The state of Texas has quite the reputation for being tough on criminals. But it apparently also has quite a problem when it comes to keeping track of its criminal records. The Star Telegram recently reported the results of a state audit that revealed significant gaps in the state’s criminal records database. According to the audit, the Department of Public Safety Computerized Criminal History System is lacking records on about one out of every four arrests due to failure of prosecutors and courts to submit the records.
Texas state law requires courts and prosecutors to submit the information to the state database within 30 days of receiving it. However, the report notes that 1,634 (7.65 percent) of 21,351 offenders admitted to jail, prison, or probation by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in November 2010 did not have corresponding prosecutor and court records in the DPS system.
Even with a variety of reasons to explain why this might occur, you better believe that if you’re an employer relying on a Texas state criminal database to find out if your prospective employee has a checkered past, you could be in for a big surprise.
What’s NOT in that employment background check?
Look. We’re not trying to suggest the sky is falling but we are suggesting that employers be diligent when purchasing criminal records for employment screening purposes. The stakes are just too high; all it takes is one ill-fated incident to spell disaster to a business. On the flip side, it takes just a couple extra steps and a few extra dollars to do this right. We’ve said it time and time again but we’ll say it once more: a criminal database search alone is not enough.
Every database search should be accompanied by a local or county-level records search because the local/county level is where the criminal proceedings take place and where the authoritative source lives. To overlook this step and fail to do it right is simply, well, wrong. If your background screening company or online ‘instant’ background check provider tries to sell you a database-only search, give them a swift kick to the curb.
One last comment: the funny (not really) thing about all of this is knowing that the state of Texas is actually considering legislation that would require employers to conduct criminal records checks on employees in certain situations. On the surface this sounds like a good idea until you realize the mechanism for these checks would be state-controlled criminal database searches. THOSE state criminal databases.
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Read more about the dangers of criminal database searches in our recent blog post, “Doing Nothing May Be Better Than Doing It On the Cheap.”