Step 6: Background Investigation and Preliminary Investigative Questionnaire
Collection of Preliminary Background Information Using Applicant- Provided Information
After candidates completed the interview, they were scheduled for a preliminary background check, which proceeded in two parts. The candidates were first asked to fill out the Personal History Form (PHF) and bring back supporting documentation within roughly two weeks. The personal history form was similar to that given to other public safety positions, although it was less in-depth than that of potential police officers. Because firefighters are not considered sworn peace officers (like police officers are), the same laws that restrict what may be asked of civilians are in effect for firefighters as well. Candidates were asked to list their residences for the past ten years, name their family members, describe their past experience and employment, and other basic questions. The PHF also asked if they had ever been in auto accidents or convicted of a felony or misdemeanor and asked them to describe the current state of their finances. Candidates had to give seven personal references and bring in supporting documentation (Social Security card, proof of auto insurance, EMT license, etc.).
Candidates were then invited to a classroom setting, where they filled out an in-depth Preliminary Investigative Questionnaire (PIQ) asking them a variety of questions on their personal history, such as their personal conduct and any activities violating the law, military history, firefighter and law enforcement applications and experience, finances, vehicle operation, residence, employment, alcohol consumption, narcotic and substance abuse, and questions regarding negative, undesirable, and unlawful behaviors. For example, candidates were asked whether they had ever been involved in or been associated with anyone involved in acts of forgery or prostitution, whether anyone had ever complained about their work performance, or whether any family members were associated with gangs. Candidates filled out this form and then sat with an investigator for 40 minutes to go over their answers. Any illegal or otherwise concerning activities had to be explained in detail, but there were no disqualifying answers.
The investigator then made a recommendation in the candidate's file about whether or not the candidate should proceed in the process. This recommendation, however, was not deterministic. The candidate automatically moved on to the next step, regardless of the investigator's recommendation.
This cycle's background investigations were held in June 2013. Expenses for background investigations during 2013 added up to roughly $286,000, including hiring background investigators, interview specialists, case managers, and clerical support.