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  • Privacy Act Request - Bad Idea?

    I did a search and couldn't find a related thread for this topic, so apologies if this is a redundant question.

    It's my understanding that with the exception of intelligence-related positions, a former applicant can obtain internal records related to their application. There are lots of caveats, polygraph and psychological results may be protected, all names and information that could identify a confidential source will be redacted, etc. However, the basic stuff, like emails, shouldn't be exempt from disclosure under the Privacy Act.

    It's also my understanding that when you do this, it's a surefire bridge-burner with that agency. Nearly every agency has a policy of reserving the right to not willingly disclose information about factors contributing to an adverse employment decision, so it's not surprising that they wouldn't be pleased if you forced them to.

    My question is, how would obtaining my BI information from a completed application process look to other agencies?

    For context, I have applied to the same agency twice in the last few years, and have been determined "Not Best Qualified" for unspecified background reasons both times. I am interested in starting processes with other agencies, but I believe my chances of success would be considerably higher if I knew what to address/work to mitigate in future background processes. Also, I'm just really curious. However, I don't want to rock the boat too much. Feedback from BI's and those who make suitability determinations at their depts would be greatly appreciated.

  • #2
    If you are looking to purchase an insurance policy which guarantees that you will never get hired anywhere, you certainly found it. Keep testing and don't dwell on a process that can be very arbitrary.

    Last edited by slamdunc; 06-04-2014, 05:57 PM.
    “Truth is not what you want it to be; it is what it is, and you must bend to its power or live a lie.”

    Miyamoto Musashi

    “Life Is Hard, But It's Harder When You're Stupid”

    George V. Higgins (from The Friends of Eddie Coyle)

    Comment


    • #3
      slamdunc, thanks for the input! I have spoken with friends in law enforcement and they have given me answers ranging from "go for it" to "hell no," but none have personal background in hiring (all in patrol divisions). Do you mind my asking what kind of personal/professional experience you have with this issue? Not at all trying to be nitpicky, just hoping to get a sense for where the perspective comes from.

      Comment


      • #4
        My agency would fight a request for the background work product tooth and nail. There are many confidential questions asked to the people we contact when doing a BI and part of the reason they are answered is because the answers are to be held confidential

        Most agencies would ALSO notify any agency who contacted them afterwards of the attempt to gain access to the BI work product.

        The result wouldn't be pretty


        Just so you don't have to actually look at my prior post to find out my background.......................I was a Lieutenant for a state wide Law Enforcement Agency for 15 yrs. I was involved in all aspects of the hiring process up to but not including making the actual hiring decision.
        Since some people need to be told by notes in crayon .......Don't PM me with without prior permission. If you can't discuss the situation in the open forum ----it must not be that important

        My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by SharkNFries View Post

          For context, I have applied to the same agency twice in the last few years, and have been determined "Not Best Qualified" for unspecified background reasons both times. I am interested in starting processes with other agencies, but I believe my chances of success would be considerably higher if I knew what to address/work to mitigate in future background processes. Also, I'm just really curious. However, I don't want to rock the boat too much. Feedback from BI's and those who make suitability determinations at their depts would be greatly appreciated.

          I find it VERY hard to believe that someone who is wanting to be a police officer doesn't know what "background issues" they may have.

          Most disqualifications are published by the agency or the state licensing agency. A simple read of what it takes to NOT get hired will tell most people (if they are totally honest with themselves) WHY they are not being hired.
          Since some people need to be told by notes in crayon .......Don't PM me with without prior permission. If you can't discuss the situation in the open forum ----it must not be that important

          My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Iowa #1603 View Post
            My agency would fight a request for the background work product tooth and nail. There are many confidential questions asked to the people we contact when doing a BI and part of the reason they are answered is because the answers are to be held confidential

            Most agencies would ALSO notify any agency who contacted them afterwards of the attempt to gain access to the BI work product.

            The result wouldn't be pretty


            Just so you don't have to actually look at my prior post to find out my background.......................I was a Lieutenant for a state wide Law Enforcement Agency for 15 yrs. I was involved in all aspects of the hiring process up to but not including making the actual hiring decision.
            ^^^^This is the reasoning for my answer.^^^^

            “Truth is not what you want it to be; it is what it is, and you must bend to its power or live a lie.”

            Miyamoto Musashi

            “Life Is Hard, But It's Harder When You're Stupid”

            George V. Higgins (from The Friends of Eddie Coyle)

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Iowa #1603 View Post
              I find it VERY hard to believe that someone who is wanting to be a police officer doesn't know what "background issues" they may have.

