Top cop says prior drug use should not preclude police career
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