The Maryland panel that sets minimum standards for police recruits may ease the rules on prior drug use to attract more applicants to short-staffed departments, says the Baltimore Sun. Backers of the change say it would allow police agencies to consider applicants who might have experimented with drugs earlier in their lives but are now clean. Some law enforcement officials contend that any loosening of the guidelines would send the wrong message about the acceptability of drug use. They say previous drug use would hurt an officer’s credibility in court and raise doubts about a recruit’s judgment.
The proposal would permit applicants who had smoked marijuana as recently as three years ago, compared with the current standard of at least seven years ago. It would also permit recruits to have used cocaine up to five times – though not in the previous three years – up from the current limit of three uses, the most recent at least two years ago. The proposed guidelines are part of a trend nationally, said Andrew Morabito of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “It wasn’t unusual in the early 1990s for an agency to say, ‘If you had any drug use whatsoever we’re not going to hire you,’ ” Morabito said. “Now you’d be hard-pressed to find an agency that has a similar policy.”