How the third largest sheriff’s department in the nation cut its background investigation time in half – without sacrificing quality
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department adopted eSOPH to increase speed, access and the amount of information they are able to collect for each applicant for a more thorough profile
Sponsored by Miller Mendel
By Rachel Zoch, Police1 BrandFocus Staff
The background investigation may be the most critical element in hiring a new officer. This labor-intensive process usually takes months and has traditionally resulted in reams of paperwork. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Cloud-based technology is making it easier to quickly and securely connect applicants, references and investigators, as well as to provide at-your-fingertips access to reviewers and decision-makers.
Looking to update its processes for the digital age, the Riverside County (Calif.) Sheriff’s Department adopted the eSOPH platform from Miller Mendel for its candidate background investigations. Captain Evan Petersen, the department’s hiring executive, says the system has been a godsend that has cut their processing time in half and has given investigators additional tools they didn’t previously have.
“A traditional background would take anywhere from six to nine months,” he said. “By implementing eSOPH, we’ve reduced that down to a 90-day process, without sacrificing quality or compromising applicant privacy rights.”
In addition to the time saved, eSOPH helps the department cut down drastically on its use of paper. Petersen describes the traditional hiring process in law enforcement as “a massive paper machine.”
“At every hiring meeting of every single peace officer, the background investigator or the hiring sergeant would present a voluminous binder,” he said. “All of us always thought, ‘Why do we have to go through hundreds of pages of actual paper? There’s got to be a better way.’”
Petersen says the RCSD was looking to modernize and streamline its process so the department could A, keep up the pace of hiring with fewer full-time investigators, and B, cut down on the expense of creating and storing large paper files.
The capability to log in anywhere and review information in the background file from a desktop or mobile device, rather than printing and passing around huge binders one reviewer at a time, made eSOPH very attractive to the department.
“We knew we couldn’t keep going with this archaic system of multiple hard copies and creating hundreds and hundreds of pages of what ultimately would be this person’s background investigation file,” said Petersen. “We had to get with the times and transition to digital files with a cloud-based access point that would allow us to review things anywhere, anytime. This easy, flexible access made so much more sense as we were looking at improving our overall hiring practices to reflect today’s standards and expectations.”
FASTER and EASIER
The department of roughly 2,000 sworn deputies – the third largest sheriff’s department in the nation – attracts thousands of applicants per year, says Petersen, and easy remote access helps the team of background investigators and management process those applications in a timely manner when working at the office or another location.
“We’re a large agency, so I have a lot of people come through the front door,” he said. “eSOPH made it so that the review and transmission of information happened instantaneously and kept the process moving and in a more secure manner.”
Getting set up with eSOPH was fast and easy, Petersen adds. In the year following adoption, the department hired about 600 deputy sheriff trainees and corrections officers, the most applicants hired in a year in the department’s history. The software also makes it easier to respond to applicants and to request additional information from applicants or references when needed.
“I’d say eSOPH 100% contributed to modernizing and expanding our hiring capabilities,” he said. “It truly provided that ease of information sharing that is so critical in a law enforcement background process. Applicants could quickly and easily submit information, and we could review and respond to that information on the fly versus having to wait for the applicant to mail the information or deliver the information in person.”
COMPREHENSIVE and TRANSPARENT
Petersen says he appreciates how eSOPH enables his team to compile and present a comprehensive file for each applicant, as well as the transparency offered by having all the information in one place. Similar to a chain of custody, the system tracks all activity on each background file and provides useful reporting and alerts for missing elements or looming deadlines.
“It’s thorough and comprehensive,” he said. “I can look at the applicant’s questionnaires and quickly review the ‘yes’ answers the applicant gave us on any question, which helps reduce review time tremendously. I can easily click on a tab within the applicant’s file and look at different elements of the file all on one screen that’s really easy to navigate. Having everything I need in one place really reduces the complexity of the review process and allows me as a decision-maker to focus on the critical information sooner.”
The background investigators love it because of the single access point they can go to at any time, he adds.
“I’m a huge fan,” said Petersen. “I never want to return to the old paper-based process.”
REACH APPLICANTS WHERE THEY ARE
Another benefit, says Petersen, is a modern interface that enables the RCSD to better reach 20-something digital native applicants who expect everything to happen online. The ability to interact with potential new hires with a few taps of their smartphones is proving to be a critical advantage.
“The applicants appreciate the ease of use and convenience that comes with using a digital system,” he said. “We hear, ‘Oh, let me just shoot you that from my phone,’ and boom, it’s there in their file in eSOPH. The eSOPH system addresses the needs and preferences of the new generation of applicants that are more tech-savvy and delivers a solution that benefits all parties.”
From reducing the department’s background investigation processing time by half to providing easier access for reviewers and applicants alike, Petersen says eSOPH gets the job done.
“I truly feel that it’s been a game-changer for the way we conduct investigations,” he said. “eSOPH has given us all that I could ask for.”
Visit Miller Mendel/eSOPH for more information.