PASS Process Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What is the PASS?

Answer: The Police Applicant Screening Service (PASS) is a regional selection center created to serve the law enforcement agencies of Pinellas County by maintaining a pool of qualified law enforcement officer candidates. The Sheriff, the State Attorney, the Police Academy Director, and the Police Chiefs operate PASS as a unit of local government.

Question: What is the purpose of regional selection?

Answer: PASS saves taxpayers money by reducing redundant operations and by sharing information and costs among several agencies. Because some processing steps (like background investigations) require a lot of time and effort, savings can be significant. Of course, it also saves time and effort for applicants, particularly if they wish to be considered by more than one agency. Candidates who meet the required standards enter a Candidate Pool from which they may be selected by any of the 13 agencies we serve.

Question: Why is there a fee for the service?

Answer: Applicants are asked to pay a fee when registering for the PASS process. This helps pay for testing, postage, and other expenses. The cost assessment funding within FSS 318.18(11)(b) supports the much larger balance of the costs for overhead, personnel, etc.

Question: Can I apply directly to an agency rather than through PASS?

Answer Certainly. Our member agencies are free to consider any applicant. Most agencies, however, will refer you to PASS for screening.

Question: Where is PASS located?

Answer: We are at the same building as the Law Enforcement Academy at the St. Petersburg College Allstate Center, 3200 34th Street South, Suite 135 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Use the Contact Information link on our home page to see a map.

Question: What standards must I meet to enter the Candidate Pool?

Answer: All the standards are published in our Applicant Information Pakage. You can get an AIP at our office, or you can download it directly here. (When you register for the PASS process, you will be asked to acknowledge that you have read and understand the AIP.) Below is a sampling of the information contained with the AIP:

Question: What defines “Good Moral Character”?

Answer:  Florida Administrative Code, Rule 11.B.27.0011 provides guidelines for agencies to determine if an applicant is of good moral character. The final determination will be made by the agency considering an applicant for hire. The Florida Supreme Court and the District Court of Appeals have ruled that: “Moral Character as used in this statute means not only the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, but the character to observe the difference; the observance of the rules of right conduct, and conduct which indicates and establishes the qualities generally accepted to the populace for positions of trust and confidence.” 347 So. 2d 1102 (Fla. DCA 1997), and

“In our view a finding of a lack of “Good Moral Character” should not be restricted to those acts that reflect moral turpitude. A more appropriate definition of the phrase requires an inclusion of acts and conduct which would cause a reasonable man to have substantial doubt about an individual’s honesty, fairness, and respect for the rights of others and for the laws of the state and nation.” 364 So. 2nd 454 (Florida Supreme Court, 1978)

Question: What is “Omitted Information”?

Answer: A thorough background investigation requires a broad range of information about a candidate. Applicants must strive to respond to each section of the background package completely and in detail. PASS believes that significant details from a person’s life are seldom forgotten or overlooked, especially when applying for a position of public trust. Any questions about whether a detail should be included in the background package should be directed to a PASS staff member before submission of the package for review. Otherwise, we may consider information later discovered in the investigation to have been intentionally omitted. Please ask if you have any question or doubt.

Question: I’ve only experimented with drugs. Will I be disqualified?

Answer: “Experimentation” is a subjective term. A level that seems experimental to some may be considered abuse by PASS. Full disclosure up front is your best opportunity to determine your eligibility now or in the future. We’re here to help, so talk to us.

Question: What is “Delivery” of a controlled substance?

Answer: Delivery is handing a controlled substance from yourself or one person to another, whether or not you actually use the substance yourself. Delivery includes passing a “joint”, carrying drugs from one person or place to another without payment, giving another person drugs lawfully prescribed to you, or acting as an unpaid go-between in any illegal drug transaction.

Question: Why could I be disqualified for committing a crime I was never arrested for or convicted of?

Answer: The fact that an act was committed may lead to a finding that an applicant lacks good moral character as required by law and rule. Our agencies will not hire those whose conduct has been pervasively criminal, anti-social, or the result of repeated poor judgment. If you are concerned about the effect of some life event on your qualification to serve please discuss it with a PASS staff member before submitting your application.

Question: What testing is done in the process?

Answer: Applicants must pass a state mandated Criminal Justice Basic Abilities Test (CJ-BAT) and we also conduct a writing test. These are multiple-choice tests and, taken together, last about half of a day. We normally tests every Tuesday morning, but if you are traveling from out of town or have some other genuine conflict, we can arrange an alternate time by appointment. We also perform additional testing dates during a large influx of applicants. You must register with PASS in order to be scheduled for the test. Please remember that unexcused failure to attend a scheduled test appointment will result in an additional test fee.

