Background checks not equal in Oklahoma

BY SONYA COLBERG Published: March 7, 2010

More than 400,000 Oklahomans had their backgrounds checked last year so they could pursue everything from legally carrying a concealed handgun to exercising a race horse.

Some Oklahoma parents even paid to check out their daughters’ boyfriends.

Most checks were limited to Oklahoma, but more than 20,000 involved national searches, according to Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation statistics.

Certified schoolteachers, foster care parents and adoptive parents must pass a national check. But people such as child care providers and employees of care homes for the mentally disabled only need pass a state inquiry.

"We certainly would love to do anything to make sure the children are safe in child care,” said Janice Matthews, licensing coordinator for the state Department of Human Services’ child care services.

The national recommendation is that all child care homes complete national fingerprint-based background checks, a measure proposed for Oklahoma a few years ago. But Matthews said it was dropped because neither the state nor many of the roughly 4,000 mom-and-pop child care centers could afford to pay the $41 fee.

Care homes require check of workers
Much like employees of child care centers, Oklahoma’s care homes for the mentally ill, mentally disabled and seniors in need of assistance require name-search, state background checks.

Home of Hope in Vinita now uses a national background search, state Department of Corrections sex offender data searches and other Internet tools to check out employees after hiring a man who was accused of raping a resident in 2008. The home had completed a state background check but former employee Jerald Ray Bishop’s sexual criminal history in California wasn’t revealed.

A national background search, available from the FBI through the OSBI when allowed by state statute, would have shown his criminal history in another state, said the care home’s human resources director, Carolyn Chapman.

"I would encourage any agency similarly situated to consider that they need to utilize national databases, not relying strictly on the state,” she said.



2009 background checks

Q: What does a background check cover?

A: Fingerprint-based arrest and conviction data for felonies and serious misdemeanors committed in Oklahoma.

Q: What doesn’t a background check cover?

A: The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation does not provide criminal history information from other states. The criminal history record also will not include unreported arrests, arrests where fingerprints were not taken or arrests where fingerprints were of insufficient quality. Driving

records are not included.

Q: Does a background check capture local citations, such as for marijuana possession?

A: If reported, the OSBI criminal history record will contain all municipal and state charges considered felonies and serious misdemeanors. All drug charges would fall into this category.

Q: Does a background check capture restraining orders?

A: No. Protective orders are not part of the OSBI record. However, a violation of a protective order will be included if the subject was arrested, fingerprinted and those prints submitted to OSBI.

Q: How does OSBI conduct a background check?

A: Record check personnel compare identifiers, such as name, alias, birth date, Social Security number, race and gender, in a criminal history request form with the OSBI database. If OSBI considers it a match, the OSBI releases the fact that a record exists and provides a copy to the requestor. Visit the OSBI Web site at www.ok.gov/osbi.

Q: How are national background checks handled?

A: If an Oklahoma statute requires a national fingerprint-based search, the request is submitted to the OSBI, which then electronically submits the information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the national background check. Absent the statutory measure provided for certified teachers, prospective foster parents and others, any individual can request a national record check through the FBI. Visit the FBI’s web site at www.fbi/gov/hq/cjisd/fprequest.htm.

Q: What is the Rap Back program?

A: If someone who has had a fingerprint-based background check completed but later is arrested, the OSBI notifies the appropriate agency of that arrest. It’s a free service for every applicant.

For example, if a certified teacher hadn’t been arrested at the time of employment but later is arrested, the OSBI will notify the state Education Department of the arrest once the OSBI receives the fingerprint card from law enforcement. Another example would be the OSBI notifying the state Real Estate Commission if a real estate agent is arrested.

Q: Is there a national Rap Back program?

A: Not currently. The FBI is upgrading its IAFIS (Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System) and may later offer a similar fee-based national notification program.

Answers provided by OSBI administrative programs officers Felicia Jackson and Debbie McKinney.

→Total name and fingerprint searches: 290,370

→Department of Corrections sex offender searches: 54,949

→Department of Corrections violent offender searches: 34,603

→Concealed carry permit background searches: 22,815

→Total 2009 background searches: 402,737

SOURCE: OKLAHOMA STATE BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION

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