02/06/2014 08:57 EST | Updated 04/08/2014 05:59 EDT

Criminal record checks for employers raise privacy concerns

B.C.'s Privacy Commissioner is asking for public input on what she says is an increasing trend of employers requiring police information checks that could include incidents such as suicide attempts.

Elizabeth Denham has launched an investigation into whether the practice violates B.C.'s privacy laws.

She says most police departments no longer offer simple criminal record checks.

Instead, Denham says that when requested, police provide a more comprehensive "police information check" that includes:

- Warrants for arrest.

- Information about adverse police contact.

- Investigations that do not result in charges.

- Information related to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

- Information about an individual's mental health.

Police say they use discretion

The Vancouver Police Department declined to comment on Denham's investigation.

However, a Jan. 14 report to the Police Board says that Vancouver police provided police information checks for 15,825 people last year.

Forty-nine of those included the release of mental health information.

"The VPD does not take lightly the disclosure of an incident with a mental health element," reads the report from Chief  Jim Chu. "Release of this information is limited to serious incidents that reflect a tenor of violence."

Abbotsford Police Const. Ian MacDonald said they never release information directly to the employer.

"So the individual always controls their information, and always can make an informed choice as to who would receive it subsequently," he said.

Denham's office is accepting public comment on police information checks until Feb. 21.