The FBI repository of criminal records is thought of as the most complete and accurate source of background checks in the country; but is it? Recent reviews of the accuracy of FBI-provided background checks seem to indicate the database isn’t as infallible as it may seem. In fact, according to a 2006 U.S. attorney general’s report estimated that “half of the FBI’s arrest records did not include disposition information.” This means that the initial arrest of an individual has been recorded, but not the outcome of that arrest.
Arrest records missing outcomes
A spokesman for the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services explained in a statement that it lies with the states to update their records on a regular basis to keep them accurate and complete. However, a 2010 report by the Justice Department found that “in about half the states, as many as two in five records were missing final outcomes.” And the amount of time needed for updated information transmission varies drastically state to state, starting at less than a day in Delaware and going up to 555 days in Kansas.
Background checks affect employment
Not all jobs require FBI background checks; however, in 2007 the Transportation Security Administration made them mandatory for port workers. In the nearly six years since then, over 120,000 applications have been disqualified based on the background check. Half of those disqualified petitioned or appealed the ruling and 94 percent of those were successful in their suits.
Another arena where FBI screenings were an issue was in 2010 when the U.S. Census Bureau received 4 million job applications. A quarter of those were disqualified after background checks were run, including Precious Daniels of Detroit, who said she was “arrested in 2009 during a peaceful protest” but her charges were dropped. Scotty Desphy was also turned away when an expunged arrest from 28 years ago showed up on her rap sheet.
Applicants need time to address background check results
Due to the high probability of employers receiving erroneous information from FBI background checks, the FBI urges employers to allow applicants time challenge and correct their criminal records. However, applicants are not always going to know why they were disqualified and it is solely their responsibility to prove that a mistake was made.