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Background checks not equal in Oklahoma

BY SONYA COLBERG Published: March 7, 2010

/> For homes such as Home of Hope, there is no statutory authority to do a fingerprint-based national criminal background check through OSBI and FBI, said Debbie McKinney, OSBI administrative programs officer.

Who receives background checks?
McKinney said that a national background search would be more effective for the state’s care homes for the mentally ill and disabled.

"But the stumbling block there is cost and timeliness,” she said.

State background checks cost $15 and take about 15 minutes. Fingerprint searches cost $41 and take about two weeks, she said. People getting the background check also have to go by the local sheriff’s office or elsewhere to get their fingerprints taken.

"But it’s still very, very important,” McKinney said.

Oklahoma statutes either require or allow for national background checks by those in 18 categories of business or interests.

They range from licenses for locksmiths, bail bondsmen and gem dealers to animal euthanasia technicians, security guards and state Education Department employees who work directly with children.

Sylvia Coslow, supervisor of the OSBI record check unit, said her employees use databases to check backgrounds of roughly 1,200 people in an eight-hour day. Some people just want to check their own records, she said.

"The majority of background check requests we receive I’d say are for purposes of employment,” said Felicia Jackson, OSBI administrative programs officer.

She said the biggest surge in requests have come in the last couple of years for concealed carry permit applications. Last year, the agency processed 22,815 background checks for handguns compared with 9,859 in 2007.

Jackson said the agency includes an area asking why the applicant is requesting the background check. She said probably the most unusual requests are the personal ones.

"Some of them have written on there that they’re checking out their daughter’s boyfriend. And you can do that, and maybe you should,” Jackson 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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