The National Association of Security Companies (NASCO), the nation's largest contract security trade association representing private security companies employing nearly 450,000 security officers, is proactively working to improve private security's access to FBI criminal history record information (CHRI) for screening security officers as authorized under the Private Security Officers Employment Authorization Act (PSOEAA). These efforts include meetings and discussions with:
· US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee staff
· FBI Criminal Justice Information Service (CJIS)
· Frank Campbell, Senior Counsel, Office of Legal
· Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Insider Threat Study Group
"The private security industry is continuing to work together to provide safety more secure environments by improving screening process for security officers including access to FBI criminal records," said NASCO Executive Director Joseph Ricci, "NASCO is leading efforts to address issues impeding access to these criminal records checks that we fought long and hard to obtain."
In 2004, NASCO and its members worked with Congress to enact the PSOEAA which granted employers of private security officers federal authority to request that states screen their security officers against FBI CHRI. Unfortunately, the majority of states have not implemented processes to access FBI CHRI. As a result, private security officer employers cannot regularly screen prospective and current employees against the national database, increasing the likelihood that a convicted felon could slip through the security officer screening process.
During its October meeting, NASCO members, including representatives from AlliedBarton, American Security Programs, DSI Security Services, Guardsmark, SecurAmerica, Security Engineers, Special Response Corporation and US Security Associates met with DOJ officials to discuss PSOEAA implementation problems and state participation. The discussion focused on "The Attorney General's Report on Criminal History Background Checks" which provided observations and recommendations to improve access and screening, including DOJ's observation of state reluctance to obtain FBI CHRI and conduct suitability screening similar to DOJ experience with state participation under the National Child Protection Act.
DOJ pledged to provide additional information and guidance to the states about the PSOEAA and to support state implementation and offered to raise the issues and problems with the PSOEAA before the National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact Council. DOJ also suggested the possibility for states unwilling or unable to undertake PSOEAA checking and screening to "outsource" their PSOEAA responsibilities to a third-party, non-state agency "channeler" pursuant to federal regulations issued by the Compact Council "Outsourcing of Noncriminal Justice Administrative Functions''.
NASCO pledged to continue to work with DOJ to promote awareness of the PSOEAA with state agencies and private security companies, to explore "channeler" options and pursue a federal legislative fix. At its October annual meeting, NASCO adopted a resolution in support of amending the PSOEAA to allow private security officer employers a non-state avenue ("using a third party intermediary") to obtain PSOEAA checks. The resolution reads in part:
"NASCO supports legislative amendments to the Private Security Officers Employment Authorization Act that are intended to permit private employers of security officers to obtain criminal history information regarding employment applicants from the FBI's national criminal databases, where individual states have not undertaken to establish a process for conducting searches of the FBI databases pursuant to the PSOEAA as currently enacted. NASCO and its members are looking forward to working with Representative Andrews, and other concerned legislators, on passing amendments to the PSOEAA to achieve the foregoing goal" (The complete resolution is available at www.NASCO.org.)
Subsequently, NASCO formed a Committee to draft legislation that would likely amend the PSOEAA to allow DOJ to designate an entity (such as the aforementioned "channelers") to conduct PSOEAA check and screening when a state will not or cannot facilitate the proper checks. The legislation may also address issues such as the timing of the checks (state and federal done simultaneously) and setting deadlines for the checks to be completed.
In related activities, NASCO Chair Martin Herman and Executive Director Ricci were invited to address the DHS Insider Threat Study Group regarding private security screening practices and problems related to improving access to FBI CHRI. The study group is comprised of senior security directors from critical infrastructure areas and is tasked with researching and identifying methods to reduce insider threat to the nation's critical infrastructure. NASCO highlighted concerns with access to FBI CHRI and potential impacts and expects the group to recommend options to facilitate these checks. NASCO also highlighted concerns regarding the lack of regulation of proprietary or in-house security officers and the counter-productive impacts of recent state taxes on private security services.
NASCO and its members are committed to work with Congress, DOJ, the FBI, the Compact Council, individual States and other relevant parties to facilitate timely, accurate FBI CHRI checks. The PSOEAA states that, "private security officers and applicants for private security officer positions should be thoroughly screened" and the legislation granted the authority to do so, now the efficient means to do so must be developed.