NAPBS Statement on the Kalamazoo, Michigan Shootings

February 26, 2016 | posted in: Uncategorized | by

The following statement was released by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) to address concerns over third party background screening in the wake of the Kalamazoo, Michigan shootings:

On behalf of the more than 850 professional firms represented by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners, we condemn the senseless acts of violence perpetrated in Kalamazoo, Michigan by suspected gunman Jason Brian Dalton and offer our condolences to the families and communities affected by this tragedy.

As public attention continues to grow surrounding this incident, the media has focused on Uber’s use of a third party Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) to perform background checks on its drivers. A common theme throughout the coverage so far questions why transportation network companies like Uber do not rely on a fingerprint-based background check in their driver background screenings. Before answering that question, it is important to note that we understand neither a professional background screen, nor an FBI fingerprint would have returned a past criminal history on the assailant, as all reports indicate he had no prior criminal history. As for the background screens, it is important to realize that criminal databases, including the FBI’s database, are not, standing alone, a comprehensive search. There are significant issues related to database accuracy and completeness that make fingerprint-only checks suboptimal for
employers to use as a sole source for background screening. It is a long-standing misconception that fingerprinting is the only method or the most accurate method to identify criminals because the background check is conducted through the FBI’s criminal records database. This belief is inaccurate for several reasons:

  • A screening performed through the FBI database can only be done if the employer has legal authority under statute;
  • The FBI database was never intended to be used for employment-related background screening;
  • Not all arrests are fingerprinted. Depending on the jurisdiction, some low level offenses such as misdemeanors may not be fingerprinted and would therefore not be picked up by the FBI database;
  • A fingerprint search is not investigative; it only reflects information received by the FBI from states and municipalities;
  • If a state or county fails to report arrest records or a court disposition then that data will not appear on the FBI Identification Record. This reliance on arrest and court records, coupled with the passive collection system can lead to a large number of incomplete files;
  • FBI results are contingent upon the consumer having his/her prints taken by an approved vendor as well as FBI processing times; and
  • There is no single database containing complete and up-to-date records which catalogues all criminal history.

A fingerprint check of a prospective employee against the FBI database does not assure complete accuracy. According to a February 2015 study by the United States Government Accountability Office, many states have non-existent or incomplete records in their fingerprint databases. 20 states were 76 to 100 percent complete, 13 states were only 51 to 75 percent complete, 9 states were 26-50 percent complete and 7 states were less than 25 percent complete in arrest and conviction records from their county jurisdictions.

Unlike fingerprint checks that are not investigative by nature, NAPBS member background screeners offer thorough investigations into an applicant’s background using multiple sources including county, statewide and federal court records, educational records, and commercial databases based on the needs of their clients. Combined, these overlapping sources provide employers with a more thorough investigation into the candidate’s history and fit for the position.

In the aftermath of tragedy, it is often the media’s reaction to fixate on one narrow aspect as a narrative device to explain the larger story. This is understandable, but in the case of the Kalamazoo shootings, the whole story on background screening must be told. NAPBS and its members hold ourselves to strict professional standards and are subject to intensive federal and state regulations. Our members produce timely and accurate information to help employers make critical hiring decisions.

NAPBS members prepare millions of background reports every day for employers who understand how important safe places to live and work are for our communities. Sadly, it is impossible to calculate the number of equally tragic events that were prevented thanks to a timely and accurate background screening performed by a professional CRA. This tragic incident serves as a reminder to our members and their clients of the important role background screening plays in mitigating risk whenever possible and protecting America’s communities.

Founded in 2003 as a not-for-profit trade association, the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) represents the interests of more than 850 member companies around the world that offer tenant, employment and background screening. NAPBS provides relevant programs and training aimed at empowering members to better serve clients and maintain standards of excellence in the background screening industry, and presents a unified voice in the development of national, state, and local regulations. For more information, visit