Bakersfield Police, California Highway Patrol scouring for qualified candidates

Drug use, honesty trip up some contenders

BAKERSFIELD - Law enforcement agencies throughout the state are having an increasingly difficult time finding qualified candidates. Recruiting and hiring qualified peace officer is a critical component in providing quality police services.

"The job of any police officer requires higher level of commitment and integrity," said Roberto Rodriguez, with the California Highway Patrol.

This has never been an easy task, but the task is becoming even more difficult in recent years due to the shortage of workers in the upcoming generation as well as to the strict standards law enforcement organizations have adopted for police officer candidates.

"We want a clean background, we are held to a higher standard," said Rodriguez.

The Bakersfield Police Department as well as the CHP get thousands of applicants wishing to become officers. Less than 2% of those actually become officers.

"That is our expectation of an applicant, and that's the communities expectation of a police officer," said Sgt. Joe Grubbs with the Bakersfield Police Department.

According to the Police Chief magazine, preemployment drug use is becoming one of the most troublesome areas for prospective police recruits.

"The use of marijuana may or may not be an issue, but when you lie about it, certainly becomes an issue," said Grubbs.

Grubbs says locally drug use is not at the top the list as far as candidates not making the cut.

"Probably the biggest issue is honesty. We find a candidate is not honest during the screening process and we will go out and perform the background check and learned they were being dishonest," said Grubbs.

Although there are many reasons for a candidate’s disqualification, most state background investigators agree that prior drug use is among the top reasons.

Now more than ever, agencies are being forced to take a hard look at the idea of modifying pre-hire drug use standards to ensure enough candidates to fill vacancies, according to Police Chief Magazine.

"We have to hire the best possible applicant for the job and we will not lower our standards," said Rodriguez.

Law enforcement agency say within the last decade finding qualified candidates to become police officers has changed.

"We can't lower our standards, because it goes back to, we are held to a higher standard," said Grubbs.

CHP is actively trying to find female candidates to fill positions within the department.

"It's important to get good qualified applicants, but right now we do have a lack in female applicants," said Rodriguez.

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