              Most disqualifications are published by the agency or the state licensing agency. A simple read of what it takes to NOT get hired will tell most people (if they are totally honest with themselves) WHY they are not being hired.
              Iowa, thank you for your input as well. I'm glad to be hearing from people who know what they're talking about. My main question was whether or not this is a "can't hurt" type of situation and I'm getting a resounding "NO" from both of you.

              Without getting unnecessarily long-winded about myself, I wasn't "disqualified." I was "Not Best Qualified." I do know what some of my "red flags" might be and can only speculate about others, but I do know for a fact that I don't have any individual auto-disqualifiers. These were whole-picture determinations which is why I'm so curious.

              TL;DR: Which leads me to believe that slamdunc's advice re: processes being arbitrary and this being a counterproductive waste of time and energy is probably spot on. On to the next process!

              Comment


              • #8
                If you're absolutely bound and determined to pursue what at best is a questionable course of action, knock yourself out.

                At the end of a given day YOU know your Background issues better than anyone on these forums. YOU should have a far better sense of why any of these issues is posing a problem.

                It's been noted to you, but just for the record, one of the best ways I can think of of torpedoing any chances you might have, would be for you to pursue the course you're contemplating.

                FYI, I too am retired from a state law enforcement agency. I conducted Background Investigations, either in whole or in part as a normal part of my duties.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by SharkNFries View Post
                  Iowa, thank you for your input as well. I'm glad to be hearing from people who know what they're talking about. My main question was whether or not this is a "can't hurt" type of situation and I'm getting a resounding "NO" from both of you.

                  Without getting unnecessarily long-winded about myself, I wasn't "disqualified." I was "Not Best Qualified." I do know what some of my "red flags" might be and can only speculate about others, but I do know for a fact that I don't have any individual auto-disqualifiers. These were whole-picture determinations which is why I'm so curious.

                  TL;DR: Which leads me to believe that slamdunc's advice re: processes being arbitrary and this being a counterproductive waste of time and energy is probably spot on. On to the next process!






                  The very vast majority of people on these forums know very well what they are talking about. We have an occasional exception, (One in particular comes to mind), but what you've received in reply to your query is 100% accurate, spot on, information.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by PhilipCal View Post
                    The very vast majority of people on these forums know very well what they are talking about. We have an occasional exception, (One in particular comes to mind), but what you've received in reply to your query is 100% accurate, spot on, information.
                    Philip, thanks for weighing in. This is why I asked here :-)

                    EDIT: Also just wanted to clarify that I wasn't implying that anyone here didn't know what they were talking about, rather that I suspected that the people I had already talked to might not have been the most reliable sources on this subject.
                    Last edited by SharkNFries; 06-04-2014, 03:15 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by SharkNFries View Post

                      Without getting unnecessarily long-winded about myself, I wasn't "disqualified." I was "Not Best Qualified." I do know what some of my "red flags" might be and can only speculate about others, but I do know for a fact that I don't have any individual auto-disqualifiers. These were whole-picture determinations which is why I'm so curious.
                      If you know what some red flags are--------------------you probably know why you are not "best qualified". & Yes a disqualification is much different.

                      The "whole picture determination" just might be that the administration isn't willing to hire you with the known red flags. Many times you are just "out gunned" by those with stellar or "more better" qualifications.

                      Originally posted by SharkNFries View Post
                      Which leads me to believe that slamdunc's advice re: processes being arbitrary and this being a counterproductive waste of time and energy is probably spot on. On to the next process!
                      I agree that it is counterproductive to "force" the issue

                      Keep trying....



                      Originally posted by SharkNFries View Post
                      EDIT: Also just wanted to clarify that I wasn't implying that anyone here didn't know what they were talking about, rather that I suspected that the people I had already talked to might not have been the most reliable sources on this subject.
                      Kind of like the poster on here who was trying to tell me that his "expert" had never heard of the Brady Vs Maryland decsion

                      That "expert" was a 2 yr rookie -----who's only reference to the hiring process was-------------he managed to get hired
                      Last edited by Iowa #1603; 06-04-2014, 04:40 PM.
                      Since some people need to be told by notes in crayon .......Don't PM me with without prior permission. If you can't discuss the situation in the open forum ----it must not be that important

                      My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Allow me to first clarify a few things-

                        The Privacy Act is not what you should be looking at to leverage available/non exempt records. The Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. § 552a) deals with the rules related to collection of information about individuals and the requirements related to its protection and disclosure.

