criminal background checks

Indiana Reporting Restrictions in Criminal Background Checks

criminal background checksIndiana has now joined a handful of other states by implementing changes in what can be legally reported in criminal background checks.  The EEOC has been leading the charge with sweeping changes aimed at limiting the use of criminal records for employment decisions. So we should not be surprised that states and local governments are also starting to move in this direction.  Indiana House Enrolled Act 1033, has several restrictions on the use of criminal records.  However, part of the law was effective July 1, 2012 and other sections of the statute do not take effect until July 1, 2013.

Let’s look at the criminal history restrictions that are in place as of July 1, 2012:

  • Residents of Indiana with restricted or sealed criminal records may legally state on an “application for employment or any other document” that they have not been arrested or convicted of the restricted or sealed record(s).
  • Covered employers will NOT be allowed to ask an employee, contractor or applicant about sealed or restricted criminal records (the statute does not define the term employer).
  • The law restricts what information individuals, background screening firms and employers can obtain from clerks of the courts.  The law prohibits courts from disclosing information related to infractions(important to note this refers to infractions not misdemeanor and felonies) where the person is:
    • not prosecuted or case is dismissed;
    • not convicted;
    • convicted of the infraction but case is vacated; or
    • convicted of the infraction and satisfied any judgment to the infraction conviction more than 5 years ago.

Effective July 1, 2013, the law will restrict what “criminal history providers” can report.  The law will only allow the reporting of convictions and Consumer Reporting Agencies (background screening firms) will no longer be able to report the following:

  • an infraction, charge or arrest that did not result in a conviction;
  • a  record that has been expunged;
  • a record indicating a conviction of a Class D felony if the felony conviction has been converted to a Class A misdemeanor; and
  • a record that the criminal history provider knows is inaccurate.
  • any record that has not been verified with the court within the past 60 days.

How do you think the new law will impact your criminal background checks program?

Join us for a free webinar to discuss the new laws:  New Indiana Laws Restrict Criminal History Reporting

Should Criminal Background Checks Be Restricted?

criminal background checksThere is no bigger HR debate these days than government imposed restrictions on criminal background checks.  The EEOC, without public comment, has issued 52 pages of guidance on the restricted use of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions. Thanks.  Certainly the 5 members fairly represent the hundreds of thousands of employers, employees and security and  HR professionals.

The EEOC believes that widespread criminal record checks violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  However, the law does not list criminals as a protected class.  A bit of a disconnect.

We should not be shocked by this decision.  Our culture has been removing moral absolutes and dismissing personal responsibility for quite some time.

As a parent of 5 kids, I am constantly discussing (my kids might say lecturing) the consequences of bad decisions.  I talk about the information they post online for the world to see.  Forever.  Those things do not disappear.  There may be consequences down the road (or when dad does his daily check).

We all make bad decisions.  Some of these bad decisions have a short shelf life.   Forgive and forget.

If I make a decision to speed and get a ticket then I accept the short-term pain of paying the ticket (yes,I was stopped recently but thanks Mr. Officer for the warning).  Other decisions we make can have a much longer impact on our lives.  Possibly for a life time.

Now hang tight if you are one of the "friends of ex-felons" who routinely post comments on my articles while hiding behind false names and fake email addresses.  Read the entire article.

As much as you want to paint me as a rigid ex-detective who has a black and white perspective on life, you are wrong.  I have participated in prison ministries and currently sit on the board of Outreach in Indianapolis which is a ministry that serves homeless teens.   Homelessness cannot be solved by economics alone, it has a much larger social implications that involves drug abuse, crime and violence.

Some of these young adults are paying a high price for bad decisions.

Why do I volunteer my time to work with Outreach?   I believe these young men and women can and want to make better life choices.   That God has a plan for their life.  Yes, bad decisions may have derailed the plan but they can get back on track and are capable of contributing to society in a big way.

More than 15 years ago, while a violent crime detective, I befriended a man through a prison ministry.  Dan had been involved in a horrendous crime that was committed in the small community I grew up in.  A crime my father worked as a state police officer.  A crime committed against a family that my family knew and knew well.

On my first visit with Dan, he had mentioned that they had driven past my home that night and joked about killing a state trooper and his family.  Yikes.  Talk about a lump in my throat.  That was me and my family.

My dad, as a trooper and a caring human being, had spent years trying to steer Dan away from a sociopath he was running with.  My dad's final prophetic words to Dan were "this guy is going to take you down a road you will not be able to turn back from."

Some bad decisions will impact us for a lifetime.

Dan and I have had some deep philosophical discussions on crime and punishment.  I told Dan that God forgave him the minute he confessed his sins but that the State of Indiana never would.

Dan is 35 years into 2 life sentences.

If Dan were to be released from prison, are their jobs for him?  Could he be a productive member of society? Yes, absolutely.

Are there positions that he will not qualify for because of his choice to commit an atrocious crime?  Yes, absolutely.

So it brings us back to our current reality with the EEOC and the restricting of criminal background checks.  This is not a black and white issue.

We cannot create a "guide" that works for every person or scenario.  And legislating away the use of criminal record checks will have significant consequences for employers, employees and society.

We cannot discount 25 years of studies that confirm high recidivism rates among offenders (many of which pre-dated the proliferation in criminal background screening).  No matter what the EEOC says, a person’s decision to use violence, to rape, to shoot, to kill, to abuse is not based on their lack of employment.  It is often rooted in a deeper need to assert power and control.

