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Paul Clinton

Paul Clinton

As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.



William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.
Careers

Credit History and Job Applications

Your credit past can haunt you if you don't take action to correct it.

May 26, 2009  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

Recently, a reader asked about his credit history and its impact in the law enforcement application process. In this country, we call it a credit history or credit score. I tend to refer to it as your credit reputation.

Notice I said reputation, and that is what prospective employers are reading into your credit history. This is your reputation or track record of personal financial responsibility.

Employers and Credit

I know some of you are thinking that you need this job to get your financial ship sailing again. But, hold on a minute and think like a law enforcement employer. Granted, we are living in stressful economic times, but this is a predictor of integrity.

Now I am not saying that if you have excessive indebtedness that this will make you a risk. It is your being in that situation that can set you up for a fall, which may in turn compromise the integrity of the agency. There have been historical cases of young officers who got behind in debt or were living beyond their means, making them prime picking for bribes and pay-offs. You get a nice envelope of cash to look the other way or fail to perform your sworn duties and think, Who knows any different? Sooner or later, you will get caught up in an investigation. Cops on the take ruin our reputation nationwide. Their departments' creditability with their citizens is also compromised.

Bottom line here is that you are being protected without even knowing it. If your credit reputation is cloudy, the rejection of your application should be a warning to get this straight. Yes, I know we are in perilous economic times and this does not seem to be fair to you now. But trust me on this: It is better to deal with it, straighten it out, and then get a job rather than to be indicted for corruption.

Do not call me up and ask me to explain the levels of credit scores that agencies accept. These numbers are determined via a mathematical algorithm to create a numerical value that lenders and credit institutions utilize, not law enforcement agencies. What most agencies look for are the number of accounts that you exhibited your credit worthiness and repaying your obligations. Write-offs and failure to pay in a timely manner show potential employers you may lack financial responsibility.

Each agency is different. If you think you possess a credit history that will raise a yellow or red flag, ask first. Inquire what their requirements are; if yours is questionable then do not apply yet. The last thing you want to do is get a rejection because of your credit history, for many do not favor second applications.

Do Some Homework

If you are not sure what your credit reputation is, check it out! Today with the many reporting systems available, you should do it for your own safety, if nothing else. There could be errors that you can challenge. You could be the victim of identity theft. If you have been in a failed relationship, the other party may have opened joint accounts without your knowledge, therefore lowering your scores.

It is your protection here that it is important. There are several different reporting bureaus and avenues for you to check and monitor your scores. Take time and do it; it is your reputation on the line.

Train for You, Train for your Future

Tags: Job Applications, Off-Duty Life


Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

jbaumgras @ 6/2/2009 12:02 PM

Chief Harvey has given excellent information and advice. When I was going to college back in 1991 I applied to several agencies in Southern California. I was rejected because of poor credit. It took a few years but I cleaned up my act and my reputation. Now I'm on the job and loving it.

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