Step 4:
Background Investigation

Background Investigator and candidate in an interview

CDCR is always looking to hire peace officers to ensure the safety of the people of California.

We use the ten Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) principles to help us determine suitability. This includes a background investigation.

The background investigation helps us establish the honesty and integrity of each applicant.

We review the details of each applicant’s life, like:

  • Employment
  • Housing
  • Relationships
  • Credit responsibility
  • Criminality
  • Fingerprint search
  • Computerized voice stress analysis

As part of the background investigation, CDCR may contact:

  • Personal references
  • Employers
  • Educational institutions
  • Law enforcement agencies

Investigation Timing

  • The background investigation process begins after passing the Physical Fitness Test (PFT). 
  • The process takes approximately 90 days to complete. A complex background investigation, or a background investigation with serious issues, may exceed the 90-day timeframe.
  • Although processing times will vary, priority processing may result in an earlier hire date. Check out the list of Priority Prisons that have immediate hiring needs, incentives are paid at these institutions. If you are willing to work at one or more of these institutions, complete the Priority Hiring Form and submit it during your PFT.

Regulations, Rules, and Policies

Government Code Section 1031 requires the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to determine that “peace officer candidates are of good moral character, as determined by a thorough background investigation.” Civil Code 1798.15 requires that “personal information shall be collected to the greatest extent practical.” Additionally, Labor Code Section 432.7 requires that you disclose arrests or detentions which did or did not result in a conviction, as well as referral to and participation in pretrial diversion programs.

Background Investigation Instructions

1. Create a Profile for Electronic Statement of Personal History (eSOPH)

You will receive an email to create a profile in eSOPH. Once the profile is created, you will be prompted to complete the Personal History Statement (PHS) (known in eSOPH as Questionnaires).

You will be contacted by your investigator via phone and/or email when your file is assigned.

If assigned to a background investigator, you are required to contact your investigator to update information on employment, legal issues, major life changes, or other background-related issues. Failure to keep your investigator updated on the above items may result in elimination from the selection process. You should not contact your investigator to check the status of your investigation.

If you have questions regarding the background process but have not been assigned a background investigator, please contact the regional Background Investigation Unit. Visit our website and see Contact Us, for your specific region.

You will be notified via email when you clear the Background Investigation process.

2. Read the Personal History Statement (PHS) Questionnaire Instructional Guide

It is strongly recommended candidates read the agreements contained in eSOPH prior to the completion and submission of the PHS Form via eSOPH.

The Background Investigation Unit has created a video series to assist in completing the questionnaires accurately and thoroughly. We want you to succeed.

3. Complete the PHS Questionnaires

The questionnaires are extensive sections of the PHS used to collect personal information regarding a candidate’s current and past life history. All candidates must complete and submit the PHS questionnaire via eSOPH.

Be completely honest in completing the PHS questionnaires. Do not leave out the little things you believe are not or may not be an issue. Once your background investigation has started, if there are any changes to your life history (including receiving a new tattoo and traffic citation), inform your assigned investigator as soon as possible.

Candidates must bring valid picture identification and other required original documents as indicated by their Background Investigator. Candidates are also required to wear business attire and are encouraged to review their PHS prior to this interview.

The Background Investigation Unit is currently using a computer-based software solution called the Electronic Statement of Personal History (eSOPH). All applicants will create and submit all required documents via eSOPH, required documents are:

  • Passport
  • Certified United States Birth Certificate or Original Naturalization Certificate
  • Social Security Card
  • Documents reflecting any name changes from your Birth Certificate. For example, marriage certificate, divorce decrees, court adoption documents, etc.
  • Current/valid automobile insurance card.
  • If you served in the Military, provide a copy of your DD-214, Military Discharge documents (Member 4, long form).
  • Certified and Sealed High School Transcripts or Certified proof of GED or passing California High School Proficiency exam
  • Certified and Sealed College Transcripts from any colleges or universities attended.
  • Professional License or Credential (if applicable to position)

Thoroughness and accuracy are required when completing the PHS. All information will be verified for truthfulness during the CVSA process. Deliberate omissions of information on the PHS may result in elimination from the selection process.

