November 21st, 2016 | Sterling

Screening Across Police Jurisdictions

Police Officier Shoulder Walkie Talkie | Sterling Talent Solutions

Organizations that rely on local police services for police and criminal record checks know that there can be challenges associated with this approach. If the organization operates across jurisdictions, there is no doubt that those challenges have impacted onboarding operations. The process of onboarding can become fractured, difficult to manage and open to risks with added requirements and a decentralized approach. This month, my blog deals with screening across geographical areas that implicate multiple police jurisdictions.

Statistics Canada collects police reported crime data from over 2,500 police jurisdictions. These are comprised of municipal police services, provincial police detachments in Ontario and Québec and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in all other locations. Just as there are many police jurisdictions, there are also diverse perspectives among police services when it comes to criminal record and police information checks. For example, did you know that provincial detachments policed by the RCMP have no means to collect a fee for conducting a criminal record check? While municipal police services are typically able to impose fees, in many jurisdictions, the work associated to conducting these checks is overhead that must simply be managed. Where Vulnerable Sector Verifications are concerned, current federal policy require that the jurisdiction where the applicant lives is implicated.

Most police services correctly view conducting checks for civil purposes as a non-core activity. As such, it is often treated as a lower priority in the context of everything else that police services must manage. This prioritization often impacts organizations and the applicants. There are some police services that view criminal record and police information checks as a cost-neutral activity or even a potential revenue stream that can augment the police service’s budget. There are also situations where unionized jobs are associated to this activity. Understandably, there can be interests that are tied to preserving, or even expanding, the volumes of checks conducted. Notwithstanding such interests, consumers ought to be able to choose the process they wish to use and they need reliable information to make informed choices. Regrettably, when industry processes are incorrectly characterized as being less comprehensive or inferior in some respect, these assertions can be given weight they do not merit. This can – and has – contributed to misinformation about the background screening industry in Canada and what it is capable of providing to organizations.

There are two fundamental misconceptions fostered that require response based on facts. I have elaborated on both of these in previous blogs:

  1. Background screeners are not in the business of disclosing police information. Just as important to recognize – police are not in the background screening business. Sterling Talent Solutions can help organizations reach that important clear determination much faster, more securely and consistently than a police service or, as is more often the case faced by organizations, multiple ones. Any suggestion that our processes include accessing or disclosing criminal record and police information are incorrect. Sterling Talent Solutions recognizes and supports the need for delineation of the screening and disclosure functions where such information is determined to exist. The point is, in well over 90% of instances, there is no relevant information that exists and this is what organizations need to know quickly.
  2. It is a misrepresentation that only by dealing with the local police you can be certain all potentially relevant information will be discovered. If this were the case, it would also be true that police jurisdictions operate in silos regarding their primary responsibility: law enforcement and public safety.

Police and criminal record information is one of many components comprising a comprehensive screening. But getting this done by the local police introduces the reality that it is not a core function of policing. A quick look at a few police service websites will show you the disparity of wait times, processes, applicant logistics (travel, service hours, parking) and fees that exist. On top of these, each police service generates its own result product which may or may not transit the possession of the applicant on its way to you as the client organization. Then finally, the result must be collated with the other screening processes that an organization often requires. Why then would any organization requiring applicant screening use a police service if they don’t have to?

There are actually two situations where organizations need to refer their applicants to the police front counter:

  1. Sterling Talent Solutions processes have uncovered relevant information that must be reviewed prior to any decision being made to disclose it. This is a legitimate requirement that should not be overlooked. Further, having already decided that the candidate is a fit for the position, it’s essential that this process be followed to its conclusion.
  2. A vulnerable sector verification requiring a search of the pardoned sex offender database. Please read my previous blogs on this subject and if your organization has any discretion, then decide whether a vulnerable sector verification is a worthwhile expenditure of effort.

A centralized, secure, consistent screening process – one that incorporates all aspects including criminal record and police information searches, is attainable. Organizations and applicants benefit and importantly, it is only when there may be applicable police and criminal record information that it becomes necessary to involve the applicant’s police service. By using Sterling Talent Solutions, your organization can respond to the risks and impediments that can present when operating across jurisdictions.

Next month, I will be discussing International Criminal Record Checks and how these fit with onboarding new Canadians and international hires. To find out more about the many types of employee background screening, download our eBook, Background Screening 101.

Background Screening Made Easy – eBook

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.