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Public Safety Dispatcher Selection Requirements FAQs

To assist agencies with the understanding and application of Commission Regulations 1956-1960, the following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) have been developed. The FAQs are arranged sequentially with the selection standards.

Questions not addressed in the FAQs should be directed to your POST Regional Consultant.

Commission Regulation 1956

COMMISSION REGULATION 1956: SELECTION REQUIREMENTS – PUBLIC SAFETY DISPATCHER

Q. Are all public safety dispatchers in California required to meet POST selection standards?
A. No. POST Regulations apply only to public safety dispatchers who are appointed by agencies that participate in the POST Public Safety Dispatcher program. For those departments in the POST program, the POST selection standards carry the force of law (PC § 13510). Note, however, that the use of POST guidance documents, such as the POST Background Investigation Manual, is discretionary.

Q. If an agency is not in the POST public safety dispatcher program, are there any selection standards that apply to their public safety dispatcher candidates? 
A. There are no state laws (as in the case of peace officers); however, there are procedural requirements that govern persons who have access to CLETS or other confidential databases. Public safety dispatchers must also be legally eligible for employment in the U.S.

Q. If a public safety dispatcher seeks to move to another agency and has a POST Dispatcher Certificate, does s/he still need to be screened against these selection requirements? 
A. Yes. POST public safety dispatcher training requirements (POST Regulation 1018) are separate and independent from the public safety dispatcher selection requirements.

Q. If an individual successfully completed a POST Public Safety Dispatcher Basic Course, does s/he need to meet these POST selection requirements? 
A. Yes. The screening requirements in Regulations 1955-1960 must be met even by those who have completed the POST Public Safety Dispatcher Course.

§ 1956 (b) PUBLIC SAFETY DISPATCHER CANDIDATE DEFINITION

Q. Are all public safety dispatchers employed by departments that participate in POST's public safety dispatcher program subject to these selection standards? 
A. Yes. POST selection standards apply to all public safety dispatcher candidates who are being hired by a POST-participating department. This includes candidates who have no previous public safety dispatcher experience (new hires), those who have previous public safety dispatcher experience (laterals), and those who are returning to the same agency where they were previously employed as public safety dispatchers (rehires/reappointments). It includes all full-time, part-time, seasonal, permanent and temporary personnel who are designated as a public safety dispatcher by the POST-participating department. [NOTE: There are some exemptions from the selection requirements, such as dispatchers returning to the same department within 180 days after a voluntary separation (Commission Regulation 1956(c)(1)(B).]

Q. Is there a "grace period" for dispatchers who voluntarily leave the department and then want to return even after only a brief separation? 
A. It depends. A public safety dispatcher who returns after a voluntary separation of no more than 180 days is exempt from the POST requirements. All others are considered by POST to be "reappointments" and as such are required to satisfy all applicable selection requirements. For the purpose of the regulations, a "separation" occurs when the department submits a Notice of Appointment/Termination (NOAT- POST 2-114) indicating that the dispatcher was separated. Any subsequent NOAT submitted by the department for that individual indicating "new" under "Appointment Type" must undergo, at a minimum, an updated background investigation and a new medical evaluation.

Q. If a dispatcher decides to return to a department after even a very brief separation, must the department conduct another new background investigation on him/her? 
A. Dispatchers returning after a voluntary separation of no more than 180 days are exempt from POST requirements. All other dispatchers are considered "reappointments" and may undergo a background investigation "update," rather than a complete new background investigation, provided the department has maintained the initial background. The background investigation update provision is intended to eliminate unnecessarily duplication of effort involved in re-collecting the same information on individuals that the department already maintains and is not subject to change (e.g., high school transcript). Background update eligibility and procedural requirements are discussed in Regulation 1959(f).

Q. If a dispatcher is on IOD or maternity leave from a department, must s/he be re-evaluated against the POST selection requirements upon returning to service? 
A. No. Unless the department submitted a Notice of Appointment/Termination (NOAT - POST 2-114) indicating that the dispatcher was separated from the department, there are no POST re-screening requirements.

Q. Must seasonal, temporary, or part-time public safety dispatchers be re-screened each time the department seeks to use their services? 
A. It depends. If the department has filed an NOAT with POST following the conclusion of the seasonal/temporary public safety dispatchers' services indicating a separation, their subsequent reappointments will be considered as new appointments. However, if the department kept these dispatchers "on the books" and did not file a NOAT with POST, then no separation occurred, and re-screening is not necessary under these regulations. [Note: if a department keeps seasonal/temporary public safety dispatchers on the books, continuing professional training requirements – per Commission Regulation 1018 - continue to apply].

Q. Is a temporary, part-time, or seasonal public safety dispatcher subject to the same POST selection standards as a full-time public safety dispatcher? 
A. Yes. POST selection standards draw no distinction between public safety dispatchers according to work schedules/assignments.

