Think the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has the most complete, up-to-date criminal records? Think again. According to a recent study conducted by the Government Accountability Office, the FBI and other government entities can improve their criminal databases by taking certain actions.
Most people assume the FBI has the most comprehensive criminal database in the country. After all, this is the intelligence-driven agency that’s responsible for upholding criminal laws and protecting the United States against terrorist and foreign threats. Nearly a decade ago, however, the U.S. Attorney General published a report on the FBI’s criminal database, in which it described the agency’s database as being incomplete. According to the Attorney General’s report, the FBI’s criminal database was more or less a “patchwork” of data from state and federal agencies.
Last month, however, the Government Accountability Office published the CRIMINAL HISTORY RECORDS: Additional Actions Could Enhance the Completeness of Records Used for Employment-Related Background Checks report. This report covers the span of two years, highlighting the FBI and other government entities’ criminal databases and whether or not changes were made since the Attorney General’s initial revelation from 2006.
You can click on the link above to read the complete 58 pages of the GOE’s report. However, it basically says that while many states have improved their criminal databases, more work is still needed. In 2012, the report found that nearly 1 in 4 arrest records did not have dispositions. That’s a shocking statistic that attests to the need for improvement with our nation’s current government-run criminal records database. Without complete records, employers and organizations will have a difficult time determining whether or not to a hire a job applicant.
But FBI and state criminal records aren’t the only sources of information about a potential job applicant’s past. As noted in this report, private background check companies can also deliver information pertaining to an individual’s criminal past — and in many cases these private background companies offer benefits that aren’t available through government agencies.
“The 2005 SEARCH report also noted that private background check companies can offer benefits that government agencies are not always able to provide, including collecting and consolidating criminal justice information from multiple sources, achieving faster response times than state agencies, and creating reports that include non-criminal-justice information.”
So while the FBI’s criminal database may have gaps inconsistencies, employers can always rely on the services of a private company to obtain accurate information about an applicant’s history.
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