Law Enforcement: Dallas Police to Accept Recruits With Past Drug Use

Past drug use is no longer a bar to employment with the Dallas Police Department -- as long as the applicant was under 21 at the time, it was more than 10 years ago, it was one time only and it didn't include shooting up. That was the policy approved by the Dallas City Council Public Safety Committee Monday in a last-minute compromise after council members balked at the department's slightly more liberal original proposal.

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Jack Evans Police Headquarters, Dallas
Under current Dallas police hiring policy, any drug use except for limited instances of marijuana smoking barred applicants from the force. The only exception was if the hard drug use took place before the age of 15. Last fall, the department quietly proposed allowing past hard drug use if it was fewer than four times, at least 10 years ago, and the applicant was under 21, but when the city council found out, it threatened to kill the proposal.

That's what it looked like was going to happen Monday. Although police officials including Deputy Chief Floyd Simpson and Chief David Kunkle told committee members they supported relaxing the hiring ban, council members were inclined to kill it.

"I'm dead set against any change in our policy on drugs, and I think that would not exactly be a morale boost to our present police officers," said council member Mitchell Rasansky during the debate.

Other council members wondered about sending mixed messages to children. "We can't say that on one hand, but on the other side allow some type of relaxed policy," Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway said.

But council member Ron Natinsky, who opposed the initial proposal, suggested the compromise of allowing only one instance of past drug use instead of four. That motion picked up a second from council member David Neumann.

"We have to be reasonable role models to our families, to our friends and to our citizens," Neumann said. "And part of that is being benevolent in understanding that we make mistakes."

The measure then quickly passed on a 4-2 vote. Dallas now joins several other large police departments and the FBI in no longer insisting on a life-long history of drug abstinence in its new recruits.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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