§ 1956 (c) EXCEPTIONS

Q. If a POST-participating agency is absorbed by another department, are the absorbed dispatchers considered new appointments? 
A. Yes, in some cases. Public safety dispatchers in a department that is entirely absorbed by another department are not seen as new appointments if both the absorbing department and the department being absorbed are within the same city, county, state or district and if documentation is available verifying the dispatchers previously met POST requirements. However, when one POST-participating public safety dispatch agency absorbs another by contractual agreement or by the creation of a joint powers agency, the absorbed public safety dispatchers would be considered new appointments of the absorbing department, and therefore subject to all applicable selection requirements.

Q. For a dispatcher who is reinstated, is a department prohibited from conducting any checks or assessments beyond those specified in 1956(c)(2)? 
A. No. POST regulations do not preclude a department from conducting other inquiries or assessments to establish that the reinstated dispatcher continued compliance with statutory or departmental requirements. For example, a department may require a reinstated dispatcher to comply with reporting requirements or other applicable personnel policies and rules of conduct that were in effect at the time of discharge, covering the period of separation from the department. The application of this and any other personnel practice is the sole purview and responsibility of the department, as is the responsibility for ensuring that the reinstated dispatcher meets the ongoing training requirements.

Q. If a peace officer is assigned to dispatcher duties in the same POST-participating agency, must s/he be re-screened per these selection requirements? 
A. No. Since peace officers have already been subjected to an extensive screening process, no additional screening is required if the peace officer is assigned to dispatcher duties in the same department, whether temporary or permanent.

§ 1956 (d) ADOPTION OF ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS AND/OR HIGHER STANDARDS

Q. Why would it be necessary for a department to impose additional screening requirements beyond those required by POST? 
A. The right of individual departments to establish additional and/or higher selection standards is explicit in PC § 13510(d): "Nothing in this section shall prohibit a local agency from establishing selection and training standards that exceed the minimum standards established by the Commission." Departments can and often do set additional standards beyond the POST minimums. Examples of additional departmental standards include detection of deception examinations, psychological screening, civil service examinations, or educational requirements. Since POST does not evaluate additional or enhanced departmental requirements, departments are responsible for ensuring that their enhanced requirements are defensible as job-relevant and consistent with business necessity.

Commission Regulation 1957

COMMISSION REGULATION 1957: VERBAL, REASONING, MEMORY AND PERCEPTUAL ABILITIES ASSESSMENT – PUBLIC SAFETY DISPATCHER

Q. Is the POST Entry-level Dispatcher Selection Test Battery the only acceptable measure of verbal, reasoning, memory and perceptual abilities? 
A. No. Other job-related tests of verbal, reasoning, memory and perceptual abilities are acceptable.

Q. Can the dispatcher test requirement ever be waived? 
A. The assessment of Verbal, Reasoning, Memory, and Perceptual abilities cannot be waived, per se. However, a valid POST Public Safety Dispatcher Basic Certificate, or successful completion of a (80-hour minimum) POST-certified Public Safety Dispatcher Course and previous completion of probation as a public safety dispatcher are sufficient to indicate that the candidate has demonstrated job-related verbal, reasoning, memory and perceptual abilities.

Q. What is the passing score on the POST Dispatcher test? 
A. There is no required minimum achievement score for the POST Dispatcher test; each department has the discretion to establish a passing score for its department. POST has established a recommended range of scores within which that minimum score should be set. Details on that and other aspects of the test are discussed in the POST Public Safety Dispatcher Selection Test Battery User's Manual and the POST Entry-Level Public Safety Dispatcher Test Battery FAQs.

Q. Must candidates retake the POST Dispatcher test if they apply to a different department? 
A. No. POST does not require candidates to retake the POST Dispatcher (or alternative) test each time they apply to another POST-participating department. Departments who use the POST test are required by the POST Security Agreement to provide candidates with a letter indicating their t-score. Another department may accept this letter as evidence that the candidate has met the POST standard, assuming that the candidate's score is deemed acceptable by that department. Candidates who choose to or are required by a department to re-take the examination, must wait a minimum of 30 days between administrations.

Q. Must seasonal, temporary, or part-time public safety dispatchers be re-screened each time the department seeks to use their services? 
A. It depends. If the department has filed an NOAT with POST following the conclusion of the seasonal/temporary public safety dispatchers' services indicating a separation, their subsequent reappointments will be considered as new appointments. However, if the department kept these dispatchers "on the books" and did not file a NOAT with POST, then no separation occurred, and re-screening is not necessary under these regulations. [Note: if a department keeps seasonal/temporary public safety dispatchers on the books, continuing professional training requirements – per Commission Regulation 1018 - continue to apply].

Q. If a candidate took the POST Dispatcher test several years ago, does he or she need to retake it again? 
A. Not for the purpose of satisfying POST requirements. A score on the POST dispatcher or alternative test has no expiration date; therefore, a candidate may submit the departmental letter from the previous administration to the prospective employer. However, individual departments have the discretion to establish their own acceptable time frames for the shelf life of the test. Note: Candidates must wait a minimum of 30 days between administrations before re-taking the examination.

