01/09/2014

John HeinInside Internal Affairs
with John Hein

Why background checks are so important

Pre-employment due diligence should address more than criminal history and financial responsibility — here are a few reasons why

The background of every law enforcement officer is scrutinized prior to employment and, depending upon the department, many are routinely updated periodically until retirement.

An initial background investigation is conducted to determine — among other things — criminal history, character, financial responsibility, and association with others. Some believe this process is cumbersome — sometimes even an invasion of privacy — and they may minimize the activity and avoid giving testimony.

However, professionals must understand the importance of an applicant or employee background investigation (BI). Today more than ever, it’s about ensuring our national security.

Repercussions (Still) of 9/11
There are many reasons why a BI should be taken seriously. Without a diligent investigation, an applicant who is dishonest or not suited to a law enforcement position could be erroneously hired. In addition, BIs always have been of utmost importance for security reasons, but since the 9/11 terrorist attacks the backgrounds of not only law enforcement officials but others in sensitive positions in public and private organizations have taken an even more serious note.

National security now includes the process of thwarting a terrorist group from planting a member in a police department.

United States counterterrorism organizations know that terror groups are actively attempting to place extremists in positions in sensitive government and private locations. Terror groups strive to infiltrate government intelligence, law enforcement, and other security positions. Government facilities and private locations like power plants and water dams are all targets for terror groups. International terror organizations are anxious to infiltrate group members into American society.

Since 9/11, the question of legal and illegal immigration has also taken a more serious note. While the September 11th attackers were all legally in the United States on temporary visas, employers are finding that illegal immigrants, through various means, are employed in sensitive positions.

A (Recent) History Lesson
In 2009, The Huffington Post reported that the infiltration and corruption of American law enforcement is a national security problem. The author reported that traitors among us are wearing federal law enforcement uniforms patrolling the U.S. border while corrupt local officers are patrolling elsewhere.

On December 12, 2013, the Associated Press reported that an Arizona Department of Public Safety detective resigned after it was discovered she was an illegal alien. And in 2011, The Alaska Dispatch http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/ex-anchorage-cop-us-illegally-gets-3-month-prison-sentence reported a police officer in Anchorage also was found to be an illegal alien and was sentenced to three months in prison, three years on probation, and given a $3,000 fine.

In 2007, the Washington Post reported that a Milwaukee police officer was arrested when it was determined he was an illegal alien. The officer, who had taken the identity of a deceased cousin, later pled guilty to a felony for claiming he was a United States citizen.

While these officers did not appear to have been a national security risk, they may have placed criminal and civil court cases in jeopardy by falsely identifying themselves.

In 2007, a Lebanese national named Nada Nadim Prouty pled guilty to charges of fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship and conspiracy to defraud the United States. She used her citizenship to obtain employment at different times with the FBI and CIA. Reportedly during her employment she unlawfully made computer queries concerning her relatives and the terrorist organization Hezbollah.

Looking to the Future
Some potential national security risks are not even born yet. In 2010, the Washington Post l reported a new significance to American citizenship. There are dozens of businesses that provide birthing services to expectant Chinese mothers, a 2013 Time World article asserts.

Since anyone born in the U.S. is deemed to be a U.S. citizen, Chinese nationals travel to and stay in the United States long enough to give birth. Reportedly the point of the U.S. birth is to circumvent China’s one child per family rule and to secure their children the benefits of American citizenship later in life.

To some, American citizenship in the 21st century has little to do with loyalty. It is suspected more sinister reasons for U.S. citizenship are yet to be realized.

An employment background investigation is one of the vertebrae of national security efforts. Cooperation is a must to not only protect yourself and co-workers, but your family and country. Federal and local government employees or anyone called to give testimony during a BI must understand the consequences if contact is avoided or information is withheld.

About the author

John F. Hein is an adjunct instructor of criminal justice for the American Public University System and a retired executive of the former U.S. Customs Service.  Hein served 35 years in civilian and military security and law enforcement agencies.  He is a member of ASIS International, an association of security professionals, and is a Certified Protection Professional (CPP).  Hein supported, supervised or conducted employee internal investigations for the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, then for the former U.S. Customs Service, Office of Internal Affairs, and, as a reservist, the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations. He was a deputy sheriff prior to his service as a federal criminal investigator. He is the author of Inside Internal Affairs: An In-Depth Look at the People, Process and Politics, published by Looseleaf Law Publications, Inc.

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