Should Volunteer Background Checks Exempt Law Enforcement?

volunteer background checksWell, the simple answer is absolutely not. Both from a moral and legal perspective, you must treat everyone the same. I understand wanting to exempt law enforcement from volunteer background checks.  I get it.  It saves cash-strapped organizations a few dollars and speeds the process of getting the much-needed volunteer in place.

However, where do you draw the line?  What happens when other volunteers want to bypass your background screening process because they have had a criminal background check?

The legal issue is you are creating a process that does not treat everyone the same.  And from a policy standpoint, how do you verify the criminal record check is acceptable?  Do you confirm when the report was completed? How far back they searched?  Were alias names searched?

Just because a law enforcement officer has completed a background check does not mean it was extensive.  A search of the FBI’s NCIC database is far from complete and this is would be the gold standard search for law enforcement.

Quite honestly, many law enforcement agencies treat criminal background checks as a pre-employment process.  One time and nothing over the next 20 years.  A lot can change in 20 years.

And do we believe that law enforcement is immune from hiring undesirables?

Yes, I admit, even as a former detective and from a family of police (grandfather, father, wife, brother and cousin) that I was extremely naïve when I was a rookie officer.  But my naivete was shattered very early in my career when officers I worked with were arrested for raping their wife, robbing drug dealers or protecting known criminal enterprises.

As a child of Kojak, Adam 12 and Police Woman (ok, if you are that young rent them on Netflix), this reality was a hard pill to swallow.  Police officers had always been my hero.  And they still are.

But I also understand that law enforcement is a highly attractive profession for those with less than ideal motives.  Several years ago there were two studies that found that law enforcement is one of the most attractive professions to people who abuse family members.

And if that is not enough, have you followed the recent high profile child pornography case involving a retired FBI agent from Carmel, Indiana?

It is alleged that retired FBI agent Donald Sachtleben possessed and distributed child pornography.   According to prosecutors, he emailed 9 images and indicated he had more to send if they liked them.

I am rarely shocked by law enforcement criminals like Sacthtleben.  However, what struck me was the bold email address that he operated with:

Talk about being bold and arrogant.  I give him credit, at least he was open with the fact that he is a pedophile.

Sick.  Sick.  Sick.

Do you realize this is the enemy you are trying to keep out of your organization and away from your kids?  There is no way a cheap $10 background check will keep Mr. PedoDave out of your organization.

Yes, I know he did not have a criminal record before this arrest.  However, these cheap $10 criminal background checks that thousands of volunteer organizations rely upon will still not uncover his recent arrest.

Why?  Because this is a federal crime.  You can run all the $10 so-called “national background checks” and you will find him clear.

So the most important lesson is that nobody should be exempt from volunteer background checks.  Secondly, cheap $10 national background checks are not match for the Sachtleben’s of the world.

If you are ready to do volunteer background screening correctly, contact us today.