Commission Regulation 1958

COMMISSION REGULATION 1958: ORAL COMMUNICATION ASSESSMENT – PUBLIC SAFETY DISPATCHER

Q. Is it acceptable for a department to use the guidance in the POST "Interviewing Peace Officer Candidates: Hiring Interview Guidelines" for conducting public safety dispatcher interviews? 
A. The POST Interview Manual provides guidance on the conduct of job-related, effective oral interviews for peace officers. However, included in that guidance is information on ways to develop powerful interview questions and assess candidate responses regardless of the position being sought. In addition, the POST peace officer interview factors - Experience, Problem Solving Ability, Communication Skills, Interest/Motivation, Interpersonal Skills, and Community Involvement/Awareness – are of relevance to public safety dispatchers.

Commission Regulation 1959

COMMISSION REGULATION 1959: BACKGROUND INVESTIGATION – PUBLIC SAFETY DISPATCHER

§ 1959 (a) REQUIREMENT Q. Do background investigators need to be POST-certified? 
A. There is no special POST certification for background investigators, either for public safety dispatcher or peace officer candidates. However, competent professional training of background investigators is the employer's legal responsibility and will provide assurance that the investigations are lawful and effective. POST offers specific courses for background investigators; these are described in the POST Course Catalog. Note: In California, third party background investigators (i.e., private contractors) must be Licensed Private Investigators or attorneys (B&P § 7520).

§ 1959 (b) BACKGROUND INVESTIGATION EVALUATION CRITERIA

Q. The regulation states that "the POST Background Investigation Dimensions shall be considered in the conduct of every public safety dispatcher background investigation?" What exactly does "considered" mean? 
A. The dimensions are intended to serve as points of focus for the background investigation itself, as well as for issues to be considered when preparing the narrative report. However, it is not necessary for each background report to include a separate evaluation of the candidate on each of the ten dimensions.

Q. The same ten POST Background Dimensions are for evaluating both peace officers and public safety dispatchers. Given the significant differences between these two jobs, how can the same dimensions apply equally to both classifications? 
A. The job of public safety dispatcher and peace officer do indeed involve very different duties, tasks and responsibilities. However, the results of multiple job analyses has shown that both classifications require many of the same worker attributes, such as integrity, stress tolerance, interpersonal skills, judgment, conscientiousness, and communication skills. Since these attributes are evaluated by investigating personal history, they form the basis of the pre-employment background investigation for public safety dispatchers as well as for peace officers.

§1959 (c) PERSONAL HISTORY STATEMENTS

Q. What constitutes an acceptable alternative form to the POST Personal History Statement? 
A. Any alternative form to the POST Personal History Statement (2-255) must address the same ten major areas of inquiry: personal; relatives and references; education; residences; experience and employment; military experience; financial; legal; motor vehicle operation; and other topics related to moral character. The questions must require the candidate to provide the information necessary for the background investigator to complete a thorough investigation [i.e., cover all Areas of Investigation addressed in 1959(e).

Q. Rather than create an entirely new form, is it possible to obtain a version of the POST Personal History Statement that can be modified? 
A. Yes, it is acceptable to modify the POST PHS; departments that wish to do so can request an "unprotected" version of the form by emailing POST. The unprotected version will not be identified as nor considered a POST document. It is strongly recommended that the personal history statement, whether using the POST form or a modified version, be submitted to the department's legal counsel for review before adopting it for use.

§1959 (d) COLLECTION OF BACKGROUND INFORMATION: PRE AND POST CONDITIONAL OFFER OF EMPLOYMENT (COE)

Q. Why did POST add regulations covering the timing of the background investigation relative to the Conditional Offer of Employment (COE)? 
A. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) separate the pre-employment hiring process into two phases, punctuated by the conditional offer of employment. Disability-related inquiries and assessments must be deferred until the post-offer stage. Also, for the offer to be considered valid, all non-disability related inquiries must be made prior to the offer.

Although the bulk of the background investigation does not involve issues of disability, there are background areas of inquiry that must be deferred until the post-offer stage. A few examples include inquiries related to the extent of past illegal drug use, the extent of past or current use of alcohol, use of sick leave, impulse control problems, etc.

Whether and how to partition the background investigation into pre and post offer phases is a decision that each department must make based on careful consideration of the pre-offer prohibitions of the ADA and FEHA, and with the involvement of their legal counsel. The intent of Commission Regulation 1959(d) is to reinforce the lawful application of those statutory restrictions to the specific conduct of the POST-mandated dispatcher background investigation.

Q. If there are background investigation topics and areas that are disability-related, why not just conduct the entire investigation post-offer? 
A. Because the legitimacy of the conditional job offer itself would be called into question (by the EEOC and/or the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing) if the entire background investigation was conducted post-offer. To be considered legitimate (i.e., "bona fide") the conditional offer must only be extended after an employer has screened the candidate as much as possible (without venturing into medical/psychological territory). It's very difficult to argue that the completion of the PHS, or the request and in most cases the collection of birth certificates, transcripts, credit reports and other such documents can't be done prior to the offer, since they're not medical and they generally don't take much time to acquire.

