backgrounds have changed over the years. When I first entered law enforcement in the 90's, backgrounds used to be about finding the information necesary to show that the candidate IS qualified. Now, it seems that all the background investigators want to do is find that little golden gem that no other backgrounder was able to find to show that the candidate IS NOT qualified to work for them. It is like they all want to show the others that they are the best backgrounder and found something that nobody else was able to find. Most of the time, it is something stupid or silly that you disclosed but it didnt matter to the backgrounder anyway. In fact, most departments today dont even seem to have the decency to have clarification interviews where they call you back in and ask you about things with which they have questions. They just send you a letter saying, "No Thanks."

        For example, I have been washed out of backgrounds because a backgrounder thought I was embellishing the fact that I had been shot at while working armed security (even though I provided police reports to prove it). I also got washed from a background after a former employer told the backgrounder that I didnt pass probation. I provided the documentation to show otherwise and was told, "Sorry, the decision has already been made."

        Unfortunately, the intense demand for jobs has resulted in agencies being more picky about backgrounds and taking short-cuts themselves. It seems nowadays that if a backgrounder even has a doubt, they dont even call you in and ask you anymore, they just drop you. That is unfortunate because I think that a lot of excellent candidates get lost in the politics while "squeaky cleans" get hired and usually wash out because they have no life experience, street smarts etc. A good backgrounder should be fair, realize that nobody is perfect, and concentrate on the facts. There is no place for personal opinion, rumors or gossip during the background process. Just my venting.... Sorry....

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        • #5
          Crimecrusher I couldn't agree with you more. I have had my own bad experience with being backgrounded by a local sheriff's department. The backgrounder I believe went out of his way to find to find a previous supervisor in my current department that did not tend to like me for whatever reason. Furthermore this investigator included these comments in the background. Of course these comments were based on their own personal opinions with no documentation to prove it. On top of that it was somebody that was my supervisor for a limited amount of time and over five years ago when this background was done. According to that department I passed the background, but since they found somebody who had a negitive opinion, they of course decided to pass on me. The official version is that I was not a good fit for that department. When asked for further details, they eventually commented on this negitive opinion which I thought was completely wrong. I still find it hard to believe that I did not get a job offer due to one persons negitivity towards another. On top of that I was never given the opportunity to defend myself on these negitive comments said about me. When I did try and explain the situation and defend my position, they were not too interested in listening, and ultimately said the decision is final and the discussion ended. Ever since I never did have a good feeling about being backgrounded again.

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          • #6
            Yep if you've been employed at a few places in your lifetime you will undoubtedly have some supervisor or co-worker who hated you and will bad-mouth you all the way during your new background. It sucks. Another piece of advice is to try and remember everything you ever did wrong. Even if a juvenile. I know it's hard to recall and gets harder the older you get But I did some really stupid crap when I was under 18 and was just honest about it. I believe any quality department will be more impressed by the fact you were up front about being stupid a few times in your life. Remember cops are all people; and people who have made mistakes. I think in an ironic way people who weren't squeaky clean during their younger years sometimes make the best officers now because they understand exactly what it means to engage in "less-than-smart" behavior while a juvenile.

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            • #7
              Background advice

              I completely agree with Crime Crusher - background investigations are supposed to be done by people that have actually attended training on how to do professional backgrounds and their intented purpose should be to prove that the candidate was open and honest in their responses. Now a days, it seems like too many agencies are assigning background investigations to people who have never been trained and therefore the backgrounds get filled up with this person's own biases, subjective opinions and beliefs rather than facts. Nowwhere in a professional background should opinions be documented. It should all be based on facts - that's it!!!!

              Also, too many background investigators get assigned this task because they aren't efficient at much else...and therefore end up doing sloppy and lazy backgrounds where they just call the Pointer system, find out where the candidate has been backgrounded previously and use the info in that agency's background investigation rather than starting from scratch. Other agency's backgrounds are full of errors, people!!! Give candidates the opportunity to come in for a clarification interview and explain things found in other agencies' background investigations rather than using it as a lazy excuse to wash the person and get out of having to do some real work!!!

              Just my two cents...
              The opinions given in my signatures & threads DO NOT reflect the opinions, views, policies, and/or procedures of my employing agency. They are my personal opinions only, thereby releasing my agency of any liability, or involvement in anything posted under the username "TrueBlueMN" on Officer.com.

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              • #8
                In my Department, we had a CSO who was in the process of being backgrounded by Duluth. The BI called all of his friends (who he provided) then decided to find out about his past relationships.

                He got the numbers to numerous ex-girlfriends who had nothing but meaning less things to say, but when I heard this I was scratching my head thinking "This guy is trying to wash out my partner because he has an ex girlfriend or two"... BS

                They are EX-girlfriends for a reason..

