When applying for law enforcement jobs, a polygraph test may be required. This will depend upon the agency you are applying with and the job that you are applying for. Not all jobs and not all agencies require a polygraph test as part of the hiring process. If a polygraph will be required, often that will be listed on the job announcement.
Jobs with federal law enforcement agencies that require a top secret security clearance usually require a polygraph test as a part of the hiring process. Many state and local law enforcement positions also require a polygraph test. Applicants who elect not to participate in a required polygraph test will be removed from consideration as this was a part of the police officer requirements.
The purpose of the police polygraph questions is to verify the information that you have already provided. Another purpose is to find out information about you that you have not provided and may be concealing. One of the key factors the hiring agency wants to determine is if you are an honest person with integrity. In the academy you will learn about the law, physical tactics, offensive driving, as well as how to shoot a firearm. One of the things that an agency cannot teach new recruits is honesty and integrity. These are vital traits for anyone working in police department jobs. However, they must be traits which are already ingrained in anyone they hire and that is why agencies go to great lengths in determining which applicants have these attributes.
For all types of law enforcement, the agency is also trying to determine if the applicant can be trusted. When a law enforcement officer testifies in court about a case, or to a judge to obtain a warrant, there cannot be any doubt about the accuracy of the information being provided by the officer.
The polygraph test is usually reserved for those being considered for employment. Because of the cost involved with administering a polygraph test, it is often given towards the ends of the hiring process and only to those applicants who are part of the final group which are under consideration to be offered conditional offers of employment. Those who has passed the police written test, the oral board interview, the physical agility test, and are in the final stages of being considered for employment
The Police Polygraph Process
As part of the polygraph process you will be given a background polygraph questionnaire to fill out. You will be asked information about your personal history such as where you were born, where you have lived, and information about your relatives.
There will be questions about where you have worked, went to school, and if you were in the military you will be asked about your military record.
You will be asked about any past illegal activity that you have or have not been arrested for. You will be asked about any illegal sexual activity and questions about your financial history. The questionnaire will contain questions about your driving record, your alcohol use, your personal behavior. There will be a lot of questions about illegal drug use.
When filling out the polygraph questionnaire, it is vital to be honest, and that all of the information you provide match all of the information that you have already listed with your application, your application supplemental questionnaire, your background investigation packet, and anything else that you may have provided including responses to your police oral board questions. Any inconsistencies will be a red flag. All of the information that you provided in the polygraph questionnaire will be reviewed with you by the polygraph examiner prior to the actual test. You will be given an opportunity to explain and clarify any of the information you listed.
- Have you listed your correct name on your application?
- Have you ever used any other name for any purpose?
- Have you listed your correct date of birth and social security number on your application?
- Have you intentionally left out any place of prior residence?
- Have you provided a complete and accurate listing of prior education?
- Have you intentionally left out any part of your prior education?
- Have you intentionally left out any club society organization which you had ever been a member?
- Have you ever held a driver’s license in any other name?
- Have you ever held a driver’s license in any other state?
- Have you falsely listed any information relating to any special qualifications or skills on your application?
- Have you provided a false operator’s license as proof of identification?
- Have you ever visited or resided in any foreign country that you have not listed?
Negative Information from other Agencies
Agencies want to find out if you applied to any other law enforcement agencies where you were rejected because of a background investigation, polygraph, psychological assessment, or anything else which would reflect negatively about you.
- Have you applied with any other law enforcement agencies that you have not listed?
- Have you ever been rejected for any law enforcement position in the past?
- Have you undergone a background investigation with another agency?
- Have you been given a polygraph with another agency/
The agency wants to find out if you are going to be a good employee if you are hired. Your past employment history is a good indicator of how you will perform with that agency. Are you dependable, responsible, hard working. It is unlikely that you are going to change your work ethic with this new job, so finding about your past employment experience is important.
- Have you intentionally left out any part of your employment history?
- Have you ever been dismissed from any job you have held?
- Have you ever been asked to resign from any previous employment?
- Have you been asked to resign in lieu of being fired.
