Colorblind Policeman

When reading through Police Officer – Does Color Blindness Matter?, you could think that it is impossible to be a policeman when you are suffering from a color vision deficiency. But I was contacted by K., who told me a different story.

My life long dream has always been to work in law enforcement and about a year ago my life long dream was shot down when I found out that I was colorblind and couldn’t pass a color test. After doing some research on the net I found and gave them a call. At first I spoke with one of their technicians who was able to give me a lot who was very helpful, I started to get very excited.

Could it really be possible to correct his color vision in a way to pass the required color blindness test? After a 20min phone call with the eye specialist he got really excited, because it looked like that there is a chance to get his dream job police officer.

About 2 months later I traveled to Baltimore. They got me the prefect lens for me to pass the color test. I had never worn contact lenses before, as my regular vision is perfect. Several weeks later I retook the color test, passed and was on my way in to law enforcement. My dream come true!

This story really sounds like a dream. But is it allowed to wear corrective contacts for a color vision test?

Before I went in for the test I put the contact lenses in my eyes. “Didn’t ask, Didn’t tell,” and I dont recall every seeing anything that said I couldn’t wear glasses or contacts for the test.

K. is now an unofficial colorblind police officer. I asked him a few more question which I would like to recapitulate in the following interesting points:

  • He can distinguish colors, but couldn’t pass the Ishihara test,
  • he is not wearing the color corrective contacts on his daily job,
  • and he doesn’t feel like his color blindness affects his job in any way.

Should law enforcement recruitment centers reconsider their viewpoint on colorblind police officers? Should everybody try to cheat on color blindness tests in a recruitment process? Or should you be upright and accept, that color blindness is most often a killer criterion to be a policeman?

15 responses on “Colorblind Policeman

  1. Mike Matthews

    I think the strict criteria on colour blindness tests in these professions are there for the safety and benefit of both the professionals and the public.

    The advancements in lenses that help the colour blind distinguish between colours is great news for all of us and the mind boggles at what the future might hold. However, I strongly feel that anyone using a visual aid to pass a colour test in these kind of scenarios owe it to themselves, their colleagues and the public to continue using the aid daily in their careers. Ideally the use of such an aid should also be made known to their employers.

    The fact that he doesn’t feel his blindness doesn’t (or rather hasn’t so far) affect his job in anyway is fine until the day that it does.

    Then there’s also the question of the morality of any employee (especially so in public service) who hides anything from his employer to advance in their career.

  2. Gerald

    I share Mike’s apprehensions too.

    Not so much as to the fact that colour-blindness might affect his job — indeed I’m sure there are not too many situations where it should affect it and if known about those few could be avoided — but the fact that he could be use deceipt to obtain the job. Is such a person one who OUGHT to be a policeman. His colour-blindness is [excuse pun] a red herring.

  3. Boomer

    Deception??? I don’t think this is an issue of black and white, right & wrong but shades of gray. These color blindness tests prove nothing. There is no correlation of CB tests and real world performance as a police officer.

    I would rather have an eager police officer who is color blind than what I see everyday here in CA; A large amount of overweight slugs and women. I have nothing against either of these 2 groups but I would rather have the police protecting me be able to run the suspect down and arrest him (over weight people are not athletic and women are lacking on physical strength)

    Bottom line is that this individual attained his dream through ingenuity and science despite his genetic short comings.

    And DON’T even try and bring the morality card into this discussion, so please get off your high horse.

    These rules for becoming police officer need to change to and there needs to be a better test that is more life like. For example, identifying people and vehicles because that is what he will be doing.

  4. John

    Well i have just recently finished a BA in Criminology and a MA in Gender and Sexuality (from a criminological perspective) and am trying to find out how bad my colour-blindness is.

    I feel that there are certain duties that a Policeman will have to perform that will be affected by being colour-blind. For example joining a chase with a ‘dark blue’ car or trying to find a suspect who is wearing a ‘maroon’ jumper.

    Its all relative but at the same time a right pain in the neck for someon who has spent 4 years at university studying a topic that is of most use in the police force.

  5. Josh

    Boomers opinion is “right on”. I was turned down for many jobs in the army(airborne rangers) yesterday because I could not pass a color blind test. I was willing to sign a waiver, but the “rules were rules”. I have hunted for about three years now. Even in the middle of the woods, I have no problem seeing a deer(even with little movement). I can not explain how devastated I am right now because of a stupid color blind test. This genetic disorder has never stopped me from being the captain of my football team(wide reciever). On a dark night, I never had a problem catching a football. I just don’t see what this test proves. Yeah, if I am ever in a “where’s Waldo” competition, I might not be your guy. I would give anything to pass that test. What is the price range for those contacts?

