Police Interview Newsletter
Be Honest or Be Gone

Volume 4, Issue 6
November-December, 2005

There is no room in a police department for individuals who are not able or willing to tell the truth!In years past, honesty and truth telling was a given within the ranks of law enforcement. Across all sectors of American Society, however, there appears to be a growing practice of lying, shading the truth, and denying wrongdoings. Why? Why not? If I can gain some advantage over the next guy by way of some minor deception, with little chance of being discovered, why not do it? Or, if I can stay out of trouble by lying about my activities and involvement, why not deny the mistake to protect my own skin?

This is clearly a problem in corporate America. Company presidents, chief financial officers, and high-ranking administrators have fallen from grace by lying, cheating, stealing, “cooking the books” – then, lying to prosecutors during the investigations.

This is a growing problem in professional sports. The Olympic games, and more recently, the game of baseball has been plagued by athletes who have vehemently denied using illegal drug enhancements - only to have later been exposed by random drug testing and/or aggressive investigative reporting.

And, sadly, there is the reality of the “dirty cop.” Our newspapers are replete with stories of police officers “on the take”, dealing drugs to get their slice of the good life, or using their official powers to extract special favors from vulnerable and unsuspecting citizens. In the days following the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans, it was shocking and disheartening to learn that some of the City cops had abandoned their posts and were joining in on the looting!

The sense of any absolute “right” or “wrong” has become relatively scarce today. Instead of viewing lies and deception as categorically unacceptable, a lot of people want to discuss the specifics of the situation – rationalizing some less than honest behavior as “acceptable.” At the very least this attitude is self-centered and immature. However, it may also be indicative of deviant values and serious character flaws.

As American Citizens, we expect more than this from our police officers! To adequately defend the laws of the land and protect those people who inhabit our communities, police officers need to be honest, trustworthy, and above reproach. Strong moral development is a must. Academy training does much to support and enhance the positive values that recruits already possess. However, academy training can do little or nothing to instill a sense of integrity where it does not already exist.

Attention New Police Applicants

  1. Be completely truthful with all aspects of the application process: written application, providing personal history information, initial screening interview with police personnel staff, all telephone contacts, oral board interview, polygraph examination, psychological testing, and medical examination.

  2. Law enforcement agencies are accepting and understanding when an applicant has made an honest mistake, and demonstrates a willingness to take responsibility for that mistake.

  3. Lies and deliberate misrepresentations, however, are not tolerated. An applicant who appears to be falsifying his application, by providing inaccurate information or omitting significant information, risks immediate elimination from the hiring process. There are no perfect people, so don’t try to present as one.

  4. Police agencies recognize that individuals who lie in regard to small matters will also be untruthful in regard to larger and more important issues. Once caught in a falsehood, it is very difficult to trust someone completely in the future.

  5. The law enforcement agency will be looking for inconsistencies in the information collected. Your self-reported material should agree with what the police investigators can learn by speaking with your employers, neighbors, and personal references.

  6. On your job history, list every job that you ever worked – no matter how brief or seemingly insignificant (e.g. Burger King for 6 weeks when you were 16 years old). Be completely honest about the reason for leaving each job. If you received disciplinary actions or were dismissed from the job, do not try to cover it up or to put a more pleasing spin on your circumstances.

  7. On your illegal drug use history, be sure to sit down and take the time to accurately reconstruct your timeline of drug use. Be very clear about what drugs you used, how many times, and whether or not you ever purchased or sold these drugs to others. Trust me, it is extremely unpleasant for the applicant when the oral interview process or polygraph examination unearths additional unreported drug use.

  8. On your driving history, provide the agency with a complete accounting of all driving infractions, arrests, and convictions – dating back to when you first got your driver’s license. It is not uncommon for the police investigators to discover more speeding tickets on the applicant’s record than has been reported. This is always embarrassing, yet avoidable if you’ve done your homework.

Attention Lateral Transfer Applicants

  1. The hiring agency expects a great deal of self-discipline and integrity from lateral hire applicants. Because you have been working as a law enforcement officer for several years now, you have a better understanding concerning the importance of honesty and integrity in all aspects of police work.