Do I believe employment is important for ex-offenders?  Absolutely.  It is important for never-offenders also.

The greatest stumbling block for ex-offenders is still poor choices.  Just as a person makes a choice to use violence….and they do make the choice to use violence…they can also make the same choice to be crime free.

So where does that leave us?

First, employers cannot be placed at greater risk of violence and negligent hiring lawsuits because the EEOC mandates deep restrictions on employers use of criminal records.

Second, the EEOC should focus more energy and money on education and training of employers.  Help employers develop policies on criminal background checks that are not zero tolerance policies.

Zero tolerance does not and never will work.

Help employers understand the importance of the following 3 questions:

  • What is the nature of the crime?
  • How long ago was the crime committed?
  • And how does the crime impact the position?

Yes, that means that some offenders may be blocked permanently from certain positions i.e. a school will not hire a sex offender.

At the same time, education will correlate to more ex-offenders getting second chances to make the right choices.  This will not be accomplished by a blanket restriction on the use of criminal background checks.

Why Should I Add Federal Criminal Record Checks? Sextortion

federal criminal searchesHow many of you have heard of sextortion?  I have to admit it was a new term for me. Well, a huge sextortion case was revealed this week in a small community near Terre Haute, Indiana.  And it has been tagged the largest sextortion case to date.

Richard Finkbiner has been charged with intercepting hundreds of sexually explicit photos of teenage boys that they thought were being sent across a private chatroom network.  Finkbiner used social media to identity and track down the boys and then threatened to use the intercepted videos to turn them into “gay porn stars” unless they agreed to make videos and send them to him.  This is a developing case with charges filed in Indiana and Michigan but federal prosecutors believe there could be hundreds of victims.

So let’s look at two lessons Finkbiner has taught us:

  1. Sex offenders will take tremendous risk to satisfy their evil desires; and
  2. Richard Finkbiner will not show up in most background checks.

Both lessons are frightening.  It is true that sex offenders are highly motivated.

The reason that this case will not show up in most of your background checks is because you are relying on cheap, instant database searches.  Even organizations doing quality criminal records checks are at risk of missing this sex offender.

Why?  Because this case is a federal crime.   Remember the difference between state and federal courts?  If not, here is a refresher.

The federal courts are not synonymous  with national.  The federal courts deal with crimes committed against the U.S. which in the past tended to be white collar crimes or more recently acts of terrorism.

However, over the past 10 years we have seen a growing number of drug cases and internet crimes (sexual exploitation, child solicitation, identity theft, fraud, etc).

The majority of volunteer organizations are not receiving any data from the federal courts because they are relying on a $10 instant criminal background check.  You would be about as well off to flush the $10 down the toilet.

The federal courts must be searched separately.  The great news is it is very inexpensive to conduct federal criminal record checks.

So unless we have added the federal search to our package, we run the risk of allowing the Finkbiners of the world into our organization.  It is not work the risk to save less than $5.

Yes, for the price of a supersized meal at McDonalds you could protect yourself against Finkbiner.

Criminal background screening is not a commodity nor is it just a “feel good” program.  It is serious business that requires serious commitment.

If you would like to learn more about federal criminal records checks please contact us.  If you want more information on sex offenders, check out our webinar archive.

A Criminal Background Check Might Have Saved Aliahna Lemmon

criminal background checkI cannot even express how angry the death of Aliahna Lemmon makes me.  This little 9 year old girl never had a chance. How could she?  She lived in a community of 12 homes but was surrounded by more than 15 registered sex offenders.

Yes, more than one sex offender in every home.  That is horrible odds for a little girl.

What is even worse is that a criminal background check could have saved her life.  A little due diligence on the part of the park she lived in.

Unfortunately in our society, the pendulum of safety and security has swung in the opposite direction.  We are more concerned with the rights of offenders than we are the rights of our sons and daughters.

Does anybody care about Aliahna?

Absolutely, would be the response of anybody interviewed.  Yet our words and actions do not match.  The EEOC has been on a mission to further restrict reporting of criminal records for years.  State legislatures have been passing laws to restrict reporting criminal information year after year hoping that employment is the key to successful rehabilitation.  Indiana went a step further last July and has made it easier for “non violent” offenders to wipe their dirty laundry clean.

I have heard over and over again how the explosion in background screening has disenfranchised offenders and led them back to a life of crime.  Really?  So I am to believe that being an offender is now a protected class?

It sounds to me like the same blame game offenders have always played.  Am I to believe that personal responsibility and choices have no bearing on our behaviors?  How many wealthy Wall Street employees have been carted off to jail?

Unfortunately, we have been heading in this direction for years.

Why?  Do we really think restricting how much information an employer can see will protect society?  FBI research has long shown that the best indicator for future violence is a past history of violence.  Hmm.

So who should I believe?  Should I believe that Michael Plumadore beat Aliahna to death with a brick and cut off her head, hands and feet because he could not find a job?

Or should I believe he committed this evil and heinous crime because he is an evil, career criminal?  The criminal record trail that runs from Indiana to North Carolina and to Florida screams evil.

So let me get back to my point that a quality criminal background check could have saved Aliahna’s life.  How?