Someone who has a demonstrated history of making poor financial decisions may not be a good hire for an agency.
- Have you failed to list any current debts in your application?
- Have you withheld any information about your financial status?
People who have been engaged in certain criminal behavior may not be appropriate to be working in a law enforcement agency. Also, the agency wants to find out about all of your past criminal behavior, not just that for which you were caught.
- Have you ever been arrested for anything that you have not listed?
- Have you withheld any information regarding any current law enforcement investigation that you are a suspect?
- Have you ever committed any serious crimes you had not listed?
- Have you ever been a defendant in any domestic violence actions?
- Have you ever been involved in a hit and run accident?
- Have you ever committed a serious undetected crime?
- Have you ever falsified an insurance claim?
- Have you ever shoplifted anything?
- Have you ever stolen anything from a place where you have worked?
- Have you ever stolen any private property?
- Have you ever been a defendant in any administrative, civil, or criminal matter which you had not listed?
- Have you any close relationships with any friends or relatives who are currently involved in any illegal activity?
Illegal Drug Use
Depending upon the policy of the department, they may focus on a specific period of time for certain drug use such as within the past three years have you used marijuana, and if so how many times and when. They will also want to know about other types of drug use.
- List all illegal drugs that you have used and the date of use.
- Other than by prescription or over the counter medication, have you used any drugs during the last year.
- Have you ever sold or given illegal drugs to another person?
- Have you ever been involved in any illegal drug transaction?
- How often do you use alcohol and how much do you drink when you use alcohol?
- Have you ever been arrested for drunk driving?
- Have you withheld any information regarding your use of alcohol beverages?
Illegal or Deviant Sexual Behavior
Agencies want to determine if you currently are or have been engage in any illegal or deviant sexual behavior.
- How many times per week do you watch pornography on the internet?
- Have you ever viewed child pornography?
- Have you ever had any form of sexual contact with an animal?
- Have you ever had sex with someone who is unconscious or unable to give consent?
- Have you ever had sex in public?
- Have you ever had sex with someone who is underage?
- Have you ever forced another person to participate in sexual activity?
- Have you answered all questions during the process, truthfully?
- Have you deliberately falsified any information you have provided to this department?
When an applicant applies for a law enforcement jobs, the applicant will need to disclose if they have been given a polygraph exam when applying with another law enforcement agency. The hiring agency will want to find out the results of that polygraph with the prior agency. If the applicant failed the prior polygraph, this will have a bearing on their suitability for employment with the new hiring agency even if the hiring agency does not use or require a polygraph. The reason for this is that there is information about the applicant that has been ascertained by another agency and this information cannot be ignored.
How to prepare for the polygraph test
Because the polygraph is one of the most stressful experiences a person can go through, “false “positives” are not uncommon. There is so much riding on this test that it is not unusual for it to appear that an applicant is not telling the truth, when in fact they are.
Therefore, it is important for anyone who will be taking a polygraph test to prepare for it. Mastering the Polygraph is an online course developed by Sgt. Godoy which as in-dept tutorials that will help you relax during the test and avoid “false positives.” There is also a simulated polygraph session that will help you prepare for the actual test.
The police background check is usually performed on candidates being considered for employment and this would include all types of jobs from Crime Analyst to Police Officer. It is vital that all of the information provided relative to the background investigation match the information provided for the polygraph test. The purpose of the background investigation is to learn more about the applicant from all sources possible. While they may be some overlap between the polygraph test and the background investigation, they are separate processes.
The purpose of the police psychological test questions is to determine if an applicant is psychologically fit to perform the role of law enforcement officer. One common method for performing the assessment is to have the applicant answer a series of multiple choice questions to ascertain personality traits of the applicant. Similar questions are asked in a variety of different ways to help verify that the applicant is responding consistently.
Provided with the role of law enforcement officer comes authority and responsibility. Not every applicant can handle this with the level of professionalism required. The hiring agency must take every effort to filter out from the hiring process those applicants for which the role of peace officer is not an appropriate fit.