Tattoos, drug use, education requirements loosened for HCSO hiring

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The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office believes it may be missing out on good talent because of longstanding employment requirements that might be outdated.

With more than 300 open positions and a fairly short list of candidates, HCSO decided to give more people a chance at joining the force by loosening or getting rid of some of its previous standards.

After serving in the Marines for five years, 24-year-old deputy in training Cody Gibbs knows his heart is in law enforcement.

"The sense of duty [and] brotherhood… The relationships that you build, the bonds that you build with people that you work with through struggle and strife,” Gibbs described of what drew him to the military and to a job with the sheriff’s office.

He doesn't have a college education but recent changes in hiring requirements are giving him a chance to show his worth.

“We're going to teach them and give them the skills and tools that they need to do their job,” HCSO’s Donna Lusczynski.

So in an age where law enforcement agencies are seeing significant drops in applicants the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is taking a closer look at people who before would have been rejected right off the bat.

Education, drug use, and tattoo requirements aren't as strict as they were before.

Now, applicants only need a high school education and either three years of active military experience or three years with the same employer.

Candidates who have not done drugs within the past three years or marijuana within the past two years may get to the next round. And as long as tattoos aren't too visible and can be easily covered, they shouldn't be a problem.

Even with more relaxed requirements, officials say their standards are still high.

“It's about quality, not quantity. This, again, just lets us look at a bigger pool of people. If they don't meet our other requirements and they don't meet the standards as they go through the process, we're not going to hire them,” Lusczynski said.

Those who made the cut because of these changes now have a future with one of Florida’s largest law enforcement agencies.

“I think everybody has different life experiences, different knowledge that they've gained throughout their lives, so everybody has something to bring to the table,” Lusczynski said.

Many of the changes are already in place at other Bay Area departments. Now the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office can compete when it comes to recruiting.

Right now, HCSO has 185 open deputy positions and 134 detention deputy positions that are waiting for the right candidates to scoop them up.