A criminal background check by the property manager would have revealed that Plumadore had convictions for assault on a police officer, felony theft, forgery and trespassing.  Yes, I remember that this same community allows 15 convicted sex offenders to live there so Plumadore may have looked like a saint.

However, Plumadore is listed as a fugitive in Florida for not attending his court ordered anger management classes.  So maybe, just maybe, a criminal background check revealing Plumadore as a fugitive would have prevented him from living in this community and Aliahna would be alive today.  And a very remote possibility that local law enforcement would have been alerted and Plumadore might have been arrested.  Yes, very slim chance.  But just maybe.

This horrible tragedy underscores how critical it is to know who we are hiring, allowing to volunteer or lease a home or contracting with for services.  The cheap background checks that permeate the internet will provide little resistance to the Plumadores of the world.

Contact us today for more information on implementing a quality background screening program.





4 Reasons the DUI Did Not Show on the Criminal Background Check

criminal background checkSo you have run a criminal background check and the report comes back clear.  However, the applicant had disclosed an arrest for Driving Under the Influence. Your heart skips a beat and you wonder why this did not show up.  I hear you.

There are 4 reasons the DUI did not show on the criminal background check:

  1. Low Quality Background Check.  This accounts for the majority of cases.  Organizations are relying on a criminal database as their screening program.  And if the DUI occurred in one of the majority of states that provide very limited data to the database then it is most likely not going to show up.
  2. Limited 7 Year Search.  I know I bring this up a lot but it is beyond comprehension that a criminal background check should automatically be limited to 7 years.  Why?  The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act does not require a 7 year limit on convictions.  Sure if you live in a state that has further restrictions that makes sense.  However, there are only a handful of states with such restrictions.  And none of those restrictions apply to volunteers.  So does it make more sense to provide a comprehensive criminal record check and then filter it for those isolated states that have employment restrictions?
  3. Alias or Other Name.  The background screening industry standard is to search only the name you provide.  So if the applicant has a DUI under an alias or other name, it will not show.
  4. Court Reporting Error.  Yes, the courts can and do make mistakes.  One very infrequent court issue we have witnessed a few times over the past 8 years has been a municipal or town court hearing a DUI case.  In most states, a town or municipal court is not a court of record so the criminal record should be sent to the county courts as the court of record.  If the record is not recorded with the court of record then the criminal record check will not reveal the conviction.

A criminal background check requires a myriad of checks and balances using county courts, federal courts and criminal databases.  There is no way to do a criminal record check with a single screening solution.

The same principle applies to DUI’s.  We advise our clients that if a DUI would impact your hiring decision then you should be running a driving history check.  Why?  Because every state provides a driving history as part of their driving record check.  This can vary from as little as 3 years to up to 10 years.

Are you utilizing driving records checks as part of your criminal background check program?  If not, contact us today.

I Was Refused a Job Because of Your Inaccurate Criminal Record Check

criminal record check Is it really because our report is inaccurate or because you have a criminal record? Now, let me first say that we take disputes of a criminal record check very seriously.    Why?  First, because we strive to provide the best information in the industry and would never want to report something inaccurate.

Secondly, we have an obligation under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to reinvestigate any credible dispute that is made in writing.  That was my brother from another mother does not qualify.

Seriously, we reinvestigate EVERY dispute we receive.  The level of investigation varies depending upon the credibility of the dispute.

We may review the report, court records and research and issue a letter to the consumer that explains our findings.  A handful of times each year, we have our researchers go back to the courts and pull the case file because the applicant provides information that shows the criminal record had a change in disposition.

The credit bureaus, criminal databases and the courts can make mistakes.  The most common mistakes are a change in disposition that was not updated by the courts.

So when I receive a letter from a person that claims they were refused employment because of an inaccurate criminal record check, I listen.  However, when the second sentence lists the date of the “alleged incident” and a description of the incident as a “frivolous charge” that was “immediately dropped”, I realized we might not be dealing with inaccuracies.  We reported it as a non-conviction.

Not surprising, I found that we had already pulled the case file to confirm this case before we ever released it to the client.  A copy of the police report had determined identity and provided a confirmation of the court record.

So Mr. Want-To-Be-A-Substitute-Teacher, you were caught with your pants down.  Literally.  It seems the candidate had been charged with Solicitation for Sex because he “knowingly and without authority did solicit an undercover officer to perform an act of sexual intercourse for money to wit $20 U.S. currency.”

Now, let’s be straight with each other.  We are not dealing with a problem of accuracy.  We are dealing with somebody who is mad because this is showing up on their criminal record check.

This criminal record will exist forever, unless the candidate can successfully have it expunged.

So to respond to your statement, no our criminal record check is not inaccurate.  It is right on the button.  And if you had not offered an undercover officer $20 to unbutton your pants, you would be employed.  Take some responsibility.

Are you ready to partner with a screening firm that goes the extra mile to make sure your organization receives the best information, protection and service available?  Contact us today.

How Effective Are Criminal Background Check Self Report Policies?

criminal background checkThe State of Pennsylvania is so confident that a self-report policy will work that they have required all school employees to report any arrests or convictions by 12/27/2011.  I know parents in Pennsylvania are breathing a sigh of relief. Let’s be realistic about a criminal background check self-report policy or law.  Yes, the majority of employees will be honest.  How do I know?  Because they have nothing to hide.

