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Top cop says prior drug use should not preclude police career

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Past drug users OK to be police

The Police Union and Police Commissioner are united in their belief that people who used certain drugs in their youth should still be allowed to join the police service.

PT0M0S 620 349

People who admit to having experimented with drugs in their youth should be allowed to pursue policing careers, Queensland's new top cop says.

Police Commissioner Ian Stewart has been involved in discussions for months with the Police Union and the Crime and Misconduct Commission about reviewing the force's entry standards.

We don't believe that if someone tried a drug when they were 14 at a high school party and they've never used it again, that that should necessarily preclude them 

Mr Stewart said he was worried the current system used to screen potential recruits was encouraging them to lie about past drug use.

Currently, aspiring recruits are asked if they have ever used drugs in their lives. If they answer yes, they are immediately excluded.

Mr Stewart said the system encouraged applicants to lie, and that was incompatible with the police service's desire to attract honest people.

"We're actually setting people up for failure in that way," he told 612 ABC Brisbane.

More than 70 per cent of the population had admitted to using an illicit substance, and one third of people aged 14 or older had used cannabis, he said.

"We don't believe that if someone tried a drug when they were 14 at a high school party and they've never used it again, that that should necessarily preclude them," Mr Stewart said.

"We immediately wipe people in relation to hard drugs — there are other issues with that. But someone who's experimented with curiosity or through peer pressure many, many years ago and hasn't used it again — that's a societal norm, and our police service should reflect society."

Police Union president Ian Leavers agreed, saying the service must acknowledge that some people who experimented with drugs in their teens could still make good police officers.

"I'm not saying you should still get in, but your application should be considered," he said.

Mr Leavers cited one example where a high-ranking Australian soldier, with more than 20 years' service, was refused entry to the police force after he admitted to smoking marijuana as a teenager.

"Due to this admission he is now automatically precluded from joining the QPS. We should encourage honesty and integrity at all times and not want people to tell untruths," Mr Leavers said.

 - with AAP

46 comments

  • no - not good policy , the law is the law

    Commenter
    Bob Menzies
    Location
    Cannon Hill
    Date and time
    November 06, 2012, 9:52AM
    • What if cannabis had been legally used in a country such as the Netherlands? Is the concern with the legality or criminality of the act, or the specifics about drug experimentation? Should we ask if the applicant has ever punched anyone (e.g. on the school playground, or the football/netball court)? Perhaps we need to consider the circumstances of the act in question, which in my understanding is what we do in our legal system. I recognise the need to have very high standards of behaviour for police, however I'm not sure precluding people on the basis of marginal behaviour during their formative, learning years ensures the best people for the service.

      Commenter
      Craig Henderson
      Date and time
      November 06, 2012, 10:28AM
    • Thanks Craig - if it were made legal - then there is no arguement from me as I said the law is the law , but making it legal does that make it right , I understand its use affects the human brain function - am I wrong - I'd hate to come across a cop affected from previous drug use holding a gun at someone . All I ask its for everyone to be careful before a rash decision is made.

      Commenter
      Bob Menzies
      Location
      Cannon Hill
      Date and time
      November 06, 2012, 10:39AM
    • Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and first off my intentions are not to criticise your view or likewise anyone that shares the same view.

      Previous history with drug use and the like provides a valuable knowledge of why one takes up the decision to use, where to obtain such 'prohibited' substances and the effects of such and the potential of long term use and perhaps abuse. This history and experiences can be used when catching 'criminals' of using and distributing and sharing experiences and a success story of kicking the habits. It also allows officers to show compassion to people stuck in a rut.

      Furthermore, it gives people that are stuck in a rut of drug use a reason to give up and restore their lives (if affected by drugs). If we keep criminalising these people, give up and turn our back on them, then we are not serving our duty of care. Some people (as a last resort) turn to drugs for whatever reason and need a bit of courage from our part to assist in any way to help (if they need help). I think this is a capital idea, and will do well for the community.

      In no way am i encouraging drug use nor condemning it. Nor do I support current users that are current or prospective members of the Police Force.

      Commenter
      Burnz
      Location
      Sydney, NSW
      Date and time
      November 06, 2012, 10:50AM
    • "I understand its use affects the human brain function - am I wrong - I'd hate to come across a cop affected from previous drug use holding a gun at someone" - Spoken by someone that obviously has no idea what they're talking about... Good for you though, jumping on the 'No' straight away. You did see the bit about 'used in the past' - I doubt they're letting stoned police run around pointing guns at people. If you actually thought about it, it makes sense - who better to know the effects, or identify people on drugs than someone that has used them?

      Commenter
      HoHum
      Date and time
      November 06, 2012, 10:51AM
    • Bob, "the law is the law" until it is changed. It was the law that prevented indigenous people from voting, let alone participating in a host of other social activities.
      The police force should reflect the composition of society for inclusiveness, otherwise it is either an elite & exclusive agency unable to relate to the society it is deemed to serve or one with honest people tarnished by the Lance Armstrongs :)

      Commenter
      Slogans for Bogans
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      November 06, 2012, 10:52AM
    • This is a no brainer, tyrants have rigged the system.

      Commenter
      Big B
      Date and time
      November 06, 2012, 11:08AM
    • Ho Hum , thanks for the reply , but I respectfully disagree , I understand previous drug use can affect a person well after they have stopped using it , I'd still hate to have a Policeman/woman as a previous /reformed user holding a gun, I spose why do we have to have drug use in the first place , I know its been around a long time , in the 1920/30's they were called dope fiends etc , I'm old but I just cant see the benefits of its use - if there is a case for its use please tell me

      Commenter
      Bob Menzies
      Location
      Cannon Hill
      Date and time
      November 06, 2012, 11:10AM
    • Hey Bob, I completely agree that we need police capable of making rational, appropriate decisions in whatever circumstances they find themselves, and particularly when they are required to use force. I suspect that minor, experimental use of cannabis as a teenager is a poor predictor of police competence in a mature adult. My preferred model for assessing that capacity is a thoughtful training and evaluation program, along with in-service mentoring and continuous observation.

      The current absolutist policy is probably on balance losing many good police recruits, without many benefits in terms of preventing 'bad eggs' applying and getting through the system. I doubt many (if any) troublesome police behaviours could be linked to MINOR drug experimentation in their teens.

      Just to add, I've generally appreciated your previous commentary on a range of subjects - mostly considered and thoughtful (as opposed to reactionary and hidebound). Hence my replies to your discussion. Have a great day...

      Commenter
      Craig Henderson
      Date and time
      November 06, 2012, 11:19AM
    • Thanks Craig - being an old bloke - I realise I might have fixed views , but if the law canges on the subject then I have to accept it , I might not agree with it but I'll cerainly accept it , as I have always prided myself as a law abiding man , and the law is the law

      Commenter
      Bob Menzies
      Date and time
      November 06, 2012, 11:57AM

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