Examples of disqualifying information include a felony conviction, current firearm prohibition, being currently on probation, or an active criminal warrant.

Examples of possible disqualifying factors that could be discovered during the background investigation and require evaluation on a case by case basis include misdemeanor convictions, certain serious traffic convictions or patterns of traffic law violations, failure to appear, driver’s license suspensions, driving under the influence, failure to comply with legal obligations, negative employment history, and substance abuse.

No, a credit score or the establishment of credit is not a minimum qualification for an entry-level peace officer position.

4. Upload Notarized Authorization for Release of Information

The “Authorization for Release of Information” (which is contained in eSOPH as an agreement) must be printed, filled out, and notarized. Upload the notarized “Authorization for Release of Information” into eSOPH.

5. Upload Documents

Upload the following documents via eSOPH with the exception of documents required to be “sealed” or verified original.

  1. Documents reflecting any name changes from your Birth Certificate. For example, marriage certificate, divorce decrees, court adoption documents, etc.
  2. Current/valid automobile insurance card.
  3. If you served in the Military, provide a copy of your DD-214, Military Discharge Form (Member 4, long form).
  4. Social security card.

6. Deliver Original Documents

The following original documents must be presented in person to your assigned Background Investigation Unit. Your assigned background investigator will provide you more direction when these documents are necessary. 

  • Original Certified U.S. Birth Certificate/Original Certified Naturalization Certificate/U.S. Passport (bring original and a copy).
  • Certified and sealed original high school transcripts from the high school you graduated from or Certified proof of GED or passing California High School Proficiency Examination.
  • Certified and sealed college transcripts from any colleges or universities attended.

Initially, candidates can upload copies of original documents and as they move forward in the background investigation, you will be required to show the original copies in person for verification. However, do not remove sealed educational transcripts from the envelope you received them in. you will bring these to sealed transcripts to the investigator as directed.

Please communicate any issues with receiving your transcripts once the investigator assigned to your background investigation is determined. Ultimately, you will need to obtain sealed transcripts.

The Background Investigation Unit does not keep any original documents received from a candidate. We will verify all received documents and return the originals to the candidate.

Due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, we understand that some candidates may not be able to obtain the original required documents due to school closures or other uncontrollable events. If certain original documents are not available, please submit copies of such documents for the background investigation to begin. 

Please note: The original documents are required to complete the background investigation.

7. CVSA Examination/Fingerprinting (Live Scan)

As part of the background investigation process, all candidates will be required to submit to a Computerized Voice Stress Analysis (CVSA) examination. The CVSA examination is used to verify the veracity and accuracy of information submitted by candidates regarding, but not necessarily limited to: the use of controlled substances, driving, criminal history, employment history, and other suitability factors.

Candidates will be fingerprinted by Live Scan as a required part of the background investigation. Fingerprints are scanned into a computer database at the Department of Justice and checked against criminal records nationwide. Information received may include dismissed charges.

Government Code section 1030 requires that each candidate be fingerprinted as part of the Background Investigation. Each fingerprint is scanned into a computer database at the Department of Justice and checked against criminal records nationwide. Information received may include charges that have been dismissed.

Applicants will be live scanned upon successful completion of the physical fitness test.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Logo

The CVSA is used to determine your honesty and verification of your life history provided in the PHS questionnaires. The best advice is to be completely honest. There are many issues we can work through. However, if you’re found to be dishonest or omit pertinent information in your life history, it could be cause for elimination from the process.

Important Policies and Information

Illegal Drug and Marijuana Use

Experimental use of marijuana or other drugs may not be a disqualifying factor. The recency, frequency, and specific circumstances of illegal drug activity will be evaluated to determine suitability for employment as a peace officer.

The use of marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes is considered illegal drug use as mandated by the federal government.

CDCR recognizes some qualified applicants may have used illegal drugs or abused legal drugs or substances, at some point in their past;  application of CDCR’s drug use policy guidelines, in conjunction with case-by-case analysis, will determine if an applicant’s prior drug usage or activity will result in the applicant’s non-selection for employment with the CDCR.  All applicants are required to disclose their current and past drug usage and activity.  An applicant will not be selected for employment if he or she deliberately misrepresents his or her drug history in connection with his or her application for employment.