Federal Officials Want More Background Check Cooperation from Local Police Department

By Michael Klazema on 2/17/2014

Aaron Alexis, the man who killed himself and 12 other people in a Navy Yard shooting last fall, has hardly left the headlines of the background check industry since. First, USIS, the firm that vetted Alexis, was accused and sued for allegedly faking 665,000 background checks over a four year period. Now, government officials are suggesting that Alexis never would have been given federal security clearance and therefore denied to his victims, if local police departments were more willing to cooperate with federal investigators. In fact, those suggestions regarding Alexis' background check could eventually lead to government legislation that would force local police departments to fully cooperate and participate in federal background check procedures.

In fact, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is currently having talks that could drive numerous changes in how the federal government runs security clearance background checks. On one hand, the committee wants routine background reviews to either renew or revoke security clearance status. Alexis, for instance, was granted security clearance five years before his murderous rampage. Reports indicate that no reviews or repeat background checks were required of him in that time, a major oversight for the government to be making at such a high level. helps numerous companies institute regular repeat background checks of their employers, using its access to over 450 million criminal records, as well as sex offender registries, terrorist watch lists, and other screening sources, to help keep workplaces safe across America. If small and mid-sized businesses already have repeat background check policies, it seems as if the government could certainly benefit from having them for its emp;oyees that require security clearances.

In addition to requiring security clearance reviews, the House Oversight Committee wants to formulate some sort of strategy or system that would make it easier for federal background investigators to gain access to local police department records. The committee believes that more cooperation from local departments would have helped federal investigators to learn a bit more about Aaron Alexis and perhaps know to keep an eye on him, if not reject his application for security clearance.

While Alexis did not have any criminal convictions on his record, he did have a history of misconduct in the Navy, as well as years of apparent psychological instability. In 2004, Alexis was arrested in Seattle for shooting out the tires of a car. The House Oversight Committee believes the government was not able to formulate a full picture of Alexis' past because the Seattle police department would not cooperate with the investigation.

Today, Seattle seems to have changed its tune. The city's police department is now cooperating fully with federal investigators in a way they weren't back in 2008 when Alexis' background check was performed. However, the House Oversight Committee has stated that there are still more than 450 police departments and jurisdictions nationwide that continue to present a bureaucratic challenge to federal background investigators looking for answers about security clearance candidates. Included on the committee's list of uncooperative departments were the police forces of New York City and Los Angeles. Since both are huge jurisdictions, their failure to cooperate could result in a lot of missed information on security clearance background checks. The committee doesn't exactly know how it wants to approach the act of enforcing these and other local police departments to cooperate with the government, but a proposal involving the withholding of federal funds could be on the table.


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