Sec. 1953 - Peace Officer Background Investigation
§ 1953. Peace Officer Background Investigation
(a) Government Code Mandate
Every peace officer candidate shall be the subject of a thorough background investigation to verify good moral character and the absence of past behavior indicative of unsuitability to perform the duties of a peace officer [Government Code section 1031(d)].
(b) Background Investigation Evaluation Criteria
The POST Background Investigation Manual: Guidelines for the Investigator (2018) provides assistance in conducting background investigations. The use of the manual is discretionary; except the POST Background Investigation Dimensions herein incorporated by reference described in the manual - Integrity, Impulse Control/Attention to Safety, Substance Abuse and Other Risk-Taking Behavior, Stress Tolerance, Confronting and Overcoming Problems, Obstacles, and Adversity, Conscientiousness, Interpersonal Skills, Decision-Making and Judgment, Learning Ability, and Communication Skills - shall be considered in the conduct of every peace officer background investigation.
(c) Personal History Statements
Every peace officer candidate shall complete, sign, and date a personal history statement at the onset of the background investigation. A personal history statement can be either the Personal History Statement - Peace Officer, POST 2-251 (2018) or an alternative personal history statement. An alternative personal history statement shall include inquiries related to the following areas of investigation: personal identifying information, relatives and references contact information, education history, residence history, experience and employment history, military history, financial history, legal history, driving history, and other topics related to moral character.
(d) Collection of Background Information: Pre and Post Conditional Offer of Employment
(1) Nonmedical or nonpsychological background information may be collected after a conditional offer of employment (COE) is issued if it could not have reasonably been collected prior to the COE (Government Code section 1031.2). This may include:
(A) Official documents that cannot be obtained and evaluated in a timely manner during the pre-offer period, and
(B) Information derived from contacts and interviews with references.
(2) At the post-offer stage, background investigators, examining physicians, examining psychologists, and others involved in the hiring decision shall work cooperatively to ensure that each has the information necessary to conduct their respective investigations and/or assessments of the candidate.
(e) Areas of Investigation
(1) Citizenship Verification
(A) Every peace officer candidate, except those applying to the California Highway Patrol, shall be either a United States citizen or a permanent resident alien who is eligible for and has applied for citizenship on or within three years before the date of appointment as a peace officer (Government Code sections 1031(a) and 1031.5).
(B) Every peace officer candidate for the California Highway Patrol shall be a United States citizen at time of appointment as a peace officer (Vehicle Code section 2267).
(C) Proof of U.S. citizenship shall consist of an official government-issued birth certificate, naturalization documentation, or other citizenship documentation deemed acceptable by POST. The document shall be an original, a certified copy, or a copy that includes a notation by the investigator that the original or certified copy was reviewed.
(2) Age Verification
(A) Every peace officer candidate shall be minimally 18 years of age on or before the date of appointment as a peace officer.
(B) Proof of age shall be satisfied by any document accepted for proof of citizenship.
(3) Criminal Record Checks - Local, State, and National
Every peace officer candidate shall be the subject of a criminal record search at the local, state, and national levels to determine legal eligibility for peace officer employment [Government Code sections 1029(a)(1), 1030 and 1031(c)], eligibility to carry a firearm [Penal Code section 29805; U.S. Code Title 18, section 922(d)(9)], and to assess moral character [Government Code section 1031(d)].
(A) Local searches shall include inquiries with local law enforcement departments where the candidate has lived, worked, attended school, or frequently visited.
Proof of local searches shall be documented by a letter or other written documentation from each department contacted. If a contacted department does not provide written documentation, the request for information shall be noted.
(B) A state search shall include forwarding the candidate's fingerprints to the California Department of Justice (DOJ) to establish the candidate's legal eligibility for employment (Government Code section 1029) and eligibility to possess a firearm [Penal Code section 29805; U.S. Code Title 18 section 922(d)(9)].
Proof of a state search shall be documentation issued by the DOJ consisting of an official clearance return and an authorization to possess and carry firearms. The authorization shall be relevant to the peace officer position and shall have been generated no more than one year prior to the date of employment.
(C) A national search shall include forwarding the candidate's fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Proof of a national search shall consist of an official clearance from the FBI. The clearance shall be relevant to the peace officer position and shall have been generated no more than one year prior to the date of employment.
(4) Driving Record Check
(A) Every peace officer candidate's driving history, if any, shall be checked to assess behaviors consistent with the safe and appropriate operation of a motor vehicle and adherence to the law.
(B) Proof of the driving history check shall consist of a written driving record history from the Department of Motor Vehicles or other official driving record. The record shall be dated no more than one year prior to the date of employment.
