Medical Screening of Police Applicants

Scenario 1
A police officer has poorly controlled diabetes and receives insulin shots. One day, while on duty, that officer suffers from low blood sugar. As a result, the officer becomes mentally impaired and fires the handgun inappropriately, resulting in the wounding of a bystander. The police agency is sued, and the cost of the out-of-court settlement is over $1 million.

Scenario 2
A law enforcement agency refuses to hire applicants with insulin-dependent diabetes because incidents caused by low blood sugar can never be completely avoided. The agency is sued, and the plaintiff’s counsel argues that this is a “blanket exclusion.” The cost of the out-of-court settlement is over a $1 million.

While these two scenarios are fictional, similar occurrences have impacted several law enforcement agencies in recent years. This article will review methods and best practices from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) Guidance for the Medical Evaluation of Law Enforcement Officers to ensure that medically qualified officers are hired while complying with anti-discrimination laws.