Ohio's Background Check System a Mess

About 3 min

Ohio's Background Check System a Mess

Ohio Background Check SystemThe Columbus Dispatch and CBS local affiliate WBNS-TV conducted an investigation into Ohio’s computerized background-check system, and the results were chilling for anyone who had relied on it to vet an employee over the last few years. The investigation discovered crippling problems that make the entire system completely unreliable. It’s only 15-years old, but the system repeatedly fails when it comes to providing accurate information about convicted felons.

The main problem is that Ohio’s system is fingerprint based and has many of the same limitations as the FBI Fingerprint Database- its information is frequently out of date and incomplete. Final dispositions are often missing, and according to the paper, searches show thousands of convicted criminals as having spotless records.

The investigation discovered counties that were neglecting to report convictions, as well as thousands of correctly reported cases that were not getting archived by the system. On several occasions, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) actually backtracked and called employers to tell them they had hired someone with a serious criminal record after receiving faulty results.

Unfortunately, the fix is not a simple one. In fact, Ohio’s Attorney General Mike DeWine said repairing the system is like trying to change an engine in an airplane while it is flying. The state of Texas is having similar problems with their database.

All of this this comes as no surprise to our public records team. You might be asking, how do we combat this shortcoming and make sure we give our clients the full and accurate picture of an applicant? First, we do not depend on such state-run databases. Yes, technology is great. Most of us couldn’t imagine living without it. But when it comes to people’s safety, and our clients’ livelihoods, technology is not enough. We search each individual county to be sure we have the final disposition in every relevant case. Real people visit every relevant court house, read the records and report back with what we call a “hit” if a conviction is found. This enormous extra step protects not just the employer but the applicant as well. A false hit- i.e. reporting an arrest that never led to a charge- can be as damaging to an individual as if they were convicted. Using researchers helps EBI avoid the mistakes that Ohio’s BCI is trying to clean up.

It’s going to take some time, but Ohio has started taking steps to get their system back on track.  This, of course, is not expected to be a quick or inexpensive fix. If you would like an overview of the whole investigation, click here and here.

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