What's involved in vetting?

Police officer recruits are required to go through thorough vetting as part of their application process. 

As a police officer, you’re working in a position of trust. Police Vetting plays a key role in assessing an individual’s integrity and so has a strong link to public trust and confidence in policing. 

This includes disclosing the behaviour of your family and friends to ensure that you aren’t vulnerable to extortion or blackmail. The vetting process also measures you against the College of Policing's Code of Ethics, which considers a number of other factors. 

If you're in doubt about whether you need to disclose something or not, it’s best to include it. Your chosen force can then discuss with you whether it affects your application or not.

You’ll be asked to provide information on:

  • Yourself (personal information, financial information, police information, criminal history)
  • Your family (parents, parents’ partners, siblings, partner(s), children)
  • Co-residents
  • Associations that may cause a conflict of interest with your role or the police service

Police Vetting also includes:

  • Background checks -This is across all police information systems on you, your family and other associates
  • Credit reference checks - This is to make sure money problems don’t make you vulnerable to blackmail or corruption
  • Social Media and Open Source checks - These are checks on content about you that’s publicly available on the internet. This ensures there’s nothing linked to you that could undermine public trust and confidence in the police service.
  • Other government and overseas agency checks

National Security Vetting

You’ll also be required to complete a National Security Vetting application with the United Kingdom Security Vetting (UKSV). Your chosen Force Vetting Unit will sponsor your application and provide you with instructions when they process your Police Vetting application. 

Follow up questions

After you’ve submitted your vetting application, your chosen force’s Vetting Unit might contact you to clarify information you’ve provided or request additional information, which is completely normal. You must remain open and honest in your communication with them. You should let them know if it’s not a convenient time for you to speak openly, or if you need some time to obtain additional information.

Vetting checks can only ever provide a current snapshot in time, so the Police Vetting process is carried out close to your proposed join date. If your circumstances change at any point after you’ve submitted your vetting application, you have a personal responsibility to report this to your chosen force’s Vetting Unit as soon as possible. 

What are we looking for?

Here's a bit more detail on some factors that are considered during the vetting process.

Criminal convictions and cautions

All convictions, cautions (including any received as a juvenile), involvement in any criminal investigation and bind-overs imposed by a court must be declared. They don’t automatically mean you’ll be rejected from joining the police service. Each case is looked at on an individual basis. Factors taken into account include:

  • Your age at the time of the offence
  • How long ago the offence was committed
  • The nature of the offence 
  • Whether there are obvious patterns of repeat behaviour

There's more information on convictions which would result in vetting clearance being declined in the Mandatory rejections section below.

It’s important to be honest. Failure to disclose this information will result in your application being rejected.

Motoring offences

Convictions for minor motoring offences won’t necessarily be a barrier to joining the police service, unless you’re a persistent offender. Each case is considered individually. However, the following offences are most likely to result in vetting clearance being declined: 

  • Death by careless or dangerous driving
  • Recent or multiple dangerous or drink / drug driving offences

HM Forces offences

Convictions received whilst serving in HM Forces aren’t treated any differently from civilian convictions. All criminal offences convicted by a military tribunal are recorded on the Police National Computer so make sure you disclose them – again, honesty is the best policy.

Outstanding charges

If you have an outstanding charge or court summons that could result in a conviction, your application will be postponed until after the outcome of the case. Once that is known, your application will then be considered.

Family and friends

All cautions, investigations or convictions that could be linked to a family member or someone you know must be declared. This won’t automatically hinder your chances of becoming a police officer – each case is reviewed individually. Many factors are taken into account, including:

  • The nature of your relationship with the offender
  • The number and severity of offences
  • Could your role in the police be negatively affected?
  • Could it cause damage to the authority or reputation of the police service? 
  • Could your credibility be impacted?
  • Is there a risk of an information breach?

Common errors

Here are some of the most common errors made by applicants during the vetting process. Don’t let these simple mistakes ruin your chances of becoming a police officer.

  • Not providing a full address history
  • Not providing a full list of family members, including step family and half siblings
  • Not providing details of a partner or spouse 
  • Not declaring all previous interactions with the police. All police involvement is recorded on our systems, so if you fail to declare it, your honesty and integrity will come into question

Top tips

Here are our top tips to ensure your vetting application isn’t delayed unnecessarily. 

  • Be honest – declare all convictions, cautions and involvement in criminal investigations 
  • Make sure you provide maiden names, dates of birth and addresses for all the people listed on your vetting forms
  • Include details of any criminal associates
  • Can’t remember or provide specific details? Include a rationale detailing why
  • Check your credit history and make sure it's up to date before applying to the police. You can request your own free credit report – search 'free credit report' online for options
  • Make sure all County Court Judgements (CCJs) are satisfied
  • Got any payment plans in place? Provide up-to-date Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) documents to show you’re not defaulting on payments
  • Check your emails and your ‘junk/spam’ folder regularly. It’s an easy way to ensure you’re not missing any communications from the force vetting officers

Mandatory rejections

Your application will be automatically rejected if you have ever been convicted or cautioned for a range of serious offences or have previously been dismissed from the police service. These include: 

  • Any offence that has resulted in a prison sentence (including suspended or deferred) 
  • You are, or have been, a registered sex offender or are subject to a registration requirement in respect of any other conviction
  • You are currently on the Police Barred List

You'll also most likely be declined vetting clearance if any of the following apply to you: 

  • You've committed offences where vulnerable people were targeted
  • You've committed offences motivated by hate or discrimination
  • You've committed offences of domestic abuse
  • You have an outstanding County Court Judgement (CCJ)
  • If you've been declared bankrupt and your bankruptcy has not been discharged for three years
  • If your Debt Relief Order (DRO) has not yet been finalised for three years
  • If you don't meet the minimum UK residency period for your role immediately prior to your application

If you have concerns that your circumstances or past history might have a negative impact, contact your preferred force's Vetting Unit for advice before you start your application.

Should you declare?

Test your knowledge on what you need to declare with these common scenarios – the answers might surprise you.

A family member was convicted of a drug-related offence, but you weren't involved. Should you declare it?

Yes. You must declare any cautions, investigations or convictions that could be linked to you, a family member or someone you know.

You were caught up in a fight about 10 years ago and cautioned but never charged. Should you declare it?

Yes. It’s important to declare contact with the police, even if it seems insignificant. This shows you’re being open and honest.

You were investigated for shoplifting as a teenager but didn’t get prosecuted. Should you declare it?

Yes. We'd recommend you disclose even small incidents from your past - they won't automatically lead to you failing vetting.

You have a fixed penalty notice for speeding – but it’s only a traffic offence and the points are off your licence. Should you declare it?

Yes, it's better to declare this, even if you think it's insignificant or it happened a long time ago.

You were declared bankrupt in your twenties, but have repaid your debts and maintain good credit now. Should you declare it?

Yes. Financial issues may seem unrelated to being a good police officer, but debt problems can make officers more vulnerable to blackmail.

You were the victim of a serious crime a few years back. Should you declare it?

Yes. Declaring that you were a victim or even just a witness to a crime shows that you’re being completely open and honest.

Remember – if in doubt, declare it.

If you'd like any more information on this, or the slightly different vetting process that applies to police staff or police community support officers (PCSO), take a look at the College of Policing's vetting publication.

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