Electronic security firms under pressure to clean up their act

Nov. 23, 2011 at 6:12 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- Electronic security firms are coming under increasing pressure to submit staff and group members to proper scrutiny and purge their organizations of those with criminal records.

Recent representations backed calls for electronic security industry members to submit to checks that use FBI databases of criminal activity and individuals.

Similar practices have come into force in Europe and as part of due diligence in Asia and the Middle East, where the use of security agencies has grown in response to perceived threats of terrorism, malicious activity and sabotage.

Many of the U.S. security firms are operating without checks for previous criminal activity or involvement in questionable practices, analysts said.

The Electronic Security Association in Houston asked members to help make the industry safer by supporting legislation that would allow electronic security companies to use FBI information to ensure job applicants were clear of criminal records.

ESA officials told news media it was time to plug the loophole that allowed criminals to infiltrate the industry unchecked.

Industry officials say the criminal record checking procedures are needed to save the sector from adverse publicity and to make sure that poor performance or reputation did not impact on the business.

Government practices already allow several industries, including banks, credit unions and private security guard firms, access to FBI databases for criminal background checks of potential employees.

However, electronic security companies aren't among the 22 industries the U.S. Congress has approved to access the database.

ESA and other organizations announced their support for legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate on June 30 by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

The bill would permit industry companies to access the FBI database for hiring purposes. It also would direct the U.S. attorney general to work with ESA to establish a nationwide system of criminal background checks for both employers and employees at electronic security industry companies. Many states have no requirements regarding criminal background checks for security industry employees.

However, industry sources said, the law still wouldn't make it compulsory for security companies to conduct such background checks but would give employers the option to access FBI information about a potential employee.

ESA backed the screening process, Security Systems News Web site said. The association posted a position paper earlier this year endorsing the criminal background checks. "It is simply an outrage that a potential felon has access to our citizens' homes and businesses without his employer knowing his or her record," ESA said.

The association reasoned that "states are not able to keep up on crimes committed from one state to another and many private background check services do not capture complete FBI information on which to base a hiring judgment."

ESA Government Relations Director John Chwat told Security Systems News that access to the FBI database would be "a very important marketing tool" that companies could promote to show how trusted they and their employees are.

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