Friday, November 12, 2004

Texas DPS “CCH System” Criminal Database Searches – Know What You Are Getting!

If you are considering searching the Texas Department of Public Safety’s “CCH System” you probably have a good reason for wanting to do so. Most likely, you are interested in protecting your company, its employees, your customers, and others. Additionally, you are more than likely concerned about protecting your company liability relating to negligent hiring. You’re probably interested in all of these things, including, the potential to save some money in your employment screening budget.

Before you decide to hang your hat on this database search, you should know what you are getting. Or, more importantly, what you are not getting. Below is an excerpt from a December 2000 report by the Texas State Auditor’s Office (SAO) relative to the accuracy of the CCH database used by some public and private entities for employment screening.

“Data in the CCH system are incomplete because the records are based on information provided by local justice agencies. A 1996 SAO evaluation of the CCH system indicated that criminal history information on arrests, prosecutions, and court decisions will not be complete, accurate, and timely, until DPS controls are strengthened”........”local jurisdictions failed to enter 27% of known arrest information and 50% of known felony case dispositions into the CCH system”

Moreover, the DPS site itself carries this warning relative to the information you obtain through its database:

“Information obtained through this system may be inaccurate for several reasons. All Conviction and Sex Offender Registration data is provided to DPS by courts and criminal justice agencies. DPD sometimes does not receive information from these sources in a timely manner. Also, reporting courts and agencies may not always provide dates and/or locations of these convictions or offenses. Additional information may be available from court clerks and criminal justice agencies where these offenses were adjudicated.”

Asset Control cautions anyone engaged in screening applicants against relying wholly upon information obtained from the Texas DPS and CCH conviction database. The first danger in relying on CCH searches lies in the risk of obtaining an existing but incomplete record (arrest but no conviction data). This is a risk inherent with all “database” searches. However, the more significant danger to you, your employees, and your customers resides in the 50% chance that existing felony level convictions will be missed by your search because the record was not reported to begin with. With the accuracy rate reported by the SAO and with the caveats clearly posted on the DPS site, we believe it is unlikely that this search will meet the due-diligence standard needed to protect you from civil liability. Additionally, we believe users will be exposed to increased liability in the event a serious record is missed. Punctuate this with the October 3rd, 2004 Dallas Morning News expose "State's criminal database has holes", and users are duly forewarned that use of the database for employment screening could pose serious consequences.


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