California P.O.S.T. (Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training) has mandates regarding the due diligence a law enforcement agency must complete to thoroughly investigate a peace officer’s background prior to an offer of employment. In an era of heightened concerns about the profession, the department cannot bear the risk of liability in leaving any stone unturned.
To start, you will be asked to complete a document called the Personal History Statement (PHS). It can be a bit intimidating on the surface, as it’s a 25-page detailed list of requests of your in-depth information. Besides basic details, you will be asked to provide information about immediate relatives, 7-10 character references, residential history including names of roommates and landlords, and specific details as they relate to your education, employment, military experience, financial background, criminal history and illegal drug use.
Taking the time to do an online search and familiarize yourself with this document is helpful, so you may begin to corral the requested details and have them readily available should you be asked to move forward in the process. It can be overwhelming when first viewed, and it’s natural to feel a slight sense of dread or fear, but it’s extremely important to note that your admission of certain aspects of your prior history are not automatically considered disqualifiers.
It is far more damaging to engage in any willful omission of prior details, as the potential for your investigator to later discover information you have withheld is great, and the punishment for your dishonesty will be rendering you ineligible for the position.
Once you have completed your PHS, arrangements will be made for you to meet with your assigned background investigator. They will spend time going over your PHS in great detail, asking clarifying questions as needed. It is also typical to be given a list of additional forms needed to move through the background process. Some of these items are likely to include a credit check authorization, transcript requests, certified copies of birth and marriage certificates, a copy of your driver’s license, proof of vehicle registration and insurance, and a DMV driving history printout, among others. Any action items that require follow-up on your part at the conclusion of this meeting should be handled without delay.
Your background investigator will spend several weeks, and often times months, working through the information you provided and making determinations about your fitness for the position. Do not assume that just because you have not heard from them in a while that you are no longer an eligible candidate for the position.
Background investigators are typically working on many individual cases at the same time, and prioritization rules may ebb and flow depending on departmental needs. If it has been several months and you have not had any contact, then a follow-up call or email to the investigator would be appropriate, but it is considered an unnecessary interruption in their workflow if they are forced to field multiple calls from the same candidate week-to-week.
At the conclusion of their investigation, a final summary report will be provided to the agency for their review, at which point a determination would be made on whether or not to have the candidate continue through the hiring process.