Security industry opposes provision in background check legislation

New legislation intended to help improve the accuracy of the FBI’s criminal history database could actually lead to the removal of criminal arrest records from a person’s background check.

Under a provision in the "Fairness and Accuracy in Employment Background Checks Act of 2010 (HR 5300)," a person’s arrest record would be dropped from the database if the disposition of the case remains unknown or cannot be determined after one year.

The proposed legislation has led to an outcry from those in the security industry that rely on the database to determine if a potential employee is eligible to work for their business.

"We’re concerned that criminal histories would no longer be accurate," said Larry Sabbath, who represents SCOLA (Security Companies Organized for Legislative Action), a coalition of various security guard, armored car and private investigations companies. "If there is an arrest and the trial doesn’t take place for more than a year or they don’t get the information back from the states for more than a year, it just gets dropped out as I read the bill. We don’t think that is a logical way to handle things and it would mean that the regulatory authorities who decide, for example, who should get a license as a security officer or a private investigator or who should be able to obtain a weapons permit, might not have knowledge that someone was pending trial for a felony."

Sabbath added that while they agree with making the database more accurate, they disagree with the proposed solution and would like to see the provision dropped from the bill. He said that SCOLA is currently in talks with several members of Congress, as well as other industry associations, to make them aware of their concerns about the legislation.

Jack Lichtenstein, vice president of government affairs and public policy for ASIS International, said the provision in the bill also presents problems to members of his organization, though they haven’t taken an activist position on it yet.

"We've looked at the bill. We don't see it moving very quickly, if at all," he said. "We are keeping an eye on it. We are extremely supportive of these other organizations and we feel very much the same way they do."