Question: Why does the PASS process require college while the State of Florida only requires a high school diploma to be certified as an officer?

Answer: The nature of the work is more complex than it used to be – and so is the training. If you read the Applicant Information Package (AIP), you will see that PASS allows you to substitute some specific types of life experience for college, like military service or prior service as a law enforcement officer. What college and these other qualifying experiences have in common is that they all produce a record showing how well an applicant performed in a structured environment with learning requirements, rules, policies, procedures, etc. This is because law enforcement is also a very structured environment with learning requirements, rules, policies, procedures, etc. The good news is that – while the agencies in this county tend to expect more – they also tend to pay more.

Question: What happens if I do not meet a standard?

Answer: Because the standards are set by the Pinellas Police Standards Council, staff members do not have the authority to waive them. We cannot place an applicant in the Candidate Pool unless all standards are met. We can, however, discuss issues with you to clear up misunderstandings and seek a resolution. Many problems can be resolved through efforts by the applicant. If all else fails, there is an appeal process. If you do not meet one of the standards, be sure to tell us about it at registration. We can arrange provisional entry into the process for the purpose of filing an appeal to the Council’s Standards Review Committee.

Question: How long does the PASS process take?

Answer: We try to maintain an average processing time under 60 days. Applicants with more complex backgrounds, such as those who have lived or worked in many places, can take longer. Applicants with less complex backgrounds usually take less time. The length of processing depends on some factors we cannot control, such as how quickly former employers reply to our inquiries. Applicants can help a great deal by showing up on time, being prepared and by responding quickly to requests for information or documents. In any case, please understand that there is no incentive for us to move slowly, as we are trying to meet the hiring needs of our member agencies. Fast works for us too.

Question: Why is the process so complicated?

Answer: Law enforcement is complex and demanding work with very serious consequences for errors and omissions. It also costs a lot to train and place officers in the field. These factors require law enforcement agencies to be very careful in selecting officers. How someone has behaved in the past is still the best predictor of how they will probably behave in the future. This makes a thorough background investigation an essential part of the selection process and requires examining documents, checking records, searching databases and asking many questions. Try to think about it this way if you become an officer in one of these agencies, you will want us to be just as careful in hiring the people who will work with you and help you go home safely at the end of your shift.

Question: When will agencies review my PASS file?

Answer: Some agency representatives visit PASS almost weekly to review files as they are processed. Others prefer to wait until files are completed and placed in the Candidate Pool. (Completed files remain in the pool for one year from the date of entry in the pool.) We assign you a PASS File Number when you register with us. It is a good idea to make note of it, so you can give it to agencies in which you have an interest. This helps show those agencies you are a serious candidate and assists them in accessing your PASS file and tracking your progress.

Question: When will I be interviewed by an agency?

Answer: There is no guarantee that you will be interviewed by an agency. Depending on your qualifications, the qualifications of other candidates and the needs of the agencies, some applicants are contacted before they complete the process, others after they enter the Candidate Pool, and some not at all.

Question: How can I increase my chances of being contacted?

Answer: If you are interested in specific agencies, you should contact them after you have registered with PASS. Agencies welcome such interest and will answer your questions about their employment opportunities. If mutual interest develops they will track your progress through PASS and schedule their own additional screening steps. In other words, the best way to get their interest is to show your interest.

Question: What additional steps do individual agencies require?

Answer: Drug screening is required and most agencies conduct some type of structured interview. Some may test basic physical abilities. Psychological and medical screenings are done when employment offers are made.

Question: Do I need an appointment to get started?

Answer: No, but it is preferrred as the registration process usually takes about 30 minutes and appointments reduce the possiblity of a waiting period.  Registrations are preformed from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm Monday thru Friday. Bring your driver’s license and be prepared to pay your fee. (We can only accept a money order made out to the Pinellas Police Standards Council. No cash or credit cards.).

At the time of registration we will schedule your testing and interview. You will also be provided admission to POBITS (Peace Officer Background Investigative Tracking System) for the completion of your Personal History Statement. POBITS is a web base program that requires applicants to have access to a computer terminal and internet. Applicants will be given 10 days to fully complete the Personal History Statement within POBITS. The staff member performing registration will provide a detail overview and instructions on the requirements of POBITS.