                        Whereas the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) generally provides that any person has the right to request access to federal agency records or information except to the extent the records are protected from disclosure by any of nine exemptions contained in the law or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions.

                        Exemptions to FOIA

                        The nine exemption categories that authorize government agencies to withhold information are:

                        1.classified information for national defense or foreign policy

                        2.internal personnel rules and practices

                        3.information that is exempt under other laws

                        4.trade secrets and confidential business information

                        5.inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda or letters that are protected by legal privileges

                        6.personnel and medical files

                        7.law enforcement records or information

                        8.information concerning bank supervision

                        9.geological and geophysical information

                        While you can request access to/copies of your files under both the Privacy Act and FOIA, most seek them through a FOIA.

                        In sum: the Privacy Act provides safeguards against invasion of personal privacy through the misuse of records by Federal Agencies. FOIA provides with a few exceptions, access to any records held by the government.

                        As for how looking at your records may be viewed by that or another agency- I think that is the least of your concerns. Your reason for being rated as "not best" or otherwise not reaching the mark is likely not going to be revealed through either a FOIA or Privacy Act request.

                        Assuming this is with the Fed, how it works is this: you apply for a job, the applications are screened for minimum qualifications and those that pass are moved forward. They are then ranked based on career status, veterans preference or other special authorities.

                        They are then reviewed based on that rank ordering. They look for applications that clearly identify they applicant has critical skills which are often cited in the vacancy announcement under required/critical/preferred skills, under the description of duties, etc.

                        Say they have 5 open spots and 100 applicants who meet the basic qualifications; out of those say 4 have the identified critical factors and six fall just short. Applicants 1-10 get a letter/notification saying they were "referred" and the trailing 90 get a letter saying not referred- end of story for them.

                        1-10 are then screened again and ranked according to preference points and an overall assessment of their competencies. Now remember we only have 5 positions available and 4 are dead on for the most part. They then scrub the remaining and come up with a determination as to who left will fill slot #4. Those who don't are rated as "not best qualified".

                        Thing is they all may have had reasonably equivalent backgrounds, but one was able to better articulate experience and training that better matched the position over someone else. Perhaps one had a certificate in ASL and management thought that would be a big plus over someone else with an identical background but who lacked that one thing.

                        And nothing in your file will reflect the decision process used. That's the important thing here.

                        So, in the end you are free to request your records and an agency should not treat you any differently, but the only thing that you may find from such a request is something negative you likely already knew about, BUT if you are getting booted at the application stage, your chasing up a tree since they don't start the background or reference checks until much later.
                        Last edited by sgt jon; 06-04-2014, 08:39 PM.
                        Originally posted by SSD
                        It has long been the tradition on this forum and as well as professionally not to second guess or Monday morning QB the officer's who were actually on-scene and had to make the decision. That being said, I don't think that your discussion will go very far on this board.
                        Originally posted by Iowa #1603
                        And now you are arguing about not arguing..................

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I agree fully with my colleagues. The only thing you will accomplish will be to torpedo your chances in the future. If you want to better your chances do a honest self appraisal against the standards of the agencies where you want to work. At that point commit to improving yourself in the areas where you fall short.
                          In God We Trust
                          Everyone else we run local and NCIC

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by sgt jon View Post
                            Allow me to first clarify a few things-

                            The Privacy Act is not what you should be looking at to leverage available/non exempt records. The Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. § 552a) deals with the rules related to collection of information about individuals and the requirements related to its protection and disclosure.

                            Whereas the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) generally provides that any person has the right to request access to federal agency records or information except to the extent the records are protected from disclosure by any of nine exemptions contained in the law or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions.

                            Exemptions to FOIA

                            The nine exemption categories that authorize government agencies to withhold information are:

                            1.classified information for national defense or foreign policy

                            2.internal personnel rules and practices

                            3.information that is exempt under other laws

                            4.trade secrets and confidential business information

                            5.inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda or letters that are protected by legal privileges

                            6.personnel and medical files

                            7.law enforcement records or information

                            8.information concerning bank supervision

                            9.geological and geophysical information

                            While you can request access to/copies of your files under both the Privacy Act and FOIA, most seek them through a FOIA.

                            In sum: the Privacy Act provides safeguards against invasion of personal privacy through the misuse of records by Federal Agencies. FOIA provides with a few exceptions, access to any records held by the government.

                            As for how looking at your records may be viewed by that or another agency- I think that is the least of your concerns. Your reason for being rated as "not best" or otherwise not reaching the mark is likely not going to be revealed through either a FOIA or Privacy Act request.

