ESA supports background check law

Law would help security companies screen job applicants for criminal records
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Thursday, November 10, 2011

IRVING, Texas—The Electronic Security Association, based here, is asking members to help make the industry safer by supporting legislation that would allow electronic security companies to use the FBI’s database to determine whether job applicants have a criminal record.

“This is really to correct a loophole, to prevent criminals from accessing our industry,” ESA government relations director John Chwat told Security Systems News.

According to ESA, the government allows various industries—including banks, credit unions and private security guard firms—access to the FBI’s database to do a criminal background check of potential employees.

But Chwat said electronic security companies are not among the 22 industries Congress has approved over a period of more than four decades to be able to access the database.

“So what we’re trying to do is become No. 23,” he said.

ESA said it has “endorsed S. 1319, the ‘Electronic Life Safety and Security Systems Federal Background Check Act,’ which was introduced in the U.S. Senate on June 30 by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The bill would permit industry companies to access the FBI database for hiring purposes, and also would direct the Attorney General to work with ESA to establish a nationwide system of criminal background checks for employers and employees at electronic security industry companies. Currently, many states have no requirements regarding criminal background checks for security industry employees.”

Chwat stressed the law would not make it mandatory that security companies do such background checks. He said it simply “provides for employers to access the [FBI] list to determine if their employees have criminal records.”

As of early November, the bill was pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee and a House version of the bill also had been submitted, Chwat said. He urged industry professionals to contact their elected representatives in Congress to support the legislation, which he hopes will be approved by the end of 2012.

ESA posted a position paper earlier this year stating: "All employees of the industry need to undergo criminal background checks … It is simply an outrage that a potential felon has access to our citizens’ homes and businesses without his employer knowing his or her record.”

According to ESA, “states are not able to keep up on crimes committed from one state to another, and many private background check services do not capture complete FBI information on which to base a hiring judgment.”

Chwat said that if security companies have access to the database it would be “a very important marketing tool” that companies could promote to show how trusted they and their employees are. Also, he said it would be a marker of the professionalism of the industry, which could help convince state legislatures to pass state licensing legislation for security companies.

For more information, go to ESA’s web site at www.esaweb.org.