South Bay Police Applicants Flunk Background Checks

If you don't have honesty and truthfulness, "you really shouldn't be a police officer," chief says

Just as budgets are allowing for police departments to beef up their forces, some South Bay police agencies are dealing with a new challenge when it comes to finding good candidates. It comes down to the basics of integrity, and candidates are failing miserably, according to El Segundo Police Chief Mitch Tavera.

"We had over 600 people apply to be a police officer with our department," said Tavera. "We cut that down to 16 and out of that 16, none passed our background process."

Candidates are failing to pass the extensive background checks, which are required for any law enforcement agency. In many cases, candidates are lying or forgetting to mention minor infractions or drug use for fear of not getting the job, according to police. In actuality, not telling the truth is what is preventing them from advancing through the recruiting process.

"I would hope that before a candidate comes in and tests for the department,they actually speak to people in the industry about the core values of the police department," said Tavera. "One of them being honesty and truthfulness and if you don't have that, you really shouldn't be a police officer."

Torrance police are also dealing with similar recruiting challenges. Of the 400 applicants it receives approximately every four months, the department only ends up hiring three or four people, according to Sgt. Robert Watt.

"Credit history is an issue, maybe an arrest or two," he said. "We look at their DMV stats and we also look at whether there are inconsistencies or lying going on."

The Long Beach Police Department, which has also started its next recruiting process, hired only 50 out of the 3,070 who applied for officer positions for its academy class, expected to graduate at the end of this year.

"All law enforcement agencies are competing against each other," said Tavera. "There are things we will continue to have. You can't lower your standards because if you do, you'll get people who, when the time comes to make an ethical decision, they won't."

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