Can Police Officers be Colorblind? (In the United States)  

  • Time to read: 5 min.

Answer: Maybe, depending on the department.

In the article that follows, we’ll explain.

Can Police Officers be Colorblind? (In the United States)

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Introduction

Imagine this situation: you see a crime unfolding – a car is being stolen right in front of you and you call the police department to report it.

“What color is the car?”

“It’s green, no brown – no… it’s gray! It’s gray-brown.”

“What is the man wearing?”

“A red – no… a purple shirt! And jeans with a pink… no, a gray belt.”

Police officers need to be able to report quickly and clearly about what they see and who they identify, and this can be challenging if you have vision issues, like color blindness.

It does not mean that you are disqualified.

Depending on your level of colorblindness and the local requirements, it might still be possible for you to become a police officer, despite your colorblindness.

In this article, we’ll look at how to get a job as a police officer as a colorblind person.

The Different Kinds of Colorblindness

There isn’t a single “colorblindness” – in reality, colorblindness refers to an assortment of disabilities in seeing color.

Some of these disabilities, like achromatopsia, in which you see everything in grayscale, are significantly disabling when it comes to police work and could prevent you from knowing the information you need to know at the scene of a crime.

Other forms of colorblindness, like dichromatism, are relatively minor and don’t present many issues in everyday life.

If you’re not sure how colorblind you are, or how disabling it is, you should start by taking an online colorblindness test so you have some more information.

Understanding your limitations will help give you some perspective. Is this something that is going to hold you back from doing your job as a police officer effectively, or something pretty minor that just requires a box to be checked?

Research the Requirements

There are no nationally established guidelines for police officers and vision, so in the United States, it is up to each individual department to set the rules for colorblindness.

Traditionally, these rules have been pretty strict. However, they are open to interpretation and argument in some cases.

The New York State Police require that you be “free from colorblindness”, but the LAPD only needs you to be able to “quickly and accurately name colors”.

If your heart is set on joining your local police department, you should contact them and get their recruitment guidelines so you know exactly what the standards are for you to meet.

If there is a certain colorblindness test that you need to pass, you can familiarize yourself with it in advance to calm your nerves.

What you don’t want to do is cheat – even if you are able to. If you can’t pass the initial colorblindness test, you’ll be covering up your disability for the entirety of your career, including on important documents like police reports.

You could be required to testify in court about colors you see, and you don’t want to be put in a position where your colorblindness compromises police work or a case.

If you’re not dedicated to a single police department and you dream of being a cop anywhere, you travel a little but further to find a police department with more relaxed restrictions on colorblindness, or that administers a kind of test that you can easily pass.

Apply for the Job

If your colorblindness is minor or moderate, and you’ve found a police department with requirements that allow it, it’s time to apply for the position and take the test.

Do it honestly, and do your best, but don’t be hard on yourself. If you struggle with it, you might still pass.

In advance, do some research into whether color-correcting lenses might be helpful for you. Some police departments allow them as an aid.

Certain kinds of colorblindness benefit from the colored lenses, which make the other colors stand out and seem more obvious.

If these would be helpful, you can request them in advance. They might make the difference between passing and failing the test.

Consider Alternatives

If you do fail the vision test and your application is rejected, that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road.

You can still apply at another police department somewhere else, with different requirements. You might be able to access different resources, like color-correcting lenses, that you didn’t have before.

You might be able to find a department that administers a test that it is easier to pass. You might just get lucky and pass the test the second or third time you attempt it.

However, if you apply multiple time and you’re not able to pass the test, there are still other ways you can serve the police department. There are many different roles, not all of which require vision tests.

You might also consider a role in private security, or private investigation.

If you have the skill set required to be a police officer and something as small as colorblindness is holding you back, there is no reason for you to give up entirely.

Your skills are valuable and in-demand. You just need to find the right job for you.

Wrap Up

It’s possible to become a colorblind police officer, but it’s not easy since most departments have requirements that you pass a colorblindness test.

If your colorblindness isn’t severe, you can use aids like color-correcting lenses, and find police departments with requirements that you can pass.

If you have a severe disability seeing color, police work in the field might not be for you, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have vital skills to contribute.

Want to learn more about your criminal justice system?

Browse our free legal library guides for more information.

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