Ley da a empresas de seguridad acceso a archivos criminales del FBI

Private Security Officer Employment Authorization Act
Landmark legislation grants security providers indirect access to FBI criminal database
Editors’ note: The December 15, 2004, issue of The Lipman
Report was printed moments after President George W. Bush
signed the National Intelligence Reform Act—which includes
the Private Security Officer Employment Authorization Act—
into law on December 17, 2004.
The passage of intelligence reform legislation last week
represents an important step in the ongoing drive to
improve homeland security. While the media has
focused on the unification of the nation’s 15 intelligence-
gathering agencies, a small, but critical element has
gone almost entirely unnoticed: an amendment known as
the Private Security Officer Employment Authorization
Act. This portion of the legislation grants the security
industry indirect access to the criminal histories of
employees and applicants. In fact, the act does so while
protecting individual privacy—with the cost borne by
the requesting companies.
Advocates for access to the Federal Bureau of
Investigation’s criminal database lobbied in vain for
more than 20 years. During those two decades, the
United States of America lost millions of dollars in
property and countless lives when convicted criminals
landed positions of trust and authority—only to violate
that confidence and victimize those they were hired to
protect. Low margins and competitive pressures thwarted
campaigns to protect the public through federal regu-
lations aimed at upgrading the professionalism of the
industry. Sadly, it took the tragic attacks of September
11, 2001, to convince federal lawmakers to act.
The editors of The Lipman Report applaud the passage
of the new law. Unlike the intelligence overhaul, the
newly acquired ability to check security employees
against FBI criminal records can have an immediate,
dramatic impact on the nation’s safety.
Private security today
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the demands
on U.S. law enforcement have grown dramatically.
Their primary mission has expanded from protecting
the American public from domestic crime to
include preventing terrorist attacks from foreign
enemies. Yet, the number of police officers has not
increased accordingly. The U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics (BLS) reports that U.S. police forces
grew less than 10 percent between 1999 and
2003—from just over 600,000 to roughly 650,000.
Limited public funds and personnel, therefore,
require private security companies to supplement
the efforts of law enforcement—and they have.
By some estimates, 85 percent of the nation’s
critical infrastructure relies upon the protection of
the private security industry.
Unfortunately, the private sector has little interest
in underwriting the nation’s security costs. The
BLS reported more than one million people
working as security officers in 2003, including
55,000 men and women working as airport
screeners. Approximately 53 percent worked for
private security companies, with the remainder
employed directly by the facilities under their
protection. This total figure exceeds the number
of public police officers by more than 57 percent,
but it also demonstrates a decline from 1999
security-officer employment levels. Even though
many organizations hardened security in the
months following the 9/11 attacks, economic
recession and budgetary concerns soon forced
them to reduce discretionary spending, with secu-
rity being one of the first line items to suffer.
In fact, the historic and widespread view of security
as a budgetary drain has created a dangerous sit-
uation for the American people.
When a person walks into a building and sees a
security officer, he or she often vests that individual
with the same trust reserved for public police
officers. Such trust is too often misplaced, however.
Unlike public law enforcement, private security
personnel generally do not have to meet rigorous
screening and training standards. Instead, the
industry is governed by an inconsistent patchwork
quilt of state regulations—with 10 states having
no regulations or guidelines at all.
In this environment, some security providers skip
background checks altogether. Some firms’
executives have good intentions but lack the
experience to understand the importance of careful
screening and the potential consequences of laxity;
others simply take a passive attitude toward
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The Lipman Report®
background checks and accept applicants at face
value. Both scenarios can contribute to disaster.
One company in the Northeast hired individuals
convicted of such charges as assault, theft and
sexual assault. Although authorities learned about
the problem before any incidents occurred, com-
panies—and their employees and customers—do
not always fare as well. An especially tragic
example occurred in Houston in 1982, when a
former security guard returned to his place of
employment and strangled the managing director.
The man had previously served time in New York
for killing his toddler son.