The EEOC published a useful resource on pre and post offer inquiries: "Enforcement Guidance: Pre-employment Disability-Related Questions & Medical Examinations]" (10/10/95)

Q. Since the background investigation required for a public safety dispatcher candidate is very similar to that required for a peace officer candidate, why don't the same rules apply about COE's? 
A. As in some other areas, the Legislature has drawn some specific differences between peace officer candidate backgrounds and those of other candidates in law enforcement (i.e., GC 1031.2). Employing agencies must always keep this fact in mind, even where substantial similarities exist in other areas (e.g., the background dimensions).

Q. Can a polygraph examination be conducted pre-offer? 
A. Yes, but if it is conducted pre-offer, no medical or disability-related questions can be included. For example, questions about extent of past illegal drug use or alcohol consumption are prohibited. The common practice of asking candidates if they are taking prescription medication prior to the polygraph examination is also impermissible if the examination is conducted pre-offer, even if certain medications may affect test results.

Q. Could a private background investigator ask disability-related questions during pre-offer investigation, but refrain from sharing the responses with the department until the post-offer stage? 
A. No. Third parties must abide by the same pre-offer inquiry prohibitions as the employers themselves.

Q. A background investigator learns that the candidate was previously taken into emergency, temporary custody pursuant to 5150 W & I. How should the investigator deal with this information, since it certainly sounds medical in nature? 
A. What the investigator cannot do pre-offer is further inquire into any area that could reasonably lead to the disclosure of medical information (e.g., why was the action necessary, what treatment was prescribed, etc.). Instead, the investigator should forward this information to the department's medical evaluator at the post-offer stage for follow-up. At the pre-offer stage, the investigator can look into other, non-disability related issues associated with this incident, such as, did the candidate properly disclose having been taken into custody on the Personal History Statement?

Q. At the post-offer phase, is it acceptable for the background investigator to collect medical or other information considered disability-related? 
A. Yes. Although the evaluation of the candidate's medical suitability rests with the screening physician, there are medical and disability-related issues that are more appropriately evaluated by the background investigator. Examples include issues related to illegal use of drugs, alcoholism, job performance issues that may be related to a protected disability (e.g., sick leave, behavioral problems, etc.), or any follow-up investigation requested by the screening physician (or psychologist, if used).

There are also occasions where a candidate may have withheld information which should have been disclosed at the pre-offer stage, but is now revealed in a post-offer inquiry (e.g., identifying an employer not previously listed and where a worker's compensation claim was filed, or illegal use of drugs much more recently than previously claimed).

§ 1959 (e) AREAS OF INVESTIGATION 

(1) Employment Eligibility

Q. Why is there not a citizenship requirement for public safety dispatchers?
A. Unlike peace officers, state law has established no citizenship requirements for public safety dispatches, and federal law (8 U.S. Code 1324a) precludes discrimination against work eligible aliens. Proof of U.S. citizenship or a Resident Card is sufficient for establishing employment eligibility.

(2) Criminal Records Checks

Q. An agency properly submitted fingerprints, but, due to circumstances outside of their control, the returns have not been received. Is the demonstration of effort sufficient for compliance inspections? 
A. No. Compliance inspection requires a return showing that the candidate's fingerprints have been submitted to and returned by both DOJ and the FBI.

Q. If a public safety dispatcher candidate was previously fingerprinted by the department for a different classification of employment (e.g., correctional officer, records clerk, or CSO), is it necessary for the department to fingerprint the individual again? 
A. As long as the individual has been in the department's continuous employment since last having been fingerprinted, it is not necessary to request DOJ and FBI fingerprints.

Q. Is there a "felony disqualification rule" for public safety dispatchers, similar to that for peace officers? 
A. There is no explicit state law or POST Regulation prohibiting the employment of convicted felons. However, restrictions may be imposed by other agencies (i.e., DOJ) regarding such things as CLETS access.

Q. Peace officer candidates must disclose some juvenile records that occurred after they were 15 years old, but public safety dispatcher candidates do not. Why is there a difference between these two classifications? 
A. Even the requirements pertaining to peace officers remains a matter of interpretation, and one which has not been definitively resolved. However, as a matter of law, peace officer candidates are generally held to a higher standard of performance than applicants for non-peace officer positions.

Q. Why is there a difference between the peace officer PHS (2-251) and the dispatcher PHS (2-255) regarding questions on detentions, arrests, and convictions? 
A. California Labor Code Section 432.7 prohibits prospective employers from considering a history of arrest (or detention) that did not result in a conviction; however, there is an exemption for employers of peace officers and other criminal justice agency personnel. Therefore, criminal justice agency employers could require the same arrest history for their public safety dispatcher and peace officer candidates; however, a substantial number of public safety dispatcher employers in the POST program are not criminal justice agencies as defined in the Penal Code. It was decided that creating two separate POST public safety dispatcher forms – one for criminal justice agencies and one for other agencies - would be confusing. As a result, the POST dispatcher PHS was designed to be lawful for all public safety dispatcher employers.

