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John Simerman / The New Orleans Advocate

NEW ORLEANS -- Past illegal drug use will no longer disqualify those seeking to become New Orleans police officers under a policy change approved Monday by the city's Civil Service Commission in an effort to attract a wider pool of applicants to a rapidly thinning blue line.

The loosening of a longtime requirement that officer candidates must claim a life free of illicit drug use including crack cocaine, LSD and heroin mirrors a shift adopted nearly seven years ago by the FBI. Other police agencies, from Miami to Las Vegas, have adopted similar changes aimed at forgiving the indiscretions of youth.

Under the change, drug use is no longer an automatic disqualifier if the applicant has not used most narcotics in the past 10 years. For marijuana and illegal use of prescription pills, the policy remains the same, with applicants required to be drug-free for two years.

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