We will also make arrangements for fingerprinting and photography. Appointments are on a first come – first served basis, so the sooner you register, the sooner we can get you rolling.

Question: What if I can’t make it to an appointment

Answer: Please call as soon as you know there is a conflict. We’ll be happy to reschedule the appointment. Don’t wait until the last minute, as we would like a chance to use the vacated appointment for another applicant and keep things moving. If you just fail to show up for an appointment, we assume that you are not interested in continuing the process, and we will not take further action on your file until you contact us, and you may have to pay some fees again.

Question: I am traveling from out of town. Is there anything you can do to help me?

Answer: If you call us in advance we can schedule your appointments to minimize your travel needs. We can usually arrange everything for two days, if you give us sufficient notice and you are prepared to follow through.

Question: Can I apply by mail or e-mail?

Answer: No. However, we can exchange some information and documents by these means, but applicants must be physically present for events such as testing, interviewing and fingerprinting. In addition, certain forms must be signed and acknowledged in the presence of a staff member; and we need to examine the originals of certain documents (such as birth certificates) that we prefer not to exchange by mail.

Question: How should I dress during the processing?

Answer: Appropriate casual clothes are good for registration and testing. Because prospective employers may view photographs taken during the administrative interview, fingerprinting, or a polygraph, grooming and dress that are appropriate for a business setting will be to your advantage on those occasions.

Question: Do you have any other advice on how to do well in the process?

Answer: Law enforcement employers are looking for people who are honest, reliable, prepared, on time, and who are capable of legible and accurate reporting. The PASS process is your opportunity to demonstrate these attributes by your own behavior. For instance, most law enforcement employers will examine the forms you fill out, particularly the Personal History Statement (POBITS), and make some judgment on the likelihood that you will be able to prepare a complete, legible and accurate police report. They will also look to see whether you are prepared and on-time for appointments, and how you respond to requests for additional information. Once again, the best way to get their interest is to show yours. You also need to let us know if you change your address or telephone number so we can stay in touch with you. If we cannot reach an applicant, their file is inactivated.

Question: How do applicants decide which agencies they prefer to work for?

Answer: Some applicants are recruited by a specific agency and are referred to PASS for processing. Others are familiar with a particular agency or have friends there. Most applicants, however, will benefit by doing some research. The Participating Law Enforcement Agencies page provides contact information for all the agencies we serve, including links to web pages maintained by most of them. You will also find salary information on our site; and we keep fact sheets at the counter in the PASS Office that contain information the agencies make available. These are all good starting points and will lead you to additional sources that should be helpful. Many agencies also have recruiting officers who will answer your questions.

After you have identified one or more agencies for further research, you should arrange a visit and inquire about their ride-along program. A shift or two in a patrol car will give you more information about the community and the agency than any brochure or web site will ever provide. (Some agencies actually require a ride-along as part of their selection process for this very reason.) We urge you to always remember that, while the agency is considering if they are interested in hiring you you are deciding whether or not you are interested in working there. So take advantage of the opportunity to learn a much as possible before you make that decision. Both sides profit from a good fit.

Question: I have other questions. What is the best way to get them answered?

Answer: The best first step is to read the Applicant Information Package (AIP). As it is several pages long, it contains much more information than it is practical to give orally, so please read it before you call us. If you have questions after you read it, call or visit us during normal business hours. We do have e-mail, but have found that it is not always a practical means of answering complex questions. (We often need to ask you a few questions first, to make sure we know what information you are seeking – so we can avoid confusing things.) In any case, we’ll be happy to help you. Answering your questions is actually a large part of what we do. All we ask is that you read the material first so we can help you more efficiently.

Question: Is there anything else you want me to know?

Answer: Yes. It is our job to see if you meet the established standards, but we like to see applicants succeed, so there are no traps, secrets or tricks. It is unavoidably bureaucratic in a lot of ways, but that doesn’t keep us from being friendly and helpful in the way we go about it. All the standards are as clear and explicit as we can make them, and we promise to treat everyone fairly. If you ever think we are not doing it right, call our attention to it and we’ll take another look. At the very least, we’ll explain what we are doing and treat you with respect. We have helped a lot of people start careers in law enforcement, a line of work that has been pretty good to us. We want it to be good for you as well.

For information about becoming a law officer, visit St. Petersburg College’s Law Enforcement Academy. You must contact the college directly to register or ask questions about tuition, schedules and other college requirements.