Report finds biometrics system in Ohio is not always accurate

Filed Under: Ohio Criminal Records

Background Check Request3M Cognent, the company responsible for various biometric systems that use bio indicators like fingerprints to identify and track individuals may find itself out of a contract in Ohio before too long.  Ohio officials are looking to replace its current biometric criminal records system, created by 3M Cognent, after it’s come to light that the system has been plagued by a plethora of ongoing problems over recent years.

These revelations are based on a report by the Columbus dispatch and WBNS-TV, which revealed that, among other problems, the system has repeatedly indicated that thousands of convicted criminals had no criminal records attached to their names throughout the 15 years it’s been in place.  The report also borrowed quotes and interviews from some of those tasked with running and managing the system (employees at the Bureau of Criminal Investigation), who said that the system was “running on borrowed time.”  The system was also described as “cobbled together.”  In a nutshell it was unsatisfactory.

Tracking down where the breakdowns in data and/or communication are could prove tricky, though human error and the ineptitude of those supposedly trained to place entries in the database could be at least partly to blame.  In many cases, records for cases and individuals were only partially contained within the system, or did not exist altogether.  Even when records are thought to have been entered in accordance with protocol, they can take months to get matched to names in the system, an obvious potential problem in the immediate aftermath of a conviction.

While the actual number could be much higher, there are at least three instances over the past few years in which an employer has been wrongly informed by the BCI that an applicant had no past criminal convictions.  How much of an impact this has on actual hiring remains a mystery, however, as mindsets on criminal records use in hiring are becoming more and more relaxed throughout the US, with many individual companies and even states outright banning the “box,” referring to the question on a job application that asks about criminal history.  Even so, employers in Ohio can and still often do inquire about their potential hires’ rap sheets, and the inability of their designated government organization to get them that information is concerning.

The numbers go beyond a few isolated cases, as well; the report found that 6.6% of convictions in major counties in the state could not be found within the background check system.  While such a percentage might not seem terrible, that amounts to more than 10,000 individual cases unaccounted for.

Despite all of this, BCI officials are giving 3M Cognent a chance to correct the mistakes, albeit with a hefty price tag.  On April 6th, the organization requested that 3M Cognent give them a $6.2 million “credit” in which the company is to address a number of issues free of charge.  The list includes providing the BCI with three full time database engineers and completing a rebuild or upgrade of the system by the end of June 2015.