  2. Own up to any mistakes you have made as a law enforcement officer. Law enforcement agencies are fairly understanding when an applicant has made an honest mistake, and demonstrates a willingness to take responsibility for that mistake.

  3. Take time to thoroughly acquaint yourself with all aspects of your employment record. It looks bad and raises questions if a current police officer, when questioned, is unable to remember how many disciplinary actions he has received and/or the specific circumstances surrounding those corrective actions.

  4. Telling the oral board members that you “don’t remember” when asked for significant information related to your police career is unacceptable. As you well know, “not remembering” is one of the most frequently offered excuses that people use when attempting to be evasive or to stay out of trouble. Police officers are required to be detail-oriented and to demonstrate excellent recall for events – to do their jobs effectively.

  5. When asked to document your job-related experiences (on the written application or at the oral boards), be as thorough as possible. If interviewers or investigators discover significant omissions, it can be extremely embarrassing for the applicant and raises legitimate concerns regarding the officer’s integrity.

  6. When explaining your reasons for wanting to leave your current police agency and to begin your employment with a new one, be truthful, sincere, and compelling in describing your circumstances. If some personal or job-related trouble/conflict is contributing to your decision to leave your employer, do not try to hide or minimize this truth.

  7. Sometimes police officers leave jobs to escape impending disciplinary actions. Hiring agencies are very alert to this dynamic and are not interested in inheriting problem officers from other jurisdictions. So, remind yourself to be very patient and forthright when investigators choose to pursue this line of questioning and inquiry. If there is nothing to hide, there is no need to become defensive towards the hiring agency.

  8. You will be re-polygraphed by most police agencies before being offered a lateral hire position. So, if you have committed any illegal acts on or off-duty since being hired by your present employer, you may want to think twice before applying for another law enforcement position. It is possible that your criminal offenses could be communicated back to your present employer – causing you to face disciplinary actions (or worse) at your current job.

The Lie as a Symptom of Maladjustment in the Veteran Officer

Why would a police officer, years into a successful career, start lying at work and/or in his private life? An abrupt shift in a police officer’s behavior pattern can signal some major adjustment problems. The following is a partial list of reasons that law enforcement officers might find themselves lying to family, friends, and police agency personnel.

  1. The Extramarital Affair – Very few people set out intending to have an extra-marital relationship. But, as we all know, things happen. Police officers work long and irregular hours of day and night. Family relationships are stressed. Officers can start feeling lonely and isolated in their work. Instead of talking things out at home and finding solutions, some officers give in to temptation and become emotionally or physically involved with someone outside the marriage. Lies, cover-ups, and misrepresentations quickly follow. These relationships can be intoxicating and reality distorting! Otherwise honest people begin to lie about their whereabouts and activities.

    Solution – Seek help immediately, before it’s too late.

  2. The Cop with Something to Prove - Shaky self-confidence is something that many of us struggle with occasionally. It doesn’t usually become a problem unless the feelings of inadequacy are stronger and more enduring. Policing is tough business. It is demanding and highly competitive. Career blows and disappointments can result in veteran officers feeling pretty inadequate and unsuccessful. A string of minor disciplinary actions, an arrest that goes bad, and/or being passed over for an expected promotion can result in feelings of incompetence or failure. When officers don’t know how to cope with these feelings, all kinds of negative behaviors and acting out may ensue. These officers may sometimes start misrepresenting themselves by inflating their achievements and accomplishments, while verbally denying their shortcomings and failures. This kind of lying is compensatory in nature. The officer is attempting to inflate his sagging ego.

    Solution – Friends, family, and coworkers need to confront the officer’s behavior and to insist that he deal with the real issues and disappointments.

  3. The Bad Apple – In spite of very careful screening and hiring processes, sometimes selfish, immature, and immoral people slip through the cracks and get hired as police officers. In their pre-law enforcement years, these people had never been truly honest individuals. However, as patrolmen they learned to behave themselves on-duty because of strict operational guidelines and close supervision. The leopard cannot change his spots. So, it is only a matter of time before the “bad cop” is caught in his own web of lies, stealing, or illegal behavior.

    Solution – Catch him, document the misbehavior, and then fire him.


Phone: 804-353-6700
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Email: MacHart@PoliceInterview.com
Malcolm M. Hart, Ph.D.
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Richmond, VA. 23230

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