Does Your Criminal Background Check Vendor Measure Up?

Criminal Background Check

Every background check vendor claims to be thorough, but are they?

Most public officials understand the need for screening staff and volunteers. However, the definition of the term “background check” has historically been, at the very least, ambiguous. The term “background check” means different things to different people.

Depending on the company you are evaluating, apples are not necessarily apples in their view, but may seem to be in yours. When determining the scope, service, and structure of a background screening policy, price alone is an inadequate indicator and rarely, in the end, meets with the client’s satisfaction. When assigned the duty to look at all available options, people mean well when doing what is genuinely intended to be thorough research using state-of-the-art screening protocol. However, they cannot always depend upon the depth of information offered or the honest depiction of the service parameters they are defining without a thorough understanding of how the screening industry works.

Parks and recreation industry standards for national criminal background checks

Any legislative initiative or locally drafted background check policy should define exactly what the background check must require. Since 2006, the definitive steps to a comprehensive national criminal background check have been outlined and become the standard applied by parks and recreation agencies that generally control public sports facilities and issue permits to user groups. In addition, these standards are closely aligned with United States Olympic Committee’s SafeSport being implemented by 80% of the nation’s sports governing bodies.

The 8-point test

If it is your objective to conduct a background check that will unquestionably be compliant with every detail outlined in the current standard expected among the parks and recreation industry, the performance specifications executed by the background check service provider (contractor) will need to include the following:

1. The contractor shall perform Social Security verification on each applicant against the Social Security number provided and report back to the contracting agency any false names and/or information provided by the applicant.

2. The contractor shall perform an address trace to verify the applicant’s current address and identify previous addresses to determine the most appropriate jurisdiction in which the background screening is conducted.

3. The contractor shall conduct a state or county criminal record check. A statewide or MULTIPLE county criminal record search (depending on the jurisdiction) is performed to capture all misdemeanor and felony convictions in the jurisdictions with the longest and most current residency.

  • The searches MUST be conducted physically at the local courthouse.
  • You may not utilize a database source to replace the local information that is current and more accurate.
  • The local criminal checks should go back a minimum of 10 years

4. The contractor shall conduct a national criminal search for misdemeanor and felony records through a national criminal record database. This database will supplement the local and thorough searches.

NOTE: The contractor shall perform a national data base search as a research tool only. National criminal data base searches are not acceptable as a substitute for a hands-on search at the county level under any circumstances (or the functional equivalent of a county level search). All criminal information discovered on the national database must be confirmed by the contractor before reporting back to eliminate false positives.

5. The contractor shall search the sex offender registries of all 50 state repositories and the District of Columbia for known sex offenders.

6. The contractor should provide for pass/fail reporting only if requested. This will eliminate the dissemination of criminal records that are not relevant to decision makers.

7. The contractor will be directly responsible for resolving any contested results with the applicant(s).

8. The contractor will provide consultation to the contracting agency in matters of screening and criminal background checks without additional compensation.

  • The contractor will assign at minimum two personal contacts that will be points of contacts Monday through Friday during business hours. The contractor will supply the agency the email and phone number for each assigned contact.

While standards are in place, some organizations choose to rely on “sub-standard” processes, basing the decision on price alone. However, they do so at their own risk and at the risk of their youth.

Leave it to the professionals

Most professional background check investigators are trained and qualified. However, they should be properly vetted then recruited as a trusted, reliable member of your security team. Done correctly, employment and volunteer screening is a highly complex and technical field. Transferring the liability to the correct third party is an intelligent and potential long-range, cost-saving move. Leave it to the experts to find the devil in the details. It takes undistracted attention to every possible detail by the background screening partner to tighten the net and effectively keep people out of your programs who simply do not deserve the privilege.

By Randy Rodebaugh and Mike Pfahl
Southeastern Security Consultants Inc. (SSCI) and DMP Consulting, Inc.
Co-owners of Operation TLC2 Making Communities Safe