With the concurrence of agency legal counsel, criminal justice agency employers of public safety dispatchers may opt to amend the POST PHS to include inquiries about detentions or arrests that did not lead to convictions.

Q. Are there any differences between the criminal convictions that peace officer and public safety dispatcher candidates must disclose (even if they are both applying to a criminal justice agency)? 
A. Yes. Certain offenses provide an opportunity for diversion or expungement (e.g., PC §§ 1000.4 and 1210). Public safety dispatcher candidates do not have to disclose these offenses. This is one reason why it is inappropriate to administer the peace officer PHS (2-251) to non-peace officer candidates.

Q. Are there differences between public safety dispatcher candidates and those applying for jobs with private employers in terms of reporting arrest and conviction history? 
A. Yes. Although arrests and convictions set aside under PC § 1203.4 need not be reported to a private employer, they must be disclosed to a public agency employer. Public safety dispatcher candidates must provide information about their arrests/convictions that have been set aside under this provision of law.

(3) Driving Records Checks

Q. Since the job of public safety dispatcher rarely (if ever) requires them to drive, why is it necessary to check their driving history? 
A. Aside from assessing a candidate's adherence to the law, CLETS and NLETS have long required inspection of a public safety dispatcher candidate's driving record.

(4) Education Verification

Q. If a candidate was educated outside of the United States, does this create a problem? 
A. Neither state law nor POST regulations impose any minimum education requirements. However, an employing agency is entitled to impose job-related educational requirements that are consistent with business necessity. The educational background claimed by the candidate should also be verified.

(5) Employment History Checks

Q. The POST Personal History Statement asks public safety dispatcher candidates to list employment history over the past 10 years. Some past employers maintain records only for limited periods of time, others cease operations, and still others even decline to respond to those requests. What does POST require the prospective employer to do in these instances? 
A. This is one of the areas that has been substantially changed from prior POST standards. To satisfy this requirement, every contact with an employer over the past 10 years - including unsuccessful contacts – must be documented. The extent to which the hiring agency is willing to pursue remedies under the law to attempt to obtain this information is a matter of agency policy. Note that, in contrast to employers of peace officer candidates, employers of public safety dispatcher candidates do not have the same legal duty to respond to such inquiries.

(6) Relatives/Personal Reference Checks

Q. Must every contact listed on the Personal History Statement be contacted? 
A. No. This is another of the areas substantially changed by these regulations; the number of contacts that are initiated is largely up to the judgment of investigators and their reviewing authorities. In general, more contacts are better than few, but investigators and their agencies are ultimately responsible for making that determination. Every contact that is attempted should be documented.

Q. What happens when contacts do not respond? 
A. Document even the unsuccessful attempts. Not every person or entity contacted will respond to a request for an interview, return a phone call, or complete and mail back a questionnaire. The duty to cooperate with background investigations is a matter of public policy; however, except in very limited circumstances, there is no legal obligation to do so.

(7) Dissolution of Marriage Checks

Q. Why is POST now requiring proof of dissolution of marital status even in instances where the candidate has not remarried? 
A. Besides helping establish legal rights of survivorship or medical decision-making, dissolution documents can contain highly relevant information concerning a candidate's character or financial well-being. Restraining orders, allegations of domestic violence, property settlements, and continuing financial obligations may be detailed in such documents.

(8) Neighborhood checks

Q. What constitutes a "neighborhood check? 
A. A neighborhood check is not merely a restatement of a candidate's residential history. It must include contacting a sampling of neighbors (and landlords) to determine if any job-relevant behaviors can be identified and documenting the contacts.

The security provisions in some housing complexes will not permit neighbors to be canvassed. Committing a potential criminal trespass to accomplish a neighborhood check is not required, and information gleaned from the property owner may be all that is available.

(9) Military/Selective Service Checks

Q. Is willful failure to register with the selective service an automatic disqualifier? 
A. Not for POST. Federal law [Title 50a U.S. 622(g)] specifies that it is the grantor of the privilege (i.e., the employer) who determines the penalties (if any) for a willful failure to register.

Q. What should the investigator do if the candidate claims s/he never received a DD-214 long form? 
A. With the exception of "entry-level separations," virtually anyone who enters the military will be issued discharge documents at their time of separation. If the candidate possesses a DD-214 "short form," (Copy 1), it is highly unlikely that they were not issued a "long form" (Copy 2 or 4), as well (they are generally stapled together). Currently, inquiries directed to the Army and Air Force generally produce less comprehensive replies. However, most recent veterans can obtain copies of their separation documents on-line. [Note: many military records issued prior to 1973 were destroyed in a catastrophic fire at the National Personnel Records Center]. 

