In 2002, Osvaldo Hernandez was convicted of possessing an unregistered pistol. The Army, struggling to meet its recruiting goals, granted him an enlistment waiver for the crime. Hernandez, 25, became a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan. He expects to be honorably discharged at the end of his 15-month combat tour this year and hopes to become a New York City police officer, says the New York Times. But the New York Police Department is among the broad mainstream of departments that say a felony conviction is an absolute bar to police work, no matter his exemplary military record, even in a combat zone.
Hernandez’ rejection underscores the inconsistencies in the standards for uniformed service in the country's many different police and military services, and the conundrums resulting from the varying rules. New York City has about 35,400 officers, nearly 2,500 below its authorized head count of 37,838. Chuck Wexler, who heads the Police Executive Research Forum, believees that few, if any, police departments in the U.S. would hire an officer with a felony conviction, particularly a recent one. “With the scrutiny that the public puts the police under, it is hard to ignore,” he said. Wexler said that for all the similarities, the jobs of urban police officers in a Western democracy and Army soldiers in Afghanistan are different. “If you're working in a war-torn environment, the level of concern, the level of threat, the level of security is very different,”” he said.