More should adopt Patrol's whole 'person approach'
In our opinion
On Dec. 3 the Washington State Patrol announced it was taking a new direction in the way it screened applicants for employment.
In the past, applicants might have been eliminated if it were found they had received a teenage drinking violation, smoked marijuana in the past three years or accidentally got caught using prescription drugs that were prescribed for someone else. Now, in order to have a larger pool of applicants for the 223 positions projected to become open over the next four years, the State Patrol is relaxing those disqualifiers in favor of what it calls a “whole person approach.”
In other words, if that minor in possession was a youthful indiscretion and you’re now a responsible adult, that pot use happened not three years ago but a year ago, and those prescription meds were taken because of an injury were designed to help someone else, you’re still in the running to become a trooper.
According to a news release, the WSP says it’s not lowering its standards. If you use other illegal substances such s cocaine or have any felony convictions for numerous more serious crimes, you’re not going to be considered.
And applicants will still be interviewed about the circumstances leading to their past incidents, and how they’ve grown and learned from their mistakes. And they may still be disqualified as the WSP reserves the final right of refusal, as it were.
We feel this approach is a good one as it allows potentially good applicants the chance to explain past incidents of being stupid or naïve, and gives the Patrol more opportunity to learn about the individual. In a way we’d say it’s about time, and that it’s too bad a potentially large number of open positions is what generated this new approach.
It would be a good idea if some private employers followed the patrol’s lead. We’ve had cases in the past where individuals have contacted us requesting their name be removed from local police reports because a prospective employer Googled the applicant and saw the report online, and thus eliminated them from the possibility of employment.
Police reports are a record of activity, not outcome, and some individuals have had their cases thrown out or were found innocent. Others committed a one-time offense, and have since and even prior to the offense been good citizens.
Eliminating potential employees because of past innocent indiscretions denies prospective employers and society of good, productive workers and in the case of the State Patrol, good public officers.
Some questions do arise with the new policy. For one, will this make the public more leery about the patrol, or lower our perceived level of integrity because the officer who responds to your call, or stops you, may have at one time committed an offense?
Second, how many good candidates have been denied positions in favor of others whose integrity is questionable but are troopers simply because they have no past indiscretions?
Whatever the answers are to those questions, the State Patrol has at least taken a step in the right direction by acknowledging that nobody’s perfect, and that good people sometimes make bad decisions.