                            Assuming this is with the Fed, how it works is this: you apply for a job, the applications are screened for minimum qualifications and those that pass are moved forward. They are then ranked based on career status, veterans preference or other special authorities.

                            They are then reviewed based on that rank ordering. They look for applications that clearly identify they applicant has critical skills which are often cited in the vacancy announcement under required/critical/preferred skills, under the description of duties, etc.

                            Say they have 5 open spots and 100 applicants who meet the basic qualifications; out of those say 4 have the identified critical factors and six fall just short. Applicants 1-10 get a letter/notification saying they were "referred" and the trailing 90 get a letter saying not referred- end of story for them.

                            1-10 are then screened again and ranked according to preference points and an overall assessment of their competencies. Now remember we only have 5 positions available and 4 are dead on for the most part. They then scrub the remaining and come up with a determination as to who left will fill slot #4. Those who don't are rated as "not best qualified".

                            Thing is they all may have had reasonably equivalent backgrounds, but one was able to better articulate experience and training that better matched the position over someone else. Perhaps one had a certificate in ASL and management thought that would be a big plus over someone else with an identical background but who lacked that one thing.

                            And nothing in your file will reflect the decision process used. That's the important thing here.

                            So, in the end you are free to request your records and an agency should not treat you any differently, but the only thing that you may find from such a request is something negative you likely already knew about, BUT if you are getting booted at the application stage, your chasing up a tree since they don't start the background or reference checks until much later.
                            sgt john, thank you for the informative picture of the screening process. I must respectfully disagree with your assessment of what can be obtained through a Privacy Act request - I actually have professional experience with those particular issues, and the exemptions are considerably narrower for PA requests. I have seen the content of PA requests for pre-employment documentation and I have never actually seen an exemption claim to withhold a document, only names redacted - even in a request to a three-letter agency for an intelligence position. Documents must pertain directly to the citizen making the request, however aside from that the threshold for exemptions is relatively high.

                            You are correct about FOIA's limitations - as a rule of thumb, if one citizen can obtain a record through FOIA, any citizen can. Therefore, the threshhold for exemption claims by the agency is quite low and easily defensible.

                            That said, my initial question was limited how such a request would be viewed by other agencies, and the answer appears to be unanimously "very bad." My impulse is generally to obtain as much information as possible without ruffling feathers. I am getting that feathers would be ruffled, and that this is really not a productive course of action. I'm making a fully informed decision not to go this route, and I thank you all very much for fully informing that decision!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              See (k)(5), (k)(6)

                              Privacy Act Exemptions

                              The Privacy Act (5 USC 552a) generally provides that any person has a right—enforceable in court—of access to federal agency records in which that person is a subject, except to the extent that such records (or portions thereof) are protected from disclosure by one of nine exemptions. When a portion of a record is withheld from public release, the subsection of the Privacy Act law describing that exemption or exemptions may be found listed in the margin next to the space where the withheld text would have been found. The list below describes the type of material withheld under each subsection of the Privacy Act. Exemptions

                              (d)(5) Information compiled in reasonable anticipation of a civil action proceeding.

                              (j)(2) Material reporting investigative efforts pertaining to the enforcement of criminal law, including efforts to prevent, control, or reduce crime or to apprehend criminals.

                              (k)(1) Information that is currently and properly classified pursuant to an executive order in the interest of the national defense or foreign policy—for example, information involving intelligence sources or methods.

                              (k)(2) Investigative material compiled for law enforcement purposes, other than criminal, which did not result in the loss of a right, benefit, or privilege under federal programs or which would identify a source who furnished information pursuant to a promise that his/her identity would be held in confidence.

                              (k)(3) Material maintained in connection with providing protective services to the U.S. President or any other individual pursuant to the authority of Title 18, U. S. Code, Section 3056.

                              (k)(4) Required by statute to be maintained and used solely as statistical records.

                              (k)(5) Investigative material compiled solely for the purpose of determining suitability, eligibility, or qualifications for federal civilian employment or for access to classified information, the disclosure of which would reveal the identity of the person who furnished information pursuant to a promise that his/her identity would be held in confidence.

                              (k)(6) Testing or examination material used to determine individual qualifications for appointment or promotion in federal government service—the release of which would compromise the testing or examination process.

                              (k)(7) Material used to determine the potential for promotion in the armed services, the disclosure of which would reveal the identity of the person who furnished the material pursuant to a promise that his/her identity would be held in confidence.
                              Last edited by GoldBadge; 06-05-2014, 11:50 AM.
                              I’ll die with blue in my veins.

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