Hinton Connects

Your non-profit resource team

For more information visit our webpage at

View All Posts

Aug 03

Volunteer Screening Process and Police Information Checks

Posted on August 3, 2018 at 8:08 AM by Josh Yaworski

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 volunteer.

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 out-of-pocket expense.

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 and www.volunteeralberta.ab.ca.