This is the whole nature of criminal background screening.  It is not the masses that you should be concerned with.  It is the small percentage of candidates or employees that have an unsuitable criminal record that you are trying to uncover.

We looked at our findings over the past 6 months and found that 11.71% of our background screening reports contained at least 1 criminal record.  And 27% of those were felony records.

These numbers mirror normal industry standards which indicate a hit ratio around 10%.  So we know that 90% of our employees will honestly self report.

Our focus needs to be on the small number of employees that have an unsuitable record.  Do we honestly believe they will self report an arrest or conviction that may cost them their job?  If they have crossed the line and broken the law, do you think they are struggling internally with telling the truth?

So the big question is how do we police the 10% of our workforce that may have a criminal record?  We could start with a lie detector test.

Seriously, self-reporting policies are a good idea IF you have implemented an ongoing screening program.  Without a screening program, the policy has no teeth.  It would be like having a speed limit but no cops on the interstate.

What incentive is there to report a crime that may impact my job if my employer is not conducting routine criminal background checks?  Sure, if it makes a big splash in the newspaper or the evening news then it will be hard to hide.

But what if it happened on a business trip?  Tell or don’t tell?  The employee will be much more inclined to disclose the arrest or conviction when you are running ongoing background checks and they know a background check will reveal it.

So what is the key takeaway?  If you have a criminal background check self-report policy then you need to have an ongoing screening program to ensure compliance.  Polices require teeth.

Join us for a free webinar:  Should I Be Screening Existing Employees?

What Can Criminal Background Check Companies Learn From Steve Jobs?

criminal background check companiesSteve Jobs, the iconic co-founder of Apple, lost his battle with pancreatic cancer yesterday.  As I was standing in our kitchen last night after dinner, I was thinking about how much Steve Jobs has impacted our culture.  I looked around the kitchen and noticed one son texting on his iPod Touch, another son playing with my old iPhone that he uses for music, games and as a text machine, and my iPod was sitting on the counter. That does not take into account how bad I want and have been trying to justify an iPad (please Santa).

I love everything Apple has created over the past ten years.  The iPod replaced the CD player I wore on a belt around my waste when I would go running.  And heaven forbid if I ran for more than 30 minutes, I would have to listen to the same songs again.

Then came the iPod and it gave me the option of storing thousands of songs or podcasts.  And more importantly, a less than tech savvy guy like me could figure it out.

What happened was Steve Jobs and Apple created a culture and converted their followers to groupies.  They revolutionized personal computers and technology by creating “point and click” computers driven by a mouse.  Steve Jobs made technology simple yet powerful.

So as I am reflecting on Steve Job’s impact on the technology world, I cannot help but stop and look at criminal background check companies and ponder what we can learn from this great businessman.

I thought about why I have purchased so many Apple products over the past 10 years?  The simple answer is they are great products that have added value to my life or made my life easier.   They are reliable, consistent and always exceptional.

That is the company I set out to build in 2004.  A company that provides a consistent, reliable and exceptional service.

I also thought about the background screening industry.  How so few screening companies provide a reliable or consistent background check.  And listen, exceptional service is not a banner on your website.  It is a culture.

Now, to be fair, the same can be said of most industries.  For every Apple, there are thousands of low quality technology companies in the world.

The background screening industry is no different.  It is a highly unregulated industry that has been built on low quality products and services.

Yes, unregulated.  I made this comment recently and received a condescending email from a background screening colleague who disagreed.

How could you possibly disagree?

Do a Google search on background checks and look at all the $9 or $10 cheap products that are available.  These databases are terribly incomplete, in some instances contain fewer than 25% of records from a state, but yet are promoted to volunteer organizations as a simple, complete, low cost solution.

Where is the regulation?

Look at all the screening firms offering limited 7 year employee background checks.  Or only searching the name entered leaving off other names the applicant has been know by (maiden, former married, other, etc).

Where is the regulation?  Yes, I know the Fair Credit Reporting Act, EEOC, and state laws.  Only a handful of states restrict reporting to 7 years and the FCRA only restricts to 7 years for non-convictions and does not restrict at all if the salary of the applicant will exceed $75K.

The bottom line is great companies provide great products and services.  You are the consumer of background checks so demand this.  Demand great background checks.  Demand great service.  You have options.  There are some great background screening firms.

However, you are going to need to do your due diligence and wade through some sophisticated marketing programs.  You are going to need to educate yourself on the industry.

Steve Job’s has said:  “There's an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. 'I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.' And we've always tried to do that at Apple. Since the very, very beginning. And we always will.”

That is the type of background screening firm your are looking for.  Not a company that is looking in the rearview mirror or trying to replicate what their competitors are doing.  How boring.

Are you ready to do background screening correctly?   Download our 10 Things to Know Before Hiring a Background Screening Firm and arm yourself with the tools to conduct your due diligence on prospective criminal background check companies.

God bless Steve Job’s and his family.

Any Apple groupies out there?  Would you like to partner with a background screening firm that operates like Apple?

Major Problems with Criminal Backround Checks

criminal backround checksHold your horses.  I intentionally misspelled background in the title. I know, that sounds crazy but hang with me.  I promise there is a good reason for an article on criminal backround checks.

First, I wanted to illustrate how critically important correct spelling is to the background screening process.  One omitted letter is the difference between an applicant with a record and an applicant coming back clear.