  6. Andrew

    I am an MP in the Army. I have been a police officer now for 5 years, and I am colorblind. I got a waiver (I did not cheat). My color blindness does not affect my job at all! I can still see all the colors. Those color tests are stupid! Law Enforcement recruitment centers should definately reconsider thier views on colorblind police officers. Also, If I had to cheat (on a dumb test that doesn’t matter) to get my dream job, then I would.

  7. Art

    I definitely believe law enforcement should reconsider hiring color blind individuals. Firstly, according to statistics, 1 out of every 10 males are color blind. Secondly, most people who are not color blind don’t fully understand what being partially color blind really is, it’s not that we only see black and white it’s simply that during certain wave lengths of colors we will not be able to determine the difference depending on the severity. For example, sometimes certain shades of similar looking colors seem the same to me.
    In fact, I’ve found a few sources that state that being color blind is better for snipers and essentially not being fooled by camouflage as much as non color-blind individuals are. Furthermore, there is also an article where a police chief stated that he had hired several color blind officers and had not came across any problems with them performing their duties.
    I even spoke to an ophthalmologist and he like 1 out of every 10 males was red-green color blind. He said he didn’t believe it should be a significant factor in determining eligibility to become a police officer and found it ridiculous.
    People like me who are red-green color blind can see a WIDE range of colors (including maroon), it is the case that we can CLEARLY tell the difference between a red and green light just as you can. However, I would fail if I were a shooter on a helicopter and was told; “Shoot those individuals forming the number 7… like in the ishihara test” We don’t see only black and white.
    Although we cannot see all wavelengths due to our receptors, I don’t believe it should hold such a drastic significance on the decision to hire or not (based on severity of color blindness).
    Perhaps some form of previewing glasses should be invented to show individuals what they could see if they’re color blind and then ask them, “Based on your color vision, do you believe that you should be disqualified from this law enforcement position?” I bet the majority would disagree, not because they want the job, but simply because they could clearly still see a wide range of colors.

  8. Kevin

    I would first say to Mike Matthews response, I strongly disagree with your opinion. I have been a police officer for 15 years and I am red-green color blind. I know that I am color blind and I know what my limitations are. If I need to look for a brown vehicle, well I know that it might look green to me. It’s not that big of a deal. Thank you for your concern that it might affect his job, but I would be a bit more concerned about other people who are Police Officers that have no business being one.

    Art being ceritified with a percision riffle I enjoyed your response “Shoot those individuals forming the number 7… like in the ishihara test”

  9. Boone

    I just found out yesterday that I was red-green color blind. It is the first time I have ever heard anything about this and I think it is completely ridiculous. I was in my second phase of recruiting having my medical exam and everything was great except this Ishihara test they gave me. The examiner said it was no big deal, but I should have a second test run by doctor to confirm results. I really hope this doesn’t disqualify me from getting this job. Thoughts are greatly appreciated….

  10. andrew

    I have just been Disqualified from LAPD as a result of not being able to pass the Ishihara test for color blindness. I’m hoping that somehow i can appeal the results and be given another chance as I have been in the process for 9 months. I’m gonna get my hands on a pair of correcting contacts or just memorize the test. That test is ridiculous and will not stop me from what I want as my career.

  11. Joseph

    I have been an LEO in Flroida now for approximately 2 years. I CANNOT pass the Isihara Plate test for color vision. I am now attempting to get on with the Florida Highway Patrol and they do the plate test. I am afraid of being disqualified for not being able to pass the test. My department only checked if I could distinguish colors. I believe this test is completely innacurate and should not be used. I have been in shoot or no shoot situations and have never had my color vision affect me.

  12. Stephe

    I just did the color blindness test. The admin. had a look at the results, it said “mild deutan?”( I am partially colorblind)… she made her copy and filed it. I guess they just carry out the test for the sake of procedure.

    But in the same respect, some people do get turned down on those basis. Even if that is one or two people it is still scary! I just hope the police dept. will appreciate my other skills instead. I don’t speak a second language or anything but I know JAVA and am excellent with internet encryption.

  13. Andrew

    I found out i was red green color deficient when after I had joined the Marine Corps and tried to be an aerial observer because I hated my logistics job. I got out as a sergeant and now I want to join the guard as an MP. I can distinguish colors just fine and it has not affected my daily life whatsoever. I just cant pass that damn plate test.My question is how did those MPs that are red/green deficient obtain a waiver? Because I am willing to fight to the death to get one.

  14. James Gordon

    I joined the army about 5 years ago. When went through the MEPS station, Recruiting station for you that dont know the acronym, and i found out that i was color blind (red-green). I never had any problems operating on a daily basis. There is no reason not to hire people diagnosed with a red green defficiency because they operate just like everyone else. Infact if you actually look up some information color defficient people can see camoflauge better and have better night vision. In my opinion on being a police officer red green color blindness actually helps to some degree. Yeah one shade of green my look like a darker shade, but i would rather have someone that could depict suspects better in the dark and that were laying prone trying to hide in a wooded area. But thats just my opinion on the matter.