Background Checks for EMTs Complicated Issue in New Jersey

By Michael Klazema on 9/6/2012

In the state of New Jersey, emergency medical technicians and emergency responders applying for jobs are not required to undergo background checks – a fact that has caused some to question the safety of their emergency responder forces within the state. Although applications may ask whether or not they have been charged with a crime, the only way employers can know for sure is if someone speaks up. In a recent high-profile case, Robert Melia Jr., a former police officer from Moorestown, NJ, renewed his EMT certification while facing charges of sexually assaulting three minors. Melia was able to work as an EMT for two years after being fired from the police department, until the state was alerted by a member of the public. Four months ago, Melia was convicted on the sexual abuse charges and several other crimes related to his 2008 arrest.

While ambulance companies and health officials within the state say that only a small number of New Jersey’s certified EMTs would be disqualified due to crimes or violations they have committed, lawmakers and healthcare advocates are pushing for a change in law. In the last 12 years, at least 104 EMTs and emergency responders have been disciplined by the state, with charges ranging from sexual assault, theft, and death in unrelated off-duty crimes. CEO and president of the advocacy group the Health Care Quality Institute, David Knowlton, said that since background checks are performed on “police and firefighters,” that EMTs should also undergo the same scrutiny.

In response to the public safety concern, the state Legislature passed a bill requiring background checks for emergency responders, but it was vetoed by Governor Chris Christie over concerns of costs and how it would impact volunteer squads. The bill has again been introduced and is in the committee phase. Up until the 1990s, most of New Jersey was served by volunteer emergency responder squads, which were replaced in many communities by private ambulance services. The remaining volunteer squads are opposed to a universal inspection, training and hiring plan, which was part of the original bill. The volunteer squads are represented by the New Jersey First Aid Council. Nancy Pinkin, a lobbyist for the Council, said that the requirements outlined in the bill would threaten the existence of the squads, due to funding issues. Most private ambulance services and hospitals within the state already conduct background checks on EMTs.

When it comes to the safety of your business and customers, you owe it to yourself and the public to perform a complete background check on potential employees at the time of hire, and ongoing checks thereafter. By using a reputable company like, you can be assured you are getting the best and most thorough background check screening techniques available. With access to countless criminal databases nationwide, they have many options available, several with instant results. Their US AliasSEARCH is a multi-faceted search that combines US OneSEARCH with the known aliases provided from a SSN trace. All information derived from this search is run through the US OneSEARCH instant criminal database, assuring all possible aliases are found. You can also try their National Wants and Warrants search. This search will give results within one to two days, and is a nationwide search of local, county, state, and Federal extraditable warrants, and may include misdemeanors or felonies. Most law enforcement agencies contribute to this database.

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