A Police Information Check is
only one part of the volunteer screening process. This search is a computerized
scan to determine whether an individual has a criminal record, including any
local police involvement. Many organizations request this background check as a
prerequisite to volunteering.
Yet, the Police Information Check
on its own is not an effective screening method. It has its limitations. It is
recommended to be used after a volunteer role has been evaluated for risk.
Based on the level of risk identified, a Police Information Check might be
deemed useful. There is no need to apply a blanket policy that all volunteers
require one. Focusing on the possible criminality of volunteers could result in
overlooking well-intentioned, constructive people.
Police Information Checks are
based on an individual’s name and birthdate.
It is only a snap shot in time, because a volunteer could commit a crime
from the time the check was done and today. These background checks have no
expiration date, so how retroactive will an organization accept one? Should it
deny one that is six months, one year, or three years old? Every organization
should have a written policy about Police Information Checks. Ultimately,
organizations are responsible for anything done in their name – even by a
A vulnerable person is typically a minor, senior citizen, or person with a disability. If a volunteer will be solely
responsible for a vulnerable person to a significant degree, then an extra level
of screening is in order. This is called a Vulnerable Sector Verification, and
it reveals the existence of any pardoned sex offences. It is based on an
individual’s gender and birthdate, because sex offenders could’ve changed their
name. If a volunteer is flagged for being the same gender and shares a birthday
with an offender, then fingerprints become mandatory. Many volunteers feel
insulted by this request.
Every RCMP or police detachment
differs in how they conduct these background checks. Some charge a fee and
others waive the fee for volunteers. A volunteer is unlikely to get the results
on the same day, so expect two trips to the detachment and possibly an
The bottom line is that a Police
Information Check is not always necessary. To determine if one is justified,
then organizations must assess the level of risk for each volunteer role. To
better understand the recommended ten steps to volunteer screening, please download
the resource The
Screening Handbook. Also, consider visiting www.volunteer.ca