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State background-check system flawed and unreliable

According to a recent article in the Columbus Dispatch, "... the computerized background-check system operated by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation in the office of Attorney General Mike DeWine has been troubled for years, sometimes indicating that thousands of criminals have clean records."

Thousands of police officers and employers rely daily on the criminal background-check system that DeWine describes as “critical for the safety of Ohio families.”

The system is used to vet school teachers, foster parents, medical professionals, police officers, firefighters, day-care and nursing home workers and gun owners seeking concealed-carry permits, among many others.

If the system doesn’t work, felons can be hired for jobs they should not have landed, police officers might not know they just stopped a person with a history of violence, and ex-convicts could be OK’d to carry handguns.

And there are times when it hasn’t worked. Hundreds of times in the past three years, including 195 in 2014, BCI backtracked to tell employers that they had been incorrectly informed that a would-be, or hired, employee had no criminal record.

The article goes on to say that even “BCI employees acknowledge that the system is unreliable.” And these database problems are not limited to Ohio. The upkeep, and maintenance of all law enforcement agency databases, including the FBI’s, is an ongoing problem that will take a long time and a considerable amount of money to fix.

James Wayman, a criminal identification technology expert at San Jose State University in California, said problems with background-check systems are not restricted to Ohio and that even the FBI’s system faces the same challenges.

States are not staying on top of the need to regularly replace outdated systems with the latest technology, he said. “These systems break down quite regularly,” Wayman said.

“These systems ought to be replaced seven to 10 years, but here is the problem. ... The state of Ohio is going to have to get out its checkbook and start writing some checks for these things, and people don’t like to do that.”

The problems inherent in the existing databases are the chief reason why CIC does not use them. We are mandated to give our clients the most current, up-to-date criminal information available and currently, that information resides at the jurisdictional courts. In addition, we are always conscious of the turn-around time for our criminal research. Employers and hiring managers need their results ASAP and it is not unusual for information from the government databases to take 4-6 weeks for results and then those results can be unreliable.

Carolyn Klemett is the coordinator of our Pre-employment Screening Services at Corporate Intelligence Consultants. For more information about this article, please contact our offices at 1.800.573.2201 / 419.874.2201.

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