Police Test Blog

All the latest exclusive featured content to help you
study and pass the police officer exam!

What will prevent you from becoming a police officer?

March 23rd, 2023 what prevents you from becoming a police officer

Knowing what will get you disqualified.

Not everyone can become a police officer.

That’s because working in law enforcement carries enormous responsibility – both to you, your colleagues, and the department and population to whom you serve. It’s therefore incumbent upon police departments to ensure that the applicants they select appeal to the highest personal, professional, and ethnical standards.

What will prevent you from becoming a police officer, then?

Applicants with a history of poor or reckless life choices are certain to draw attention to any hiring panel. Of course, this varies from agency to agency. Not all police agencies have the same hiring criteria. Some are stricter on some aspects of the candidates’ application than others. Though almost all agencies have a strict criterion when it comes to applicants who have committed a federal crime, for example. This tends to be a red line.

Even if you have studied and passed the police officer exam, and aced the physical abilities test, you may still be disqualified from joining law enforcement on subsequent grounds. This can happen at any stage further down the hiring process – whether it’s during the background check, the psychological examination, or during the oral board interview. Your disqualification may even come about from a combination of factors that emerge during each stage of the hiring process.

Your application must be clean, professional, and demonstrate a history of personal and professional conduct befitting of the trust and responsibility needed to operate as an honorable member of law enforcement.

Grounds for Disqualification to Law Enforcement

You may be disqualified from becoming a police officer on one or more of the following grounds:

  • You have been convicted of a felony.
  • You entered the United States through illegal means.
  • You are a fugitive from justice – fled a state to avoid prosecution, or someone who has avoided giving testimony to criminal proceedings.
  • You are currently on parole or probation.
  • You have been admitted to a mental health facility, or you have been declared insane or mentally incompetent.
  • You were dishonorably discharged from the US Armed Forces.
  • You have an addiction / substance abuse problem – drugs / alcohol etc.
  • You have been convicted of domestic abuse or stalking, or you have a restraining order or protection from abuse order.
  • You are unable to obtain a permit to carry a firearm, due to some past or present behavior.

Remember, each state has their own grounds for inadmissibility to their police department agencies. Here is San Diego police department’s disqualifiers, to take just one example.

Applicants should consult the relevant authority regarding the agency they wish to join, confirming the grounds on which they may be disqualified.

Social Media

You may also be disqualified from becoming a police officer based on past or present social media use.

In today’s world, social media plays a very large role. It gives hiring panels the opportunity to explore your past – as well as your beliefs, convictions, and how you have interacted with others. It may also expose some comment or “Like” that you made to an inappropriate post. All details can be harvested by law enforcement agencies to establish whether your character aligns with the ethos of the agency you hope to join.

Not only comments and “Likes”, but also photographs too.

There have been many cases where applicants were disqualified from becoming a police officer based on social media photos. These images could include reckless behavior – such as the consequences from drinking excessively or through drug use and/or admission of drug use. They may also include evidence of racism and hatred or discrimination towards minorities.

In other words, your virtual presence must excel as well as your written application. Both must be free from wrongdoing, presenting you as an upstanding member of society.

Other Grounds for Disqualification

What will prevent you from becoming a police officer is a history of character misjudgements – a history that you cannot be relied upon, or someone who has demonstrated that they are not responsible.

Therefore, your application to join law enforcement will also be colored by the following factors – all of which will be gleaned from your background check:

  • Credit history – do you have a poor credit history?
  • Employment – do you have difficulty holding down jobs?
  • Presentation – some departments forbid facial / neck tattoos etc.
  • Driving record – do you have a history of reckless driving?
  • Application inconsistencies – were you untruthful during your application?

Remember – it’s possible that your criminal record may be clear but that additional factors, such as those listed above, cumulate to the point where the hiring panel determines that you are unsuited to become an officer in their department.

Sometimes a lot of small, bad details add up – to the point where this raises a clear red flag to the hiring panel.

Final Thoughts

What will prevent you from becoming a police officer is multifaceted.

On one level, disqualification can stem from a criminal record, such as having been convicted of a felony. In other cases, it’s not so clear cut and may be determined from a number of factors considered together.

Your application to become a police officer is more than just studying and passing the police officer exam. It’s about the complete package. It’s about whether the applicant has the character, judgement, and responsibility to act as an upstanding member of law enforcement.

That means having a clean record. Given that competition for places within the police academy is currently high, only the very best applicants make it through.

To secure your place, you must demonstrate to the hiring panel that you can always act professionally – both on duty and off duty.

Do this, and you will have no reason to fear disqualification from the hiring process.

Found this helpful? Study and pass the police exam with our self-paced online course – the leading test prep product with exclusive features that guarantees your exam success.


Join our newsletter for
all the latest Police test news

    Did you know?

    There are over 400,000 correctional officers employed in the
    United States!

    Taking the ASVAB Exam!?

    Learn how you can pass the ASVAB and enlist in the military

    ASVAB Test Prep