Overview of Peace Officer Selection Standards

California peace officers undergo an extensive selection process before they are hired by law enforcement agencies. The role of the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) includes establishing minimum selection standards for peace officers in California and conducting research that results in the development of the tests and procedures used by local law enforcement agencies to adhere to these minimum selection standards.

Minimum Selection Standards

The minimum peace officer selection standards are set forth in Government Code Sections 1029 and 1031. Every California peace officer must be:

  • Free of any felony convictions
  • A citizen of the United States or a permanent resident alien who is eligible for and has applied for citizenship (CHP officers must be US citizens at time of appointment)
  • At least 18 years of age
  • Fingerprinted for purposes of search of local, state, and national fingerprint files to disclose any criminal record
  • Of good moral character, as determined by a thorough background investigation
  • A high school graduate, pass the General Education Development test or have attained a two-year, four-year, or advanced degree from an accredited or approved institution
  • Found to be free from any physical, emotional, or mental condition which might adversely affect the exercise of the powers of a peace officer.


Penal Code Section 13510(a) gives POST the authority to establish minimum selection standards for peace officers employed by agencies that participate in the POST program. These peace officers must, at a minimum, meet the selection standards outlined in the Government Code, and pass the POST selection requirements contained in Commission Regulations 1950-1955 prior to hire. These regulations include:

Reading and Writing Ability Assessment (Regulation 1951)

Per Commission Regulation 1951, applicants must be able to read and write at the levels necessary to perform the job of a peace officer as determined by the use of the POST Entry-Level Law Enforcement Test Battery (PELLETB) or other professionally developed and validated test of reading and writing ability. The PELLETB is provided to law enforcement agencies in the POST program at no charge. The Applicant Preparation Guide for the POST Entry-Level Law Enforcement Test Battery (pdf) provides information for agencies and applicants, including a thorough overview of the test, practice test items, and test taking strategies.

Oral Interview (Regulation 1952)

Commission Regulation 1952 stipulates that every peace officer applicant be interviewed prior to employment to determine the applicant's suitability for law enforcement service. The Interviewing Peace Officer Candidates: Hiring Interview Guidelines document provides guidance in all phases of the interview process. Additionally, agencies may request access to the Oral Interview Question Bank which contains hundreds of interview questions developed specifically for assessing the six mandated interview factors: experience, problem solving ability, communication skills, interest/motivation, interpersonal skills, and community involvement/awareness.

Background Investigation (Regulation 1953)

The history of a peace officer applicant must be thoroughly investigated to make sure that the applicant is of good moral character [Government Code 1031(d)] and that nothing in his/her background is inconsistent with performing peace officer duties. The background investigation is also conducted to ensure that the applicant meets the minimum selection requirements of Commission Regulation 1953 and Government Code Section 1031.

To assist POST-participating agencies with the background investigation process, POST has a Background Investigation Manual (pdf), which includes the ten background dimensions that are to be assessed in the background investigation. The manual also includes substantial information about the Personal History Statement – Peace Officer (doc) form that the applicant will need to complete at the onset of the investigation.

Agencies that wish to modify the POST Personal History Statement form may request an “unprotected” version for agency-specific use only. Requests for an unprotected version of the form, as well as administrative questions about the form, should be directed to the POST Forms Manager. Substantive questions about the form should be directed to Melani Singley of the Standards, Evaluation, and Research Bureau at (916) 227-4258.

Medical Evaluation (Regulation 1954)

California Government Code 1031(f) requires all California peace officers to be free from any “physical condition which might adversely affect the exercise of peace officer powers.” Commission Regulation 1954 implements the medical screening requirements established in Government Code 1031. As described in Commission Regulation 1954, the physical evaluation must be conducted by a licensed physician and surgeon. To assist physicians in their examinations of peace officer applicants, POST has developed a Medical Screening Manual which includes recommended examination and evaluation protocols for the individualized assessment of each candidate, and provides detailed information on commonly detected medical conditions. The manual also provides recommendations for screening hearing (pdf) and vision (pdf), as well as links to the POST Medical History Statement (pdf) and Medical Examination Report (doc) forms.

Questions and answers (pdf) from the 2008 IACP “Medical and Psychological Evaluations and the ADA: Straight Talk and Practice Advice” presentation by POST Consultant Shelley Spilberg, Ph.D. and EEOC Senior Attorney Advisor Sharon Rennert are available. Topics include pre-offer personality assessment, medical evaluations of returning vets, risk management, confidentiality of medical and psychological information, reasonable accommodation, and decision-making criteria.

Psychological Evaluation (Regulation 1955)

California Government Code 1031(f) requires all California peace officers to be free from any "emotional, or mental condition which might adversely affect the exercise of the powers of a peace officer." Commission Regulation 1955 implements the psychological screening requirements established in Government Code 1031. As described in Commission Regulation 1955, the psychological screening must be conducted by a qualified, licensed, and experienced psychologist or psychiatrist. A minimum of two written assessments must be used; one test must be targeted to identifying patterns of abnormal behavior, the other must be an assessment of normal behavior. A clinical interview with the applicant must follow.

POST is in the process of revising the Psychological Screening Manual. Currently available are the POST Psychological Screening Dimensions (pdf), which will be incorporated into the revised manual.

Questions and answers (pdf) from the 2008 IACP “Medical and Psychological Evaluations and the ADA: Straight Talk and Practice Advice” presentation by POST Consultant Shelley Spilberg, Ph.D. and EEOC Senior Attorney Advisor Sharon Rennert are available. Topics include pre-offer personality assessment, medical evaluations of returning vets, risk management, confidentiality of medical and psychological information, reasonable accommodation, and decision-making criteria.


Additional Departmental Standards

The selection standards described above are POST-required minimum selection standards. Per Penal Code Section 13510(d), local agencies/departments may set standards that exceed these minimums. Peace officer applicants may be subjected to additional evaluations and/or assessments required by individual law enforcement agencies. These additional requirements may include physical ability testing, drug screening, a polygraph examination or voice stress analysis, and/or a pre-offer personality test. For agencies interested in pre-offer personality testing, POST has developed a Resource Guide (pdf) to provide law enforcement agencies with the information necessary to weigh the costs and benefits of adding a personality test to the pre-offer phase of the peace officer hiring process.

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