Some industry leaders have fought for decades for
stricter standards that would help raise the quality
of the men and women employed to protect the
American public, but many within the industry
have opposed these efforts. Higher standards
increase the costs of providing security personnel.
In a low-bid, low-margin industry where multi-
million-dollar contracts depend on savings of
literally pennies on the dollar, many security
companies have been loathe to support any measure
that will raise expenses and anger customers
already clamoring for budget cutbacks.
The long road to legislation
In February 1970, Gentlemen’s Quarterly cited
Guardsmark President Ira A. Lipman calling for a
reduction in armed security officers. Since then, the
company and its leader have actively encouraged
the adoption of state regulations for the security
industry across the nation. As states followed suit,
however, the resulting inconsistencies prompted
Guardsmark to advocate federal legislation. The
firm and its founder lobbied relentlessly, intro-
ducing resolutions at meetings of the Committee of
National Security Companies (CONSCO), publish-
ing op-eds in such newspapers as The New York
Times and The Washington Times, and discussing
the issue with national leaders. (The enclosed insert
features a detailed chronology of these efforts.) A
1992 Time magazine article highlighted deficiencies
in the security industry. The story described
Guardsmark as the company that “many security
experts consider the best national firm in the
business” and included a sidebar featuring Ira
Lipman and his organization, which singled out
their efforts to elevate industry standards despite
vehement opposition from key industry players.
The quest for federal regulations that would help
security companies better serve and protect the
American people took on greater urgency after the
9/11 attacks. That fall, Ira Lipman engaged outside
legal counsel to work with senior government
officials and draft legislation that would grant
security employers access to the FBI criminal
database—an effort that demanded an investment
of three years and more than half a million dollars
from Guardsmark. While lack of time prevented
the amendment from passing as part of the Patriot
Act, a bipartisan coalition of senators reintroduced
the measure the following spring. Sponsored by
Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Mitch McConnell
(R-Ky.), Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Fred
Thompson (R-Tenn.), the bill focused exclusively
on obtaining indirect access to FBI criminal history
records; it called for no public funds and included
safeguards for employee privacy rights.
From April to November 2002, Guardsmark
campaigned among all critical agencies and
organizations to obtain a broad support base for
the proposed bill. This effort received press in a
feature story on Ira Lipman in the May 14, 2002,
edition of The Washington Post. By the end of
the year, the following groups had endorsed the
legislation: the FBI, the U.S. Department of
Justice, the National Association of Attorneys
General, the International Association of Security
and Investigative Regulators (IASIR), ASIS
International (formerly the American Society for
Industrial Security) and the National Association
of Security Companies (NASCO), formerly
CONSCO. “This legislation provides a fundamental
piece of information in an industry where issues
of trust and confidence are important, not only
to the client, but also to the public,” said IASIR
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Private Security Officer Employment Authorization Act
Landmark legislation grants security providers indirect access to FBI criminal database
The Lipman Report®
officer Marie Ohman of Minnesota. Steven Giorgi,
Deputy Director of Homeland Security for the
Governor’s Office of California, believes the act’s
passage represents a victory for public-private
partnerships. “It’s more than just a consumer
protection issue,” said Giorgi. “This legislation
furthers the necessary partnership and professional
relationship that must exist between law enforce-
ment and private security.”
Although no group, organization or individual
expressed opposition to the measure, it did not
pass by the end of the year, and Guardsmark lob-
bied to have the act reintroduced in 2003, again
sponsored by Senators Levin, McConnell and
Lieberman. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)
succeeded retired Senator Thompson as a sponsor,
and Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) added
his support. The Senate Judiciary Committee
unanimously approved the bill on October 23,
2003, and the U.S. Senate likewise passed the
act unanimously on November 17. Industry
representatives testified before the U.S. House
Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime, in
March 2004. The legislation became part of the
House Intelligence Reform Bill (H.R. 10) in
September, followed by its incorporation in the
Senate Intelligence Reform Bill (S. 2845) a few
days later, and was finally approved as part of the
National Intelligence Reform Act last week—an
action applauded by Senator Levin. “The criminal
background checks provision included in the
intelligence reform legislation will provide
important additional homeland security protections
for companies charged with guarding much of
the nation’s critical infrastructure,” he said.
