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Question
Hello sir, I am a 23 year old female, I've had a very good job as a correctional officer for almost 4 years I did not have a single disciplinary, and I was a very good officer, I had to be... I'm a single mother of a little boy, I became pregnant with him in highschool. But in March 2012 I decided I wanted to go to cosmetology school (regret this decision) and I quit my job as a correctional officer because of the conflicting schedules. I am currently applying for a position as a police officer trainee, and am hoping to be considered. Only as soon as I have hope for something I remember a terrible decision I made about 6 or 7 months ago, I tried weed for the first and ONLY time one night (the stupidest thing I've ever done)  while spending time with people I considered friends for a short period of time (their partying behavior was too much for me as I don't spend that many nights out away from my son). My question is if I have NEVER been arrested, or have never had any type of criminal record wam I automatically disqualified from this great opportunity in this career? I've always loved the criminal justice field, but now I feel quite stupid for the dumb choice I made, and I can only hope I haven't ruined my chances for supporting my son by working in such an amazing job as law enforcement. Thank you so much for your time.

Answer
Hi Ashley,

No relax you will be fine. Everyone makes mistakes and you just happen to have done your recently. Most agencies like to have at least 1 year between your last use and the time you apply for the department. Of course this varies from department to department so it could be longer. Check with the agency your thinking of applying to to find out their specific limits.

You haven't ruined your chances. Have you ever thought of living in Florida? I know the agencies here like certified correctional officers as applicants. And many agencies would look very seriously at you. But Texas is a great state also and you probably have family and friends there.

Relax and while you are waiting for the time you need to pass and apply, maybe look at a few classes in college? Many agencies pay extra for degrees and will also pay for your tuition or at least help a lot in paying for it. You would be VERY marketable if you got a 2 year degree in Criminal Justice, and then applied since the time required would have passed and you are showing them you realized your mistake and used your time away very productively and went and got some college or a degree while you were waiting. That would be a huge plus in your favor. You have to remember you are competing against others for the job and the agencies look at who is most qualified. many are coming out of college these days with degrees and applying. Getting a degree would place you on a even playing field with the others that have them. And it shows maturity and understanding about your mistake. You can actually turn it into a selling point.

If you cannot afford college there are programs at most colleges for single parents to get grants to go to college, and student aid will also help.

Hope these ideas help ease your mind, you will be fine, let a little time pass (at least 1 year if not more) between your mistake day and when you apply. When in doubt check with the specific department you are applying to before you do.  

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Chris Wagoner

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I have been a police officer for 30+ years! I am the Police Academy Commander at the Santa Fe College, Institute of Public Safety in Gainesville Florida It is a full service Law Enforcement and Corrections training facility. I can answer most questions concerning law enforcement procedures, law enforcement training and general questions about law enforcment. I can also answer questions about becoming a law enfocement officer. I have a booklet and web page I have written that answers many questions about how to become a police officer called "So you want to be a cop (police Officer) in Florida?", which is free, Google it.. All you have to do is ask. I teach the following subjects: RADAR/LASER, Law Enforcement Driving, Law Enforcement Firearms and Patrol Techniques, Officer Safety, WMD's for Patrol Officers, Application of Law, Communications skills, Dealing with the Mentally and physically handicapped, and many more subjects. I have worked as a subject matter expert for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and helped to write the police curriculum for the State of Florida. I like answering questions about how to become a police officer, and questions about why did an officer do this or that type questions. I also like answering any questions you may have about police work in general. I do not mind helping with homework questions or trying to answer your questions about legal subjects that I have knowledge of. You will never know the answer until you ask! If you do ask a question, PLEASE take the time to at least rate the answer. I do not get paid to answer these questions and do it on my own time. If you ask, please rate it when I answer. Thanks!!! If its a question about becoming a police officer, it may be answered here: http://sites.google.com/site/flaleohelp/ My "hobby" website - http://www.youtube.com/user/3rdID8487 Military Videos on YouTube and Facebook!!

Experience

I am a 30+ year veteran police officer, I am currently the Police Academy Commander of an Academy in North FLorida. I have been training police officers since 1993 and have trained them in all aspects of law enforcement, including firearms, Driving and legal subjects including patrol techniques and others and training all over the world. I have trained over 5000 officers worldwide in the last 16 years of training.

Publications
I am a published author in Accident Investigation from the University of North Florida, Institute of Police Technology and Management. Also have written and published on the Internet, "So You Want to be a Cop (Police Officer) in Florida?" you can Google it..

Education/Credentials
I have 2 degrees, in Criminal Justice.

Awards and Honors
Phi Theta Kappa, plus 50+ Departmental Awards over the years. FBI Directors award for assisting in a Nationwide investigation into Child pornography.

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