(5) Education Verification
(A) Every peace officer candidate shall meet one of the following minimum education requirements pursuant to Government Code section 1031(e):
1. Be a high school graduate of one of the following:
a. A U.S. public school, or
b. An accredited U.S. Department of Defense high school, or
c. An accredited or approved public or nonpublic high school.
2. Pass the General Education Development (GED) test or other high school equivalency test approved by the State Department of Education that indicates high school graduation level.
3. Pass the California High School Proficiency Examination, or
4. Have attained a two-year, four-year, or advanced degree from an accredited college or university.
Any accreditation or approval required by this subdivision shall be from a state or local government educational agency using local or state government approved accreditation, licensing, registration, or other approval standards, a regional accrediting association, an accrediting association recognized by the Secretary of the United States Department of Education, an accrediting association holding full membership in the National Council for Private School Accreditation (NCPSA), an organization holding full membership in AdvancED, an organization holding full membership in the Council for American Private Education (CAPE), or an accrediting association recognized by the National Federation of Nonpublic School State Accrediting Associations (NFNSSAA).
(B) Proof shall consist of an official transcript or other means of verifying satisfactory completion of educational requirements deemed acceptable by POST. The document shall be an original, a certified copy, or a copy that includes a notation by the investigator that the original or certified copy was reviewed.
(6) Employment History Checks
(A) Every peace officer candidate shall be the subject of employment history checks through contacts with all past and current employers over a period of at least ten years, as listed on the candidate's personal history statement.
(B) Proof of the employment history check shall be documented by a written account of the information provided and source of that information for each place of employment contacted. All information requests shall be documented.
(7) Relatives/Personal References Checks
(A) Every peace officer candidate shall be the subject of reference checks through contacts and interviews with relatives, including former spouses, and personal references listed on the candidate's personal history statement. Additional references, provided by the initial contacts, shall also be contacted and interviewed to determine whether the candidate has exhibited behavior incompatible with the position sought. Sufficient information shall be collected and reviewed to determine candidate suitability.
(B) Proof of reference checks shall be documented by written information showing that relatives and personal references identified by the candidate were interviewed. Documentation shall include the identity of each individual contacted, the contact's relationship to the candidate, and an account of the information provided by the contact. All requests for information shall be documented.
(8) Dissolution of Marriage Check
(A) Every peace officer candidate who indicates one or more marriage dissolutions on the personal history statement shall have his/her court issued dissolution documents and legal separation decrees reviewed as an indication of personal integrity, financial responsibility, and other relevant aspects of candidate suitability.
(B) Proof of the dissolution/separation of marriage check shall be documented by a copy of all final court-issued dissolution documents and legal separation decrees.
(9) Neighborhood Checks
(A) Every peace officer candidate shall be the subject of contacts and interviews with current and, where practicable, previous neighbors to determine whether the candidate has exhibited behavior incompatible with the position sought.
(B) Proof of neighborhood checks shall be documented by written information showing the identity of each neighbor contacted, the neighbor's relationship to the candidate, and an account of the information provided by the individual. All requests for information shall be documented.
(10) Military History Check
(A) When applicable, a candidate shall be required to present proof of Selective Service registration or military service records.
(B) Proof of a military history check shall consist of written verification of Selective Service registration, except for women or any man born prior to January 1, 1960. For any candidate who indicates military history on the personal history statement, proof shall consist of an official copy of their DD-214 long form or equivalent documentation of foreign military service, if available.
(11) Credit Records Check
(A) Every peace officer candidate shall be the subject of a credit record search with a bona fide credit reporting agency (i.e., Experian, TransUnion, Equifax) to determine the candidate's credit standing with lenders, as an indication of the candidate's dependability and integrity.
(B) Proof of a credit record check shall be documented by an official credit report returned by one of the bona fide credit reporting agencies. The report shall have been created no more than one year prior to the date of employment.
(f) Background Investigation Updates
(A) If a peace officer candidate was initially investigated in accordance with all current requirements and the results are available for review, a background investigation update, as opposed to a complete new background investigation, may be conducted for either of the following circumstances:
1. The peace officer candidate is being reappointed to the same POST-participating department. Per Regulation 1950(c)(1)(C), a background investigation update on a peace officer who is reappointed within 180 days of voluntary separation is at the discretion of the hiring authority.
2. The peace officer candidate is transferring, without a separation, to a different department; however, the new department is within the same city, county, state, or district that maintains a centralized personnel and background investigation support division.