                Comment


                • #9
                  Question about that pointer system....I read what little it says on the post board website about it. How does it work? A new department just contacts your old department(s) and requests the files and the background report? Are your previous departments required to comply with this? I think it's a helpful tool but I'm not sure I would trust someone else's work whom I didn't even know.

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                  • #10
                    I guess I’m not sure where to begin while adding my 2 cents. I was really ticked off after reading these posts. I’ve been doing background investigations for the past 10 years. I don’t do all that many in a single year and might average 6 or so in a single year. I would say that I’ve completed from the start to finish about 75 backgrounds.

                    Crimecrusher seems to be making some huge generalizations, “Now, it seems that all the background investigators want to do is find that little golden gem that no other backgrounder was able to find to show that the candidate IS NOT qualified to work for them. It is like they all want to show the others that they are the best backgrounder and found something that nobody else was able to find.” Do you think we have a little club or what?

                    I don’t share my investigations with others in my department unless they’re the decision makers. I strive to keep my investigations as ethical as possible. I don’t make hiring recommendations. I only state whether there is anything in the background that would preclude the candidate from being hired.

                    Another generalization provided to us by Crimecrusher, “Most of the time, it is something stupid or silly that you disclosed but it didnt matter to the backgrounder anyway.”

                    Crimecrusher, please provide us with the departments that don’t offer a “clarification interview” since you state that most don’t contact candidates to clarify issues. I would like to know. Or, is this just another generalization that is not substantiated by fact? You also state you were washed out of backgrounds because you got shot at? I think there is more to that story. As for not making probation, it sounds as if you have an issue with your former boss not the BI.

                    Crimecrusher stated, “the intense demand for jobs has resulted in agencies being more picky” and what is wrong with this?
                    Crimecrusher stated, “That is unfortunate because I think that a lot of excellent candidates get lost in the politics while "squeaky cleans" get hired and usually wash out because they have no life experience, street smarts etc.” Please provide us with the statistics that prove those “squeaky cleans” wash out.

                    LB-1- So, let me get this straight….your BI shouldn’t have included negative comments made to him/her by your previous supervisor? You got to be kidding me, right? I doubt that one solely negative comment would wash you from a hiring process. Sounds to me that you were given an opportunity to defend yourself since you asked for further details as to why you didn’t pass your background. What do you want? A judge and a jury?

                    TrueBlueMN- You’re a supervisor. If you don’t like the process then get in there and work toward changing your department. You are right, I do call the pointer system. I then take a look at the previous background (s) and look for inconsistencies. I re-contact those that are listed and clarify any questions that I have. You state, “Other agency's backgrounds are full of errors, people!!!” Please prove this. You state, “Give candidates the opportunity to come in for a clarification interview and explain things found in other agencies' background investigations rather than using it as a lazy excuse to wash the person and get out of having to do some real work!!!” Is this another generalization? Or are you speaking about me?

                    Charger X. Pointer system. When I’m working on a background I let POST know I’m doing one a specific candidate. I’m able to see, if I want, what other departments have conducted a background. I can then contact the other departments. They do comply. I always look at the quality of the other backgrounds and always conduct my own. Like I stated, I look for inconsistencies in the information provided.

                    I find it interesting that those that have posted negative comments about background investigators state that background investigators include opinions and beliefs. Not one of you have listed any type of hard facts to support your opinions. So, you are now doing what you don’t want others to do? Seems so to me. Interesting.

                    One of the most important investigations is the background investigation. You can be stuck with a real slug for years and years that may cost your department money in litigations. Departments should be picky and if they aren’t they're negligent in hiring. Please look in the mirror.
                    Last edited by sigcopper; 02-18-2010, 04:45 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Wow- such arrogance

                      I tried for a long time to refrain from replying to SigCopper's comments, but I just couldnt hold back any longer...

                      Sig Copper, you are very defensive, but even more, you are very full of yourself. You almost prove my point that some Backgrounders (I won't use your term BI because I'm not a member of YOUR club) think that they and their department are better than everyone else.

                      You tell us all to "look in the mirror" but maybe you should do the same and try to remember where you came from. I just don't see where all your arrogance originates. It certainly isn't from that whopping 6 backgrounds per year that you do.

                      You act like unless myself, TrueBlue and others can quote to you specific departments or background investigators that we are somehow lying or "generalizing" the facts. Go *^#@ yourself!!!! If you are as great a backgrounder as you THINK you are, you should already know which departments don't provide clarification interviews. It's your ****ing club, reach out and find it out for yourself, but you got a lot of nerve 1) acting like you are better than us and 2) calling us liars for stating our own experiences with police background investigators.

                      You are exactly the reason why some people hate the thought of a police background investigation. I have been a cop just as long as you. I too have done backgrounds, been a sergeant, sat on oral boards, been an FTO etc but never once did I ever throw it back in anyone's face for giving their own opinion, and never once would I call a fellow brother in blue a liar or imply that they have a tendency to "generalize" anything. I will, however call a fellow brother a dick when they act like one. Thanks for allowing me the pleasure to call you one.

