BRITISH COLUMBIA

Changes to police record-check policies hopeful: B.C. privacy commissioner

01/19/2015 05:15 EST | Updated 03/21/2015 05:59 EDT
VICTORIA - Police forces across British Columbia are implementing new policies preventing them from revealing embarrassing details in record checks, the province's privacy commissioner said Monday.

Elizabeth Denham's report released last year criticized police record checks, saying too much sensitive personal information was being sent out beyond what was necessary for employment or volunteering.

Policy guidelines announced by the provincial government last month detail what kind of information police won't be allowed to disclose, including suicide attempts, mental health apprehensions, or incidents that don't result in charges or convictions.

"I think it's a good approach, it's not a perfect approach because I would have preferred to see a legislative solution," Denham said of the changes in an interview on Monday.

The new policy has been endorsed by all municipal and RCMP forces in the province, she said.

The changes also mean that police will no longer disclose non-conviction information in record checks for people who apply for positions that don't involve work with children or vulnerable adults.

"We assume the presumption of innocence as well, so information that relates to a complaint that doesn't go anywhere, a complaint to the police by say a frustrated neighbour, again that shouldn't find its way into an employment check."

She said a domestic dispute that doesn't result in charges or a conviction should not be in the employment realm.

Denham said the greatest number of complaints they heard were about disclosure of information of suicide attempts or apprehensions under the Mental Health Act.

"The stories that we heard from British Columbians that are just devastating. Many were shocked, embarrassed or hurt by the information contained in these checks," she said. "I think a lot of credit goes to the government and the police agencies for coming around to a resolution."

Denham said she hopes the policy changes will work, but her office will be watching for any infractions.

She added that the new policy model strikes a balance between the right to privacy for an individual and an employers' need to get the relevant background information on potential employees.