(B) At the discretion of the hiring authority, if an interim police chief was initially investigated by a California POST participating department in accordance with all current requirements and the background file has been determined compliant by POST, an updated background investigation, as opposed to a complete new background investigation, may be conducted provided the following three conditions are met:
1. The results of the initial background investigation are available and have been reviewed by the hiring authority,
2. The initial background investigation was conducted within the past five years, and
3. The individual has served as an interim police chief within the last 24 months.
The retention of all background investigation records, including the initial and updated background investigations, shall be the responsibility of the hiring authority.
(2) Update Requirements
(A) A new personal history statement [Regulation 1953(c)] with updated information covering the period from the last personal history statement to the current date shall be completed by the peace officer candidate.
(B) The department shall conduct investigations of all new information reported by the candidate on the new personal history statement.
1. For candidates reappointed to the same department per Regulation 1953(f)(1)(A)1., the new background investigation shall cover the period since the candidate separated from the department.
2. For candidates transferring, without a separation, to a different department within the same city, county, state, or district per Regulation 1953(f)(1)(A)2., or interim chiefs who meet the requirements of Regulation 1953(f)(1)(B), the new background investigation shall cover the period since the date the previous background investigation was completed.
(C) Any area of investigation for which there is updated information shall be addressed in the updated background investigation. This shall minimally include a new:
1) Local Criminal Record Check,
2) State and National Criminal Check, unless there is written attestation that the candidate was never removed from the department's peace officer files of the DOJ or FBI,
3) Driving Record Check, and
4) Credit Record Check.
(D) Updated background investigation documentation shall be maintained with the initial background investigation documents.
(E) If the original background investigation was conducted within one year from the date of reappointment, it is not necessary to update criminal record checks, driving record check, or credit check.
(g) Documentation and Reporting
(1) Background Narrative Report
The background investigator shall summarize the background investigation results in a narrative report that includes sufficient information for the reviewing authority to extend, as appropriate, a conditional offer of employment. The report, along with all supporting documentation obtained during the course of the background investigation, shall be included in the candidate's background investigation file. The supporting documents shall be originals or true, current and accurate copies as attested to by the background investigator. The background investigation file shall be made available during POST compliance inspections.
The background narrative report and supporting documentation shall be retained in the individual's background investigation file for as long as the individual remains in the department's employ. Additional record retention requirements are described in Government Code section 12946.
(3) Information Access
The narrative report and any other relevant background information shall be shared with the psychological evaluator [Regulation 1955(e)(3)]. This information shall also be shared with others involved in the hiring process, such as screening physicians, if it is relevant to their respective evaluations.
This information must be furnished to those conducting background investigations of peace officer candidates on behalf of other law enforcement departments except as specifically provided by statute (Government Code section 1031.1, Government Code section 6250 et seq, Labor Code section 1050, Labor Code section 1054, O'Shea v. General Telephone Co. (1987) 193 Cal. App 3d 1040). This information shall only be utilized for investigative leads and the information shall be independently verified by the prospective department to determine the suitability of the peace officer candidate.(1. Change without regulatory effect renumbering former section 9053 to new section 1953, including amendment of section and Note, filed 11-26-2012 pursuant to section 100, title 1, California Code of Regulations (Register 2012, No. 48). 2. Change without regulatory effect amending subsection (d) filed 12-9-2015 pursuant to section 100, title 1, California Code of Regulations (Register 2015, No. 50). 3. Change without regulatory effect amending subsections (e)(5)(A)2. and (e)(5)(A)4. filed 1-27-2016 pursuant to section 100, title 1, California Code of Regulations (Register 2016, No. 5). 4. Amendment of subsections (c) and (g)(3) filed 2-24-2016; operative 4-1-2016 (Register 2016, No. 9). 5. Amendment of subsections (f)(1)(A)1.-2. and (f)(2)(B)2. filed 10-31-2016; operative 1-1-2017 (Register 2016, No. 45). 6. Amendment of subsections (b) and (c) and new subsections (f)(1)(B)-(f)(1)(B)3. filed 2-27-2018; operative 4-1-2018 (Register 2018, No. 9). 7. Amendment of subsection (f)(2)(B)2. filed 10-24-2018; operative 1-1-2019 (Register 2018, No. 43).)
Note: Authority cited: Sections 1030, 1031, 1031.2 and 1031.5, Government Code; Section 2267, Vehicle Code; and Sections 13503, 13506 and 13510, Penal Code. Reference: Sections 1029, 1030, 1031, 1031.2, 1031.5 and 12900 et seq., Government Code; Sections 2267 and 12500, Vehicle Code; Sections 13510 and 29805, Penal Code; and Title 18 Section 922(d)(9), US Code.
The following state regulations pages link to this page.