How—and why—the legislation works
The passage of this legislation enables security
companies—as well as firms that employ an
internal security staff—to discover if employees
and applicants have criminal records that disqualify
them from protecting the nation’s critical infra-
structure. These employers can now compare
information provided in personnel files against the
FBI’s criminal database by submitting their request
to a state identification bureau. This intermediary
forwards these requests to the FBI. The Bureau
then discloses whether or not an individual has a
criminal history that would make him or her unfit
to serve in a security capacity, but it does not
release the entire record—simply the existence or
absence of a relevant criminal history. The state
bureau passes this “yes” or “no” information on
to the inquiring organization. Using this new,
indirect access reduces the likelihood that a person
convicted of a felony in one state will receive a
badge and firearm in another.
Part of the reason this act received such wide-
spread support comes from its reliance on existing
state regulations and agencies. The new legislation
does not interfere with state requirements; it works
within the current regulatory framework, but pro-
vides guidelines for states without regulations. For
instance, the legislation defines criminal offenses
that disqualify employees from serving as security
officers only in those states that do not have such
standards. Similarly, the act allows state executives
to designate an existing identification bureau,
rather than create a new organization explicitly for
this purpose. The legislation thus facilitates more
complete screening while minimizing the burden
on the states. Assigning the cost for this service to
users further mitigates the potential resource drain
on state governments and taxpayers.
Another factor behind the success of the legislation
lies in the extensive provisions protecting the
privacy of employees and applicants. To begin,
companies cannot request criminal-record checks
without express permission from the candidate.
Completed checks only return a finding of whether
or not a person is employable; inquiring companies
must then share these results with the employee
or applicant. Other protections guaranteed by the
act include restricting authorized employers to
check a person’s criminal history only once per 12
months of continuous employment—except for
“good cause”—and imposing stiff criminal penalties
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on organizations or individuals that misuse the
information they receive through this process.
What happens next?
The focus now shifts to the U.S. Department of
Justice, which must develop the final regulations
that will implement the Private Security Officer
Employment Authorization Act. The legislation
requires publication of these regulations within
180 days of becoming law. The specific proce-
dures established will include: how to submit
records for criminal history checks, the fees
associated with the service, the agencies respon-
sible for serving as the intermediary with the
FBI; deadlines for processing requests; and
penalties for abuse of the system.
During this process, the agency writing the reg-
ulations will publish proposed or interim regula-
tions in the Federal Register. Interested parties
can then comment on the proposed guidelines,
expressing which aspects they agree with and
which elements present problems. The author-
ing agency will consider this input as it drafts
the final regulations—or interim final regula-
tions—to implement the legislation.
Although security companies are not required to
employ this service, the editors of The Lipman
Report and its parent company, Guardsmark,
believe that state Attorneys General will encour-
age its widespread use as a requirement for pro-
cessing security licenses for companies or
individuals. The stakes are far too great to ignore
this valuable contribution to improved national
security. Inadequate screening of security per-
sonnel has long plagued the industry, as an untold
number of businesses have encountered significant
losses at the hands of those employed to protect
them. At the same time, the recent phenomenon of
“sleepers”—described in Militant Islam Reaches
America by Dr. Daniel Pipes—exacerbates an
already-perilous situation. The term refers to
terrorist agents who embed themselves in society
until called to action. Only by using every tool
available can the United States begin to protect
itself from such enemy infiltration. That means
taking advantage of this new law—or risk con-
tributing to the next catastrophic terrorist attack.
Overhauling the U.S. intelligence network will take
years, if not decades. Even so, portions of the landmark
legislation have the potential to contribute significantly
to the safety and security of the American people. The
Private Security Officer Employment Authorization
Act represents one such measure. Within six months,