(10) Credit Records Check

Q. Since the employment reports obtained in a typical credit check do not have things such as "credit scores," how are these reports supposed to be assessed? 
A. Previous POST screening standards for public safety dispatchers did not require any type of credit check, and credit scores may have little to do with one's suitability for employment. In fact, that is one of the reasons why the major Credit Reporting Agencies do not include those numbers on employment documents. Credit itself, or even the lack thereof, may have limited bearing on someone's suitability for employment as a public safety dispatcher. Instead, the background investigation should concern itself with issues such as whether the reported sources of income are lawful and fully accounted for, whether the candidate meets his/her obligations as agreed, and the reasons underlying any indications of credit problems (e.g., are the credit problems the fault/responsibility of the candidate, or are they related to the actions of others?). Some candidates have no credit history at all, while others may have extraordinary resources.

Q. Can a candidate be disqualified on the basis of a recent bankruptcy? 
A. Bankruptcy is a legal right and is protected by federal law (Title 11 U.S. Code). The mere fact that someone has undergone bankruptcy, even very recently, does not mean that they are disqualified. Investigators should inquire into the circumstances and behaviors which led to the bankruptcy filing, and what, if anything, it may indicate about the candidate's integrity, impulse control, conscientiousness, or other aspects of candidate suitability.

§ 1959 (f) BACKGROUND INVESTIGATION UPDATES

Q. Isn't a background update just an abbreviated background? 
A. No. It is a supplement to the original background investigation in order to bring the original documentation up-to-date by accounting for changed circumstances or the passage of time. The update provision is intended to avoid requiring departments to engage in unnecessary, duplicative investigating.

Q. Why are there different background update requirements for appointments and departmental transfers? 
A. If the department maintained all of the original background investigation information on dispatchers who are being reappointed back to the same department, it is reasonable to focus the updated investigation to the period of time since the dispatcher separated from the department. However, dispatchers who are transferring to another department – even one within the same city, county, state or district – are nevertheless being selected by, and reporting to, a different hiring authority. Therefore, the updated information must cover the time period since the last background investigation.

Q. Can a department still opt to undergo a complete background even if the circumstances allow for an "update?" 
A. Yes. The "update" provision is expressly provided for POST-participating departments who have already conducted (and have retained) a complete background that demonstrates a candidate's ability to meet all current and existing POST standards and where the department does not feel the need to start all over. A department may, at its own discretion, desire to re-do the entire background.

Q. Commission Regulation 1956(c) exempts from re-screening public safety dispatchers who are employed by a department that, through reorganization, is absorbed by another department within the same city, county, state or district. Why does POST offer this allowance for dispatchers who transfer due to "absorption," yet require dispatchers who undergo a similar transfer as an individual to submit to an updated background and a new medical evaluation? 
A. Public safety dispatchers who are employed by a department that is absorbed have not voluntarily changed jobs; nor in most cases will their job change as a result of the absorption. On the other hand, dispatchers who voluntarily transfer to another department are in fact changing jobs, supervisors, assignments and possibly job duties.

Q. Will a background update be acceptable if the department no longer maintains the original background? 
A. No. The department must still be in possession of the original background, and that background must demonstrate that the candidate meets all requirements currently in effect (many of which have been substantially expanded). Together, the original background and the completed update must satisfy the current applicable POST selection regulations.

Q. Can supporting documents in an original background be used again for a background update? 
A. Yes, in some cases. Some documents have no "shelf-life" (e.g., a birth certificate, high school transcripts after graduation, etc.) and therefore there is no need for the same department to collect this information again. Required documentation that is time-sensitive (e.g., criminal history checks, credit reports, driving records, etc.), must not be more than one year old.

Q. Will fingerprints have to be re-submitted during a background update? 
A. If a candidate is seeking re-appointment to the same department and the department previously notified the Department of Justice that it was no longer interested in this individual, fingerprints will have to be repeated.

Q. For an investigation update to be considered complete, is it necessary to re-contact the same individuals who were questioned during the original background investigation? 
A. Yes, if, since the completion of the original background, circumstances have changed or sufficient time has elapsed to justify a new assessment (e.g., a spouse previously contacted may now be an ex-spouse, or an employer may have had sufficient time to form new opinions about a candidate's suitability).

§ 1959 (g) DOCUMENTATION AND REPORTING 

(1) Background Narrative Report

Q. What must the background narrative report include? 
A. The precise format for the narrative report is at the discretion of the appointing authority; however, the report must provide sufficient written documentation to demonstrate regulatory compliance.

(2) Retention 

Q. How long must a department retain the background reports of candidates who were not hired? 
A. POST's authority extends only to public safety dispatcher appointments, not to candidates who were not selected. However, the California Government Code (and in some cases, the EEOC/DFEH) have specific record-keeping requirements associated with the applications of those who were not hired. As a general rule, nothing associated with a record of application may be destroyed in less than two years, and, if a department is notified of pending litigation regarding a background, no documentation should be excised from the file before resolution. Caution and consultation with the department's legal counsel should be exercised before disposing of any personnel records.

Q. Must an investigator's handwritten notes be preserved along with the rest of the background? 
A. If an investigator's notes are rough drafts of material faithfully reproduced in the background file, they do not have to be maintained. However, if the notes are the only record of information obtained, they would be subject to the same retention requirements as any other aspect of the background investigation.