                      You tell TrueBlue that if he is a Sergeant and doesn't like the process that he should get involved and change it. I would be willing to bet that he probably has in his own department. But as long as there are people like you, and the department you represent, out there acting like they are Gods, like nobody is allowed to voice their opinion or make a mistake, the background system is always going to be flawed.

                      You ask if we would like a judge or jury, but you seem to be the only one playing those roles. You don't know any of us or our experiences, but there you are playing judge and jury questioning our intent and the truthfulness of our statements- like we are lying or just making it all up. You got a lot of nerve!!! Way to treat a fellow brother!! I hope I never have the displeasure to meet you or work for a department that thinks your rationale and thinking is appropriate for a backgrounder.

                      You say you don't put opinion in your backgrounds, but you don't seem to have any problem voicing your own opinion in this forum. Hmmm, I wonder if it has ever shown itself in the backgrounds you have done.... Give me a break... Thanks for proving our points....
                      Last edited by Crimecrusher704; 02-18-2010, 09:01 PM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by tdog View Post
                        In my Department, we had a CSO who was in the process of being backgrounded by Duluth. The BI called all of his friends (who he provided) then decided to find out about his past relationships.

                        He got the numbers to numerous ex-girlfriends who had nothing but meaning less things to say, but when I heard this I was scratching my head thinking "This guy is trying to wash out my partner because he has an ex girlfriend or two"... BS

                        They are EX-girlfriends for a reason..
                        If you are doing a background why on earth would you NOT want to talk to an ex bf or gf?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Sigcopper I will be glad to tell you what department did this too me. Chisago County Sheriff's Department. I do consider their administration to be classless in the nature that they do their business. First of all after handing in my background and having an interview three weeks later, at no time did my BI ask me about any negitive comments that a former supervisor or anybody else had said about me. Second that interview was nothing but to ask more general questions about my background at that's it. He never questioned me on anything other than to varify and ask a few questions that were not on the background packet. Third I was told by the BI, that I would be contacted in the near future about the final decision regarding my background and the next step in their process. Fourth I never was contacted at all by anybody from that department. I had to contact them, and when I did the Chief Deputy had no clue on who I even was or why I was calling. He did say he would look into it, which he did and simply said sorry were not hiring right now. When asked for further clarification he continued with the same ridicious line. He claims that I passed my background but sorry we cant' hire you. Would offer no reasons as too why that is. Fifth I went personally down to that SO and demanded a reason face to face, and would not leave without one. I finally met with the Chief Deputy, and he finally broke down saying that I'm not a good fit for their department and you got one bad reference from a previous supervisor. That is when I tried to defend myself, but he wanted nothing to do with me. He then said the decision is final regardless of what reasoning that I gave him. He said I passed their entire background but cannot hire me, because their are not hiring. Sixth when I demanded a copy of my background, I got the runaround from both the Chief Deputy and their Human Resources department. They both seemed very scared and threatened that I requested a copy of this. I was then told to leave and we will get back to you. Just another cleaver way to say, we need to cover our bases leagally in case of further leagal action. Seventh that was all that I ever undercovered eventaully getting a bull**** copy of the summary of my background mailed to me, because their was no way they wanted to deal with me in person again after this. So their it is the kicker was I was hired five months as a deputy later for another county that borders Chisago County. I then met another deputy that I worked with that applied with Chisago, and he had a very similar situation happen to him as well. He was not given a job their because his ex wife claimed that he had a bad temper. So their you have it two different people and as an end result CCSO tends not to be professional, and this is how they conduct their backgrounds and treat people. On top of that Sigcopper if you want to call me a liar, then why don't you just come out and say it. Otherwise don't comment on facts that you know nothing about. Again everthing I stated in both my entries are absolutely true and completely accurate.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Wow....don't think I've seen heated discussion in the Minnesota section in...well...ever. I'm thankful that my background for my reserve position went as easy as it did. I was never asked to clarify any of the petty crimes (ie. ever stolen anything worth less than $25). I got one clarification call in which my BI asked me if I've ever had contact with the Mendota Hieghts PD, which I had and had also given a detailed description in the packet. Wonder why she asked it like I had never said anything about it. The next contact I had was to say that I had passed and that I should be getting a letter from the Community Services Unit soon.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Is this how you lead? Is this the example you set for your troops? Telling another brother in blue to go and **** themselves? Real classy. Leadership 101. And I'm arrogant?

                              Please provide me with the facts that I asked you for. If you can, and I'm wrong, I'll admit it.

                              And, it was me that told you that I don't do a lot of backgrounds, so what was your point? An effort to show others that you are so much better than me? And, I'm arrogant by telling others that I don't do all that many backgrounds and am not as experienced as others?

                              Do you feel better about yourself now?

                              Comment

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