Podcast EP 02 – Declarable associations and how they impact your application


Audio Version


In this episode of ‘Let’s talk police applications’ the main points of discussion are:

  1. What is a declarable association?
  2. Do you pose a risk?
  3. A risk assessment matrix
  4. A heart breaking case study
  5. What you should do next!


G’day everyone. Russell here from Prime Motion Training.

Welcome to this episode of Let’s Talk Police Applications. This is episode number two, and in this episode, I want to focus on the issue of declarable associations. Let’s jump straight into it.

What is a declarable association?

Okay, so what is a declarable association? Well, the second word association or associates is just simply someone that you have a relationship with. Now, that could be at any level. It could be a very close relationship, like a family member, or it could be a little further out like a friend or a work colleague, or even further out, again, someone maybe that you might cross paths with at the local sporting club or the gym that you go to, or something along those lines, where it’s not really a family member, it’s not really a friend, but it’s someone that you know or have some sort of association with.

Now, declarable would relate to any one of those levels, whether it’s a close personal relationship or it’s just someone that you know from the gym, where that person might be of interest to the police force. So, in other words, they may have some type of criminal history, they might be involved in criminal activity, or they may just be of questionable character. If you have an associate like that, regardless of what level that might be in the relationship, again, close, medium, or further away, or more distant relationship, if you’re aware of that person’s criminal history or their questionable character, that person would be declarable. So, in other words, the police force would want to know that you have some connection with that person.

Do you pose a risk?

Now, of course, the reason they would want to know that there’s some connection between you, as a police applicant, and someone who might be declarable as an associate is because they want to assess the risk that you might pose to the police organisation if they were to let you in, given your relationship with that declarable person. Now, there’s a couple of factors involved here that will help them conduct their risk assessment. So, if you picture a simple matrix, I’ll try and paint a mental picture for you if you’re listening to this, but if you want to sketch down this image, it will help you to understand the concept. I’ll also put an image on the page here, wherever it is that you’re listening to this podcast.

A risk assessment matrix

So, if you imagine just drawing across, like a plus symbol, so align straight down the page and then align across the page. At the top of the page, you would have the level of seriousness of that person or that declarable association, level of seriousness in terms of their potential criminal offending or their poor character. So, they would go to the top and we would label it serious. Down the bottom you would put less than serious, or low-level offending, or a low-level of questionable character. So, serious at the top and not so serious at the bottom. On the left-hand side would relate to you and your relationship with that person. So, on the left, we would have very close, so in other words, a close relationship with the person. And on the right-hand side, not a very close relationship. That might be someone that you cross pars at the gym and you say, “G’day,” to them. You know them by name, but you don’t really have a relationship with them.

So, a little bit of context there. So, a cross in the middle of the page. At the top, serious. At the bottom, not very serious. On the left, a close relationship. On the right, a not very close relationship. Now, this is essentially a form of risk assessment matrix. And so, what they would do is they would plot two elements, the seriousness of the questionable associate in terms of their character or their criminal offending. And if it was very serious, they would place a mark towards the top of that vertical line. And then, they would plot your relationship with that person. So, if you happen to be very close to someone who has a serious relationship, you would end up being on the left side, closer to the close relationship side. And that puts you, essentially, in the top left-hand corner.

If you were to now draw a box around your cross, you’d end up with four squares. Now, this might be challenging to follow if you’re just listening along and you’re not able to view an image or you’re not scribbling it down, but I hope you’re keeping up. Let me continue. We’ll persevere. So, if you had a serious character, questionable person and you were very close to them, that would put you in the top left-hand corner of the risk assessment matrix, which means that you’re likely to have problems with your application. If it was the opposite, they were a low-level offender or their character was questionable, but only because of some minor issues that may have happened some time ago, they would put them down the bottom. And if you didn’t have a close relationship with them, it would put you over to the right-hand side of that matrix. So in other words, you’d be in the bottom right corner of that matrix.

So, anywhere between the top left corner and the bottom right corner is where those two elements, I suppose, could cross over and end up landing. And it’s wherever that calculation, if you like, or assessment lands will determine your chances of that relationship affecting your police application. All right. Now, that was a fair bit of information. I may have lost you there. Hopefully, you’re keeping up. Let me explain it in layman’s terms now. If you’re associated with people with criminal history, it’s most certainly going to affect your application. If you know someone with a criminal history, but you have very little to do with them, if any, you’re going to need to be able to demonstrate that to the police force because they’ll be concerned about your relationship with them.

A heartbreaking case study

I think what might help here is if I share a case study with you from a member of mine from a long time ago now. This was more than 10 years ago, and I try to be a little bit general with this so I don’t identify anybody specific. But this person was quite young, 19 or 20 at the time, a really good applicant despite this person’s age. Yet, a sibling was married to someone in a criminal organisation. And despite the fact that there wasn’t regular contact with this person, because the applicant had a relationship with a sibling who was married to someone of high risk, that connection, even though it was through a third party and not a direct relationship with this person, that third-party connection was enough to have her application cancelled, despite the fact that she was a very good applicant.

Now, that was really heartbreaking because she was a really good applicant, quite young at the time, but an associate of her sibling meant that her application was cancelled, she wasn’t suitable. And of course, that was heartbreaking for her, really disappointing for everybody else in the group at the time. But you have to understand what the risk is. The risk is that because of the close relationship with her sibling, that could lead to information being passed on to this questionable person. Now, what sort of information? Well, we’re talking about things like police procedures, maybe legal advice about how to handle certain situations or what to say in certain situations, certain police tactics or strategies might be disclosed, sensitive information might be disclosed about addresses or witnesses, names, et cetera. And so, that connection created an unacceptable risk, because of some of those reasons, and that application was rejected.

Now, the good news story that comes almost 10 years later for this same person is that she went through the application process again, and whilst the associate had not really changed their stripes, the relationships that she had with her sister and this associate was very different now. She’d created a lot of distance and virtually no contact, and was able to demonstrate that that was the case for more than a decade. That was a pretty good commitment, I think, and resulted in now her actually graduating from the academy. She’s been through the application process, kicked goals through the academy and has now graduated. A 10-year cycle though, so one hell of a commitment. But that was a real example of where an associate, even though it was through a third party, affected her application and it was rejected initially. So, 10 years later, some good news.

What you should do next!

But back to you now. How does that impact on you? Well, obviously, what you need to do is conduct that assessment. You should do that risk assessment yourself. Draw up the little grid, and if you maybe numbered the vertical line from one to 20 and genuinely plotted where you think the seriousness of this associate that might come to mind for you would sit on that level or on that scale, then you would need to do an honest assessment of how close you are with that person. What is the relationship that you have with them? And plot that from left to right, left being very close and to the right being not very close at all. Now, not very close at all, again, crossing paths in the gym. You know their name, but you never see them anywhere else outside of the gym. And you would plot your relationship with them.

And have a look where it lands. Ideally, we want to be in the bottom right-hand corner in terms of your relationship with them and their risk level, but there might be times where they’re quite a serious risk to a police organisation, but your relationship is so low or so not close with them that the risk is very, very reduced. And it will fall on you to demonstrate that there’s no connection there. If you’re passing each other in the gym and you know them by name and that’s all, you never see them anywhere else, never have anything to do with them in any other context, then the chances of your application being negatively affected by that person is very, very slim. But it is an issue that applicants need to be very mindful of. And you might need to take action early if you have some relationships or associates that you think might be declarable and distance yourselves from those relationships as much as you can for as long as you can.

It’s really no good saying to the police force, “Oh, yeah. Look, he’s not a very nice person. I know he’s been doing this and I know he’s been doing that, but look, I haven’t seen him or talked to him for ages now.” They’re going to ask you, “Well, how long is ages?” “Oh, at least, gee, three weeks.” That’s not going to cut it. It’s going to have to be a lot longer than that. So, start taking some actions early to distance yourself from any associates that might cause issue for your police application.

All right, guys, so a little bit of a heavy topic. I hope the explanation didn’t leave you behind. But if you get a chance, have a look at the image that will be attached to this podcast show notes somewhere, wherever you’re listening to it from, and you’ll see the image there. But I think if you use that, you’ll put yourself in a good position to understand what actions you might need to take to avoid a declarable association impacting negatively on your chances of becoming a police officer.

All right, guys, I think we’ll wrap it up there. It’s good to chat with you again. Thanks for joining me for episode two.

I’ll talk to you again soon in episode number three.

Until then, keep your foot on the gas!


About the Author

Russell Kempster

Russell Kempster

Russ spent 12 years as a police officer with Victoria Police. The last four years of that time was spent at the Victoria Police Academy as an instructor, where he taught everything from fitness to firearms. He has trained police applicants, as well as recruits undergoing their initial training, experienced serving police officers and was even called on by Victoria Police to help train other would-be police academy instructors.

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