(3) Information Access

Q. Must departments share background information with other departments? 
A. Yes, under specified circumstances. California courts have held that there is a "duty to cooperate" with legally mandated backgrounds. This is another area where the department's legal counsel should be consulted for specific guidance.

Q. Must certain portions of a background investigation be withheld? 
A. Yes. Local and state criminal history summaries, for example, may not be shared with private parties conducting backgrounds (Penal Code §§ 13302-13303), and DMV home address information may not be shared with anyone who does not have access to a CLETS Terminal (Vehicle Code § 1808.45). Further, if the investigator is representing a non-criminal justice agency (e.g., a joint powers authority), information concerning detentions and arrests which did not result in a conviction may also have to be withheld. The ADA also prohibits the release of medical information to other prospective employing departments [29 CFR 1630.14(b)(1)]. In other instances, a legally insufficient release form may bar the release of other information (e.g., credit records, education transcripts, etc.). This is yet another area where the involvement of the department's legal counsel is critical.

Q. Does POST dictate what access candidates have to their own background reports? 
A. No, this is a question which must be resolved by the department's legal counsel, as both state and federal law may control issues of disclosure.

Commission Regulation 1960

COMMISSION REGULATION 1960: MEDICAL EVALUATION – PUBLIC SAFETY DISPATCHER

§ 1960 (a) EVALUATOR REQUIREMENTS

Q. Can a qualified physician's assistant or nurse practitioner be responsible for the medical evaluation? 
A. A licensed physician must sign the medical evaluation report indicating responsibility for the evaluation.

Q. Can the medical evaluation be conducted by a chiropractic doctor? 
A. No. A chiropractic license or certification is not sufficient.

Q. Must the physician be licensed to practice medicine in California? 
A. No. The physician's medical license may be from any state.

Q. Can the medical evaluation be conducted by the candidate's own medical doctor? 
A. No. The pre-employment medical evaluation must be conducted by a physician who is acting as an agent of the hiring department, not the candidate.

Q. Can candidates be asked to pay for the medical evaluation since, if they want the job, they need to do what is asked to complete the process? 
A. No. California Labor Code § 222.5 prohibits employers from requiring applicants to pay for routine screening conducted during the hiring process. [Note: second opinion evaluations are different in that respect [see § 1960 (f)].

§ 1960 (b) TIMING OF THE MEDICAL EVALUATION

Q. Is a new medical evaluation required if a dispatcher returns to the same department after a voluntary separation of less than one year? 
A. Generally yes. Any time a dispatcher is taken "off the books" (i.e., a NOAT is submitted to POST), a new medical evaluation is required if s/he returns to the same department, regardless of the length of the break in service.

§ 1960 (c) MEDICAL SCREENING PROCEDURES AND EVALUATION CRITERIA

Q. Can the POST Medical Screening Manual for California Law Enforcement be used in conducting dispatcher medical evaluations?
A. No. The medical examination and evaluation protocols in the POST Medical Screening Manual were developed and are intended for peace officers. Since the responsibilities, working conditions and demands of peace officers and dispatchers are significantly different, the same medical evaluation procedures and criteria will not apply. However, the methodology used to create the manual - analyzing the job from a medical suitability standpoint, involving appropriate medical experts, establishing risk management criteria – can be followed in creating medically job-relevant procedures and criteria for a department's public safety dispatchers.

§ 1960 (d) REQUIRED SOURCES OF INFORMATION FOR THE MEDICAL EVALUATION

Q. What specifically is the department required to provide to the physician in the way of job information?
A. At a minimum, the physician should be provided with a copy of the department's public safety dispatcher job description and essential job functions. It may be necessary to augment this description with other information of relevance to medical screening, such as specifics on dispatcher physical activities and requirements, environmental factors, and working conditions. Other information about the job may need to be provided to – and discussed with - the physician, as needed, on a case-by-case basis, depending upon the conditions and medical issues presented by the candidate.

Q. Can the physician add questions to the POST Medical History Statement? 
A. Yes. The POST Public Safety Dispatcher Medical History Statement – POST 2-264 (or alternative form) may be amended as deemed necessary and appropriate. However, all forms must include inquiries about past and current medical conditions and procedures, physical symptoms, limitations, restrictions and the use of medications and drugs. In addition, state law (FEHA) stipulates that all medical inquiries must be job-related and consistent with business necessity.

Q. There are no questions on the POST Medical History Statement regarding the candidate's current or past illegal drug use (including the use of legal drugs without a prescription). Why not? 
A. A candidate's past or current illegal use of drugs is considered more a matter of character than medical suitability. As such, it is assumed that inquiries of this nature can and should be addressed in the course of the background investigation and the psychological evaluation, if conducted.

Q. Medical records from the candidate's treating physician are now required if "warranted and obtainable." Why? 
A. The review of medical records by the screening physician can greatly increase the effectiveness of the medical evaluation in several ways. First, review of medical records serves to verify that the medical history provided by the candidate is complete and accurate. Additionally, the review of medical records can provide more detailed, useful information than even the most cooperative candidate. Medical history is often the most important part of the medical evaluation, more so than either the physical examination or the medical testing. Therefore, the quality of the physician's evaluation can rest in large part on the reliability of the medical history information, provided by both candidates and their physicians.

§ 1960 (e) MEDICAL EVALUATION REPORT

Q. Our screening physician's report provides information on the findings of the examination; however, the doctor does not state whether those findings render the candidate medically suitable or unsuitable. Is that sufficient for POST's purposes? 
A. No. The physician's report must include a determination of the candidate's suitability to perform dispatcher duties. During compliance reviews, POST looks for a signed document from the physician stating that the candidate was evaluated according to POST regulations and was found to be medically suitable.

Q. Doesn't the decision regarding the candidate's suitability rest with the hiring authority? 
A. The ultimate hiring decision rests with the hiring authority, but it is the physician who determines whether the candidate is medically suitable. However, this determination should not only be based upon the job demands and conditions as defined and provided by the department, but also upon the risk management criteria established by the hiring authority (i.e., the degree and type of limitations/risks deemed acceptable).

Q. Can the department disqualify a candidate if the physician determines that s/he is medically suitable?
A. POST's authority does not extend to candidates who were not hired. However, the authority of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) does include all applicants. Therefore, if the hiring authority were to disqualify a candidate for medical reasons, despite a screening physician's determination that the candidate is medically suitable, the department should be prepared to defend that decision as lawful according to the ADA and FEHA.

Q. If the candidate reveals something to the doctor that s/he failed to tell the background investigator, can that be grounds for disqualification? 
A. Yes, but with important caveats. First, deliberate misstatements or omissions should not be the basis for a medical disqualification; rather, such information should be forwarded to the background investigator and/or personnel department for disposition. Second, a candidate should not be penalized for exercising his/her rights under ADA/FEHA by withholding medical or disability-related information prior to a conditional offer of employment, even in response to a direct inquiry. For example, a candidate may withhold the fact that he filed a worker's compensation claim on his past job during a (pre-offer) background investigation, since questions about worker's compensation are considered medical in nature (although the candidate would still be obligated to list the employer where the worker's compensation claim was filed at the pre-offer phase).

Q. Included in our physician's report are details of the medical examination procedures and findings. Can the entire report be included in the candidate's background file? 
A. No. To comply with the confidentiality requirements of state and federal law, details of the medical examination and other medical information must be maintained as a confidential medical record, separate from the candidate's background investigation file.

Q. Can information from the screening physician regarding job-relevant limitations and recommendations for reasonable accommodation be included in that part of the Medical Examination Report that is maintained in the candidate's background investigation file, or must this information be kept confidential? 
A. This will need to be handled on a case-by-case basis and with careful consultation with the department's legal counsel and risk managers. If the information is not directly disability-related, it may be acceptable to include it in the background investigation file. In general, however, the only information resulting from the medical evaluation that is necessary to keep in the background file is the Medical Evaluation Report described in Commission Regulation 1960(e)(1).

§ 1960 (f) SECOND OPINIONS

Q. Is the department obligated to pay if the candidate wants to get a second opinion? 
A. Neither state law nor POST regulation requires departments to pay for a second opinion.

Q. Can the department require candidates to choose from a specified list of physicians if the candidate wants to get a second opinion? 
A. No. Although the department may assist the candidate by offering a list of physicians who are experienced in pre-employment medical screening as a service to the candidate, the department cannot dictate who the rejected candidate uses for a second medical opinion, or even the qualifications of that evaluator. However, findings from second opinion evaluators can be considered against the relevancy of the evaluator's qualifications and experience.

Q. Does the candidate's right to submit a second opinion expire after a certain period of time? 
A. FEHA Regulation 2 CCR § 7294.0(d)(2), which provides the rejected candidate with the right to submit an independent medical evaluation before a final determination is made, does not specify a time limit within which the second opinion must be received. Consultation with the department's legal counsel is advisable before establishing such a departmental policy.

Q. Can a department hire an applicant based on the findings of the second opinion evaluator, given that Commission Regulation 1960(a) states that, "the evaluation shall be conducted on behalf of and for the benefit of the employing department"? 
A. As stated in Commission Regulation 1960(f), "The means for resolving discrepancies in evaluations is at the discretion of the department, consistent with local personnel policies and/or rules." In other words, it is the department's right and responsibility to arrive at a resolution to the discrepant medical determinations, based on a policy that gives due consideration to findings of both the departmental and the second opinion physician (per FEHA Regulation § 7294). Regardless of who conducted the evaluation, a Medical Evaluation Report indicating that the applicant was determined to be medically suitable for performing as a public safety dispatcher must be included in the background file.

Q. POST's medical selection standards do not appear to include a requirement for psychological screening. Is that correct? 
A. That is correct. Current POST regulation imposes no requirement for psychological screening of public safety dispatcher candidates. But as stated previously, POST-participating agencies are free to establish higher standards that can be shown to be job-relevant and consistent with business necessity.