Mastering Criminology

I was working in our Administrative Division, where part of my responsibilities included recruiting for vacant positions. During one recruitment, I had a candidate that was a bit older than the rest, in his early 40s. He had previously been a police officer at an out of state university, so we were excited to see him in person and looked forward to hiring him as a new police officer. When he arrived in person, he was dressed appropriately in a suit and presented himself professionally.

We started in on the interview questions, which he answered with aplomb. His answers rang honest and knowledgeable and he was even able to answer specific questions about our university, itself. He had clearly done his homework. It seemed to me that everyone on the interview panel was as impressed as I was. Finally, at that time, HR allowed me to ask one question that was specific to the candidate’s resume.

Our candidate looked more like a truck driver or maintenance man than your run of the mill police officer, a very blue collar, down to earth type. And yet, there on his resume was a Masters Degree in Criminology. I don’t have a Masters Degree, so I was impressed and I asked him, “Please, tell me about your journey to obtain a Masters Degree.” And we all settled in for the heartwarming story of overcoming adversity, how he was supported by his family, and how he reached goals that he had believed were out of his reach.

What we got was, “Well, my church operates its own university. Because we are a Theocracy, we are not required to abide by the California Education Code. And, since I am on the Board of Trustees for the university, based on my training and experience, I bestowed upon myself, a Masters Degree in Criminology.”

I could hear the other panel members mentally scratching his name off their list. We completed the interview process and thanked him for his time. During this recruitment, candidates would get a background packet at the end of the interview, so in case they were chosen to go forward, they would have a head start on completing the thirty-page personal history statement. HR required that everyone get one, in order that we were not singling anyone out.

So as I walked him out, I handed him the packet and explained what it was for. He looked at the packet for a moment and said, “Sergeant, I just want to give you a heads up, before you start my background investigation. Just something that will probably pop up, but…My church also has its own court system and it awarded me custody of my kids following my divorce. But the Los Angeles County Superior Court awarded custody to my ex-wife, so there was a little dispute there.”

In that moment, I tried to figure out how to convince the interview panel to send him forward, so that I could do his background investigation.

No such luck.