It was about this time last year when a church volunteer changed the spelling of his last name by altering two letters.  He changed an “ie” to and “ei” which was very subtle and easy to overlook by the church.

Fortunately for the church, one of our team members noticed the change and ran the background check with both spellings.  He was clear with the inverted letters, clearly his intent.

However, he had more than 20 convictions for voyeurism under his real name.

My good friend Wikipedia defines voyeurism as the sexual interest in or practice of spying on people engaged in intimate behaviors, such as undressing, sexual activity, or other activity usually considered to be of a private nature.

You may call them Peeping Tom’s.  Seriously, this is a very frightening behavior that is often a precursor to rape.  The “peeping” may be a confidence building stage before he rapes.  Or it may be a process of gathering intelligence about a potential victim.  Does she live alone?  Any kids?  Leave doors unlocked?

The bottom line is this is a sick and potentially dangerous person.  And a very sophisticated criminal who understands the background screening industry and hopes the church is relying on cheap background checks to keep him out.

Sorry dude.  Not this time.

The satisfaction of catching him was short lived because we know he is probably already volunteering at another church or youth organization.  How?  He knows the majority of volunteer organizations rely on cheap $9 or $10 national criminal database searches.  He knows this because national youth organizations promote these cheap partnerships on their websites.  The youth organizations have no idea how risky these checks are because the screening firms have sold them as “national” background checks.

The perpetrator knows they don’t work.  He has passed the test before.

Background screening done correctly requires a trusted partner.    You need a screening firm that is reviewing your orders and confirming identity of applicants, other names, address history and then reviewing information after the background check is completed for accuracy.

The background screening industry has historically offered very low quality products and services. The market wants instant, cheap background checks.  There is no problem wanting this.  However, we have to understand it is impossible.  There is no such thing as an instant criminal background check.

Secondly, instant database searches are very profitable for screening firms.  You input the data and the system spits out results (very little spitting).  And screening firms love these searches because you do all the work.

The example above illustrates the danger in these cheap, low quality screening products.  Is it worth saving $10 to take the risk of missing records on a potential rapist?  I don’t think so.

Don’t settle for criminal backround checks when you can have comprehensive criminal background checks.

What Can We Learn From a Sex Offender Background Check? Persistence

sex offender background checks resized 600I have spent the past day thinking a lot about persistence.  My 12 year old was selected and played in an All Star baseball game this week. We talked about how far he has come since last year when he was struggling at the plate and contemplating not playing baseball anymore.

Instead, he worked hard on his skills.  He became persistent.  He was not going to be denied.  He set his eyes on something that he wanted to accomplish and he did it.

Persistence is a great quality.  We search it out as employers.  President Calvin Coolidge once stated:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated failures. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

However, what had me thinking about persistence today was a background screening report a team member told me to look at.  I flipped through the pages of records:

  • Sexual Battery with Force
  • Sexual Battery
  • Felony Possession of a Firearm
  • False Information

Did I mention he was applying at a school?

So I was thinking about what we could learn from a sex offender background check. And I realized a lot.

This violent sex offender had paid $28 for his criminal background check.  I commented to several team members, “Can you believe this guy?  Paying for his background check with these records.”

This is lesson in persistence that should be taught to every organization that works with children.  This predator has raped and destroyed lives and is still doing everything he can to gain access to our kids.

Yeah, you and I look at this through our eyes and say that it is stupid to pay for a background check with a criminal history like his.  However, the real point here is not the records but the slight hope this offender has that he will not be exposed. He hopes you are trying to protect your organization with cheap background checks.

Did I mention that he does not show up in the National Sex Offender Registry?  I have no idea why.  It could be that his crimes pre-dated the registry.  It could be a good plea agreement.  Whatever the reason, he is not on the registry.

I admit there is great satisfaction in exposing violent predators and protecting one of our clients.  There is also a tinge of sadness because I know he will not give up because our school turned him away.  He simply moves down the street.

He might be at your church to volunteer this Sunday.  I hope you are not relying on cheap background checks to keep him out.

Are you more persistent in keeping this sex offender out than he is to get in?

5 Reasons You Need County Criminal Background Checks

county criminal background checksWhat is the point in searching one individual county out of more than 3,100 in the U.S.?   Not much if that is the only search we are conducting. However, county criminal background checks are a critical piece of the background screening puzzle.  Yes, you should view your background screening program as a puzzle that only works if you have all the correct pieces.  No puzzle contains only one piece.

So what are the 5 reasons we need county criminal background checks:

1.       Fair Credit Reporting Act Requirement.  The FRCA requires employers to use up-to-date information and considers any data older than 30 days as stale.

 2.       Criminal Databases are Incomplete.  No database, including the FBI’s, state repositories or privately held, contain all criminal records.

3.       We Need Final Dispositions.  Final dispositions are the key to keeping you out of court and out of the radar of the EEOC.  Common changes in dispositions:

  • Expungement
  • Conditional dismissal
  • Reduction from a felony to a misdemeanor

4.       Personal Identifiers.  Databases typically contain limited personal identifiers like partial DOB’s.  We need to confirm personal identifiers with the court of record.

5.       Criminal Records Should ALWAYS be Verified with the Court of Record.  The county courts are the court of record for more than 90% of criminal cases.  Verification of records is a Best Practice that protects the organization AND the applicant.

The bottom line is County Criminal Background Checks MUST be a solution included in your safe hiring program.  Without them you expose your organization to the risk of a negligent hire or negligent volunteer and the legal risk of using a criminal record that is not up to date.

If your current background checks package does not contain county criminal checks, contact Safe Hiring Solutions today before it is too late.

How many county criminal searches should be included in your package?  Leave us a comment below.

What is the #1 Tool of Child Sex Offenders?

sex offenderShhh.  Promise not to tell?  Can you keep a secret?  Who has not told or kept a few secrets in their life? However, secrets can be used to silence and alienate innocent victims.

Yes, the #1 tool of child sex offenders is secrets.  Deep, dangerous secrets that are surrounded by threats, intimidation and fear.  Child Sex offenders are manipulative, narcissistic and focused on their personal gratification with absolutely no regard for their victims.

We know from years of research that 1 in 4 young girls and 1 in 6 young boys will be a victim of sexual assault before they reach adulthood.  Did you hear that?  Look around today at children and realize that every 4th girl or 6th boy has been sexually assaulted.

Does that make you sick to your stomach?  It should.  I was exposed to child sexual abuse at a very early age.  Thank God, I was not a victim but a child of a police officer and victim advocate who were committed to ending all forms of violence.  So at 16 my mom and dad had to take me aside and tell me I was giving up my bedroom to a young 13 year old girl.   She was being sexually assaulted by her father and needed the safety and security of our house while the investigation was launched.  I knew her well.  Her father was a local school teacher and they were members of our small church family.

It still makes me sick to my stomach 27 years later (did I just give my age away?).  That exposure to evil and raw violence scarred me and has lead to a lifetime mission of ending all forms of violence.

We have to join hands in breaking the silence and bringing these predators into the light.  So how do we do it?

  • Our friends at Christianity Today provide  a great curriculum Reducing the Risk
  • Good Touch Bad Touch provides great educational resources
  • Comprehensive Criminal Background Checks
  • Quality Reference Checks….stay tuned for iRefCheck which is launching soon
  • Speak Out.  Become an Ambassador for breaking the silence.

It is easy to assume others will carry this torch.  However, we need you to get off the fence and get involved.  We are committed to equipping you with the tools, training and services needed to help stop the violence.

Join us on 05/19/2011 at 2PM EST for a FREE Webinar on Child Sex Offenders:  Understanding the Enemy.

Sex Offender Lonnie Johnson & Criminal Background Check

criminal background check resized 600On Friday a Utah Judge ruled that sex offender Lonnie Johnson was not competent to stand trial for 21 counts of rape, sodomy and aggravated sexual assault of a child.  Johnson had been treated unsuccessfully at a hospital for the past two years.   To be committed to the hospital, Utah law requires that the person be a danger to others or to himself.  The courts ruled he was not a danger to himself or others. I can tell you that based on my more than 20 years of experience as a violent crime detective and consultant on issues of violence against women and children, this predator is on the hunt for children as I write.  He is an arrogant sociopath with no regard for victims or a free society.  Yes, he will probably toe the line for a few days or weeks as the media stalks him but once they leave he will be free to prowl.

I can tell you from experience and research that Johnson has a strong desire to attack again.  Why?  Because he has been locked up for more than 2 years with no access to children.

So we should take notice of this crisis and understand that it is not an isolated case in Utah.  This is a ruling that happens throughout the U.S. on a weekly basis.  There are many Lonnie Johnsons in our communities, having served a token sentence or been set free on technicalities.

We accept that we cannot fix the crippled criminal justice system.  What we must do is make sure we are doing everything we can to keep the Lonnie Johnsons of the world out of our organizations and away from our children.

So how does this case impact a criminal background check?  It first illustrates the sophisticated enemy that is knocking at our doors, trying to gain a foothold in our organizations.  You need to understand that those who harm kids always seek access to them.

A comprehensive criminal background check will reveal the charges against a Lonnie Johnson.   If you are an organization that relies upon a cheap background check of $9-$15 then this enemy will defeat you.  They will easily bypass your nominal background screening process and gain access to your children, destroying lives and potentially your organization.

Is it worth the savings of a few bucks to take this risk?  No way.  I could not imagine having to tell the parents of a child who was harmed that this could have been prevented if we had spent a few extra dollars.

A quality criminal background check that includes the use of a national criminal database, national sex offender registry and county criminal searches is the first step.  However, research shows that many sex offenders have not been arrested so a quality reference checking program is essential.  Reference checks can reveal red flags in behaviors and inappropriate relationships.

The sad reality is this enemy is highly motivated and focused on gaining access to our kids and most organizations serving our youth are not doing enough to keep them out.

Contact Safe Hiring Solutions today to implement a comprehensive volunteer screening program and a FREE evaluation of your reference checking process.

Stay tuned as we launch iRefCheck in the coming months to automate and deepen your reference checking process.

Would your current volunteer screening program keep Lonnie Johnson out?

Every Organization Needs a County Criminal Background Check

county criminal background checkWhy do I need a county criminal background check when our package includes a National Criminal Database Search?  If it is a question you have not asked it is certainly one that has caused you to scratch your head and contemplate. While launching Safe Hiring Solutions in 2004, I was searching for a solution to the criminal database search that was failing so many organizations.  I realized that the majority of the criminals who slipped through the cracks would be exposed if we went directly to the source and that was the county courts.

No criminal database, including the FBI’s NCIC, contains ALL criminal records and dispositions.  Databases are only as good as the data they receive and if the courts or law enforcement agencies are not consistent in their participation then large gaps develop.

If your organization is relying on a background screening program to make informed hiring, volunteer or contractual decisions then you need to be confident you are making decisions based on accurate data.

Here are the 5 reasons you need to have a county criminal background check as part of your screening program:

  1. Criminal databases are incomplete
  2. Criminal databases lack dispositions
  3. The Fair Credit Reporting Act REQUIRES the use of up-to-date information
  4. The county courts are a true repository of criminal records
  5. County criminal searches provide case updates like dismissals, expungements, charge reductions, etc.

We recommend a county criminal background check in all counties of current and past residence for a minimum of 10 years.  Also keep in mind that not all county criminal searches are the same.  Some background screening firms use “stored data” which does NOT comply with the FCRA.

The scope of the search is also an important aspect of the county search because the background screening industry often operates on a 7 year rule meaning they only report records for a 7 year period.

And finally you need to know if your county criminal background check includes AKA’s and other names.  If not, your organization runs the risk of missing criminal records.

So the takeaway is the county criminal background check is not a screening program but a critical component of the background screening package.  The county search can be illustrated as a mile deep but only an inch wide because it is a search of an individual county and there are more than 3100 U.S. counties.  For this reason we pair the County Criminal Search with the National Criminal Database Search which is a mile wide but an inch deep because it only receives partial data from each state.

The County Criminal Search and the National Criminal Database Search provide a criminal history check that is a mile wide AND a mile deep.

If you would like a FREE review your background screening program, please click here.

Do you have questions about the importance of the county criminal background check?

Why Do I Need a Criminal Background Check Report?

criminal background check reportJeff King was a highly decorated police officer, having received the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department’s Medal of Honor.   Jeff was also a violent offender who was locking his pregnant wife in a closet, beating her in the belly, sodomizing her and routinely shoving his pistol in her mouth. How do I know?  I graduated from the police academy with Jeff and was also the violent crime detective that built a case to send him to prison.  In the end a slow moving criminal justice system gave Jeff the final word as he killed himself while attempting to kill his estranged wife.

What does this story have to do with background screening? We are asked hundreds of times each year by our clients if they should allow a law enforcement officer to volunteer without obtaining a new criminal background check report.  I can hear it in their voice, “surely if they are a police officer then everything is fine.”

Keep in mind I come from a family with more than 130 years of combined law enforcement experience so I am a huge fan of good police officers.  I also understand that policing is not immune to the problems that plague the rest of society.

So now you have an applicant in front of you who wants to bypass your screening program.  Why?  Is it because they feel like they are above the process?  Or is it because they have something to hide?

Their justification will be because they have passed many background checks:

  • Through their current employer
  • To obtain a gun permit
  • For government clearance on a project
  • To volunteer with an organization

So what is the harm in accepting the prior criminal background check report:

  • Can you see it & review it?
    • Not if it was conducted by law enforcement
    • Not if done as an application for a gun permit
  • How old is the report?
  • How do you know they “passed”?
  • Could other things have happened since report was conducted?
  • Do you know what you are looking at if you see the report?
  • How far back does the report search?  Normal industry standards is 7 years
  • Did they search alias or AKA names?

Unless we are familiar with the background screening process of the organization that compiled the report then we run the risk of missing something.  Additionally, under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act any report older than 30 days is considered stale or out of date.

Finally, the biggest problem I see with making exceptions is that you are setting precedence.  So you may find yourself with a long line of volunteers asking to be grandfathered in with a dated background check run by another organization?  Exceptions to policy could be a recipe for legal problems.

If you need a written policy on your background screening program, contact us today for a free consultation.

So how would you handle a request from an applicant to bypass your screening program?  Please comment below.

5 Problems with the Indiana Limited Criminal History Check

indiana-limited-criminal-history-checkWhy would any organization working with vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly or the disabled rely on a background screening database that has consistently missed sex offenders and other violent offenders?  Sure, the Indiana Limited Criminal History Check is an inexpensive and instant (if done online) background screening tool.  And cheap and instant are certainly appealing to volunteer organizations and budget-strapped schools but we cannot lose sight of the duty we have to protect the children, elderly or disabled in our care. What is most frightening is the Indianapolis Star and WTHR Channel 13 exposed the problems with the Indiana Limited Criminal History Check (LCH) nearly 7 years ago in a two part series and yet hundreds of thousands of volunteer background checks are run each year for Indiana school systems, volunteer organizations and programs working with vulnerable populations.

The State of Indiana recognized how limited their criminal history check was in 2009 and passed an Expanded Criminal History Statute that requires schools to run a national background check for applicants for employment, contractors and vendors.  The LCH is no longer an option for employment background screening for schools.

So what are the 5 problems with the Indiana Limited Criminal History Check:

  1. Incomplete data- Study Found 8 out of 10 Sex Offenders Not in LCH
  2. Individual Counties Must Opt to Participate per
  3. Only Class A Misdemeanors and Above
  4. Lacks Final Dispositions
  5. It is only Indiana Data

Background screening is a complicated process that requires several layers of screening to ensure the proper check-and-balance against missing a criminal record.  It is understandable that minor cases such as a public intoxication & pre-trial diversion cases might occasionally slip through the cracks but there is no room for felons and convicted sex offenders slipping through the cracks.

Our primary concern should be the safety and security of our organization and those we serve.  However, secondarily we have to understand that if we are using a system that we know is flawed then we are exposing ourselves and our organizations to liability.

Safe Hiring Solutions was founded in 2004 to help public schools in Indiana conduct quality criminal history checks and provide a viable alternative to the LCH.  Today, more than 1500 organizations throughout the U.S.  rely on our comprehensive background screening programs to ensure the safety and security of their organizations.

Are you are one of those organizations still relying on the Indiana Limited Criminal History Check?  If so, we can provide a national background screening program at an extremely affordable price.     For more information click here.

Do you have any questions on the Indiana Limited Criminal History?

Failed Criminal Justice System Makes Background Checks a Necessity

I have been planning to launch an SHS blog for many months, jotting down possible topics on post-it notes for a blog that is relevant, informative and fun to read.   The world simply does not need another self promoting blog.  I want our blog to be a place we interact and exchange valuable background screening information that is critical to keeping all of us safe.

Early on the morning of January 24, 2011 I was driving to the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Academy to speak to a group of 100 new police officers and I heard on the radio that an Indianapolis Police Officer had been shot on a routine traffic stop and was not expected to survive.  The young officer, David Moore, 29, was shot four times by Thomas X. Hardy a 60 year old career criminal and current parolee who had spent nineteen of the past twenty-seven years in prison.   As recent as November 2010 Hardy had violated the terms of his parole by being arrested for theft.  Unfortunately for Officer Moore the arrest went unnoticed by Hardy’s parole officer and left him on the streets to evolve from a career non-violent offender to a murderer.

The news of Officer Moore being shot was a reminder for me of how dangerous being a police officer is.  As I prepared to speak to these young, idealistic new police officers it provided a reality check as a former police officer who comes from a long line of police officers including my grandfather, my dad, my wife, my brother and a cousin.    As I walked through the doors of the Law Enforcement Academy I knew the first SHS blog needed touch upon the failures of the criminal justice system and how that impacts protecting our clients from the Thomas Hardy’s of the world.

The criminal justice system failed Officer David Moore and gave me flashbacks to my days as a violent crime detective in Nashville, TN . The same criminal justice system failed me on May 17, 1996 when a friend and fellow Nashville Police Officer Paul Scurry was killed while attempting to arrest a fugitive I had been tracking.  Paul, husband and father, was killed by a man that had only weeks before pulled a sawed-off shotgun and pistol on me and my two partners as we attempted to  arrest him for kidnapping and locking his ex-girlfriend in the trunk of his car.  This man, like Hardy, was a career offender who was out of prison on parole.

I wish I could tell you that these two examples are an oddity but unfortunately they are the norm.  We have convicted sex offenders roaming our parks and playgrounds scouting for victims. Violent predators on the prowl for our children.  And more than half of these convicted sex offenders are not living where they are registered and parole officers have no idea.

I left the Nashville Police Department in 1997 after helping develop and implement the largest police-based family violence prevention program in the U.S.   We had itemized our system failures in Nashville and recognized we had to change the way the police department was doing business.  Annually, 25 women and children were killed in Nashville by someone who claimed to love them.  We implemented sweeping changes and watched as the number of women and children killed dropped by more than 50%.  The system in Nashville responded and started keeping its promise to victims to serve and protect.

I took our model from Nashville and packed it in my briefcase and began traveling throughout the U.S. and Europe educating communities, the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Defense and Homeland Security, encouraging adoption of a model for preventing violence instead of responding to violence.  Responding to an incident as a police officer or business owner is reactionary.  Prevention, like quality employment screening, is proactive.

As I traveled the U.S. I heard  over and over from organizations that they needed help  conducting quality background checks.  They were frustrated because they were hiring violent offenders who had been cleared by their current background screening process.

I studied the background screening industry like I had studied the domestic homicide epidemic in Nashville.  What I found shocked and frightened me.  I found organizations that were ( and still are) relying upon cheap criminal database searches which are terribly incomplete (more coming in future blogs).  I noticed that the background screening industry was highly unregulated and provided a very low quality product.  I learned that background screening was more a commodity and driven by profit than a process to ensure safety.  I also realized I was analyzing the industry through the eyes of a detective and someone who had seen the death and destruction perpetrated by violent offenders

I formed Safe Hiring Solutions as a viable and affordable solution for organizations that choose to do background screening correctly and want to keep their organizations safe.   We approach background screening as a moral issue and not from a legal threshold argument which is only concerned with protecting the organization from lawsuits.  Our mission statement is simple:  Safe Hiring Solutions exists to keep you and your organization safe.  And we take this very seriously as nearly everybody that works at Safe Hiring Solutions has a child or grandchild in a school or church that we provide background screening for.  Our families rely on our services.

We hope you will tune in each week as we add a blog post to address issues within the background screening industry, legal issues that our attorney will address, introduce products or services that you might consider and we will begin to introduce the staff of Safe Hiring Solutions so you can know who is working on this end to keep you safe.  I promise the posts will be short, relevant and informative.