Police Security Checks: Efficient, Profitable – but does it make us more secure?

If your organization does name checks against police records, be aware of the security trade-offs made.

Police forces conduct name checks against police records as a paid public service. Names, dates of birth and sex are compared against local records, the records of other police services  where former addresses in these jurisdictions are provided, and the personal identifiers attached to the national criminal history files retained federally.

When you receive the results from the police check indicating there is no record, bear in mind of what you are actually being informed: The person is not know to police under the identify particulars provided. Nothing more.

If you work with youths and strive to mitigate potential threats posed by pedophiles, you must be aware of what a name record check is not telling you. The same with an employer conducting a hiring interview, or anyone else screening people for previous criminal activity.

A police name check does not affirm the applicant wasn’t investigated, arrested, convicted or otherwise came to the attention of police under a different identity.  Even then, methinks only the dullest of applicants known to police in another jurisdiction will disclose former addresses in these jurisdictions. Add to this, some police forces no longer require people apply in person.  They can do so electronically, which increases the threat. It his harder to lie and cheat while face to face.

Failing to recognize security trade-offs and complacency are the real threats. Nothing replaces vigilance – “eyes on the street” – whether observant parents, coaches and trainers in sports organizations, neighbors watching each other’s back yard, or employees reporting when they have concerns about a colleague. To do otherwise makes us less secure.

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