Criminal Records Check
The law enforcement community meticulously looks into the background of each candidate for employment to ensure that they have no criminal history. It would be simple to say that a quick check of the databases of the local law enforcement computer was all there is to it, but a thorough criminal background check requires a bit more digging than that. Simply having no official criminal record with the local jurisdiction doesn't mean that a candidate has no record.
Most law enforcement computer systems are set up to run a variety of checks with the entry of a name and date of birth. When the name is entered for a record check, the computer also checks to see if there are any active warrants or any domestic violence orders issued by a court.
The criminal background check begins with the applicant's name and date of birth. Obviously, the more common the name, the more likely that there will be some kind of criminal record associated with it. In the event that the applicant's name draws a hit on a Triple I check, one or two numbers will be associated with the name. One number is the state identification number, or SID. The other is the FBI-assigned number. Records are run based on either or both of these file numbers, which brings up all of the pertinent data in that record.
One of the parts of a criminal record is what is known as personal identifiers. These are the physical descriptors of the person who belongs to the record (height, weight, eye and hair color), their social security number, and their fingerprint classification. While the personal identifiers help to establish to whom the record belongs, the print classification numbers are the most definitive. These combinations of characters represent codes that describe all ten fingerprints of the individual.
The National Crime Information Center (NCIC) in Washington, operated by the U.S. Department of Justice, maintains a clearinghouse of criminal-history information. It is known as the Interstate Identification Index, or Triple I (III). A Triple I check on a person will show all criminal records from both state and federal law enforcement agencies.
For the agent conducting the background investigation, much of the process is one of elimination when dealing with extremely common names. For example, it is the agent's job to make certain that the John Smith who has applied for the job isn't the same John Smith that has a dozen felony convictions on his record, or is wanted in three states for armed robbery.
Although it is uncommon for law enforcement agencies to require applicants to submit copies of their criminal records along with a job application, it is not uncommon for them to ask for some kind of official assurance that no such criminal record exists. It is possible, for a small fee, to obtain such a statement from the agency within the state that maintains records, provided of course that the individual is requesting the statement about themselves and there is no criminal record.