Police departments are relaxing age-old standards for accepting recruits, from lowering educational requirements to forgiving some prior drug use, to try to attract more people to their ranks, reports the AP. The changes are designed to deal with decreased interest in a job that offers low pay, rigorous physical demands, and the possibility of getting killed on duty all while under intense public scrutiny. There's also the question of how to encourage more minorities to become police officers. Though each state sets its own requirements for becoming an officer, prior drug use or past brushes with the law have generally been enough to bar someone from the job. Applicants may also face physical fitness standards, a background check, and a credit-history review.
The physical requirements have impeded the hiring of women, while background and credit checks and education standards have stood in the way of some minorities. Amid the push to diversify, departments are changing requirements that have been shown to disproportionately disqualify minority candidates. Police officials say they have also increased efforts to hire officers of color, including by targeting minority groups on social media. Meanwhile in Baltimore, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis is looking to change applicant rules regarding marijuana use, which is "the No. 1 disqualifier for police applicants." "I don't want to hire altar boys to be police officers, necessarily," he says. "I want people who have lived a life just like everybody else." (Read more police stories.)