Effective Background Check Policies Require Reliable Oversight Procedures

By Michael Klazema on 11/14/2019

Thorough criminal background checks protect businesses in many ways, not only verifying suitability for a position but also safeguarding employees and patrons. In the aftermath of massive sexual abuse scandals that rocked organizations such as USA Gymnastics, vetting has taken center stage for non-profits, schools, religious groups, and many others. Often presented as one of the top ways to prevent the hiring of problematic individuals, background check policies are, in truth, only as good as the oversight surrounding them. 

One of the most striking examples of failure in this regard comes out of Nevada. In 2019, Nevada’s governor announced that a long and ongoing investigation into the State Board of Pharmacy had revealed that background checks were frequently never completed for wholesalers. Nevada requires drug wholesalers to provide fingerprints for vetting to help combat the flow of counterfeit products. According to the investigation, the board failed to submit fingerprints for analysis for more than ten years, even after others raised concerns. Without providing details, the governor indicated that some wholesalers likely would not have received approval to operate following the vetting process.

Failures of oversight occur on smaller scales, too, as two other stories in educational settings reveal. In one suburban Chicago high school, district administrators suspended a head coach and two senior school officials over their failure to properly vet a volunteer coach at the beginning of the football season. At Fenwick High School, another Chicago-area school, administrators fired their head coach ahead of a crucial playoff game after investigators discovered—three years too late—that a convicted sex offender skirted background checks to work on the sidelines of several games. 

Whether over the passing of a few weeks, a few years, or a decade, lapses in vetting can create potentially unsafe or hazardous working conditions that often remain unseen until problems become too large to ignore. Good governance and proper oversight are the natural counterparts to criminal background checks. Without these elements, not only can critical information fall through the cracks but those responsible may also become tempted to bend or outright ignore the rules—a scenario that played out for both Fenwick High School and the Nevada pharmacy board.  

Fast, responsive reporting products such as the US OneSEARCH become even more powerful and effective under careful oversight. Ensuring that responsible parties order reports on time and review their information in depth helps to guarantee that the policies intended to protect everyone actually offer that protection. Otherwise, professionals in leadership positions, such as Nevada’s governor, must contend with the complex aftermath of a policy implementation failure. 

When developing methods for vetting candidates, establish trust and responsibility through clear verification steps. Structure policy frameworks that support organizational goals and protect key players by including built-in oversight. 

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