When it comes to guard services, employers need not be on guard

Under the new private security officer employment act , companies have indirect access to criminal background info
Tuesday, February 1, 2005

WASHINGTON–Many states already mandate security license requirements for guard applicants by conducting criminal background checks locally, but there is no way to tell if the applicant has a checkered past in a different state. Under the new Private Security Officer Employment Authorization Act, part of the National Intelligence Reform Act, the industry will have indirect access to criminal history information of contract and proprietary security personnel applicants.

Security industry leaders have lobbied legislation about this for more than a decade. Originally, the act was sponsored by the National Association of Security Companies, and it only covered contract security personnel. ASIS International joined the effort, and worked to expand the act to include proprietary security personnel.

The act allows employers to request information from a state’s criminal identification bureau or an agency authorized by the law, such as the FBI criminal database. The bureau or agency will only report its findings with an approval or denial, but will not provide specific information.

Many guard service companies already require thorough background and personal verification checks for potential employees.

Catherine Ross, president of Day & Zimmerman Security Services, said the company completes its own extensive verification policy. She endorses the act and noted the norm in the industry is for most companies to verify guard employees prior to hiring.

“It is going to be seen as a more professional and respected industry,” Ross said, thanks to the new bill.

“Security as a whole, sometimes is looked upon as a lesser service than law enforcement. Security officers are on the front lines for a long time; they are the eyes and ears. I think this will enhance the image.”

Currently, 40 states have security licensing policies to check security guard applicants. The background check policies vary but in general, states use finger print verification, credit checks, driving records and social security numbers to approve applicants.

For the 10 states that do not regulate or license security firms or officers the act creates a federal standard.

Shirley Pierini, president of ASIS, noted the cost for the background test will be paid by employers. Over time, the bill will help foster safe workplaces and a secure nation.

“Security personnel are the most trusted people,” Pierini said. “Those that are brought into the work place are well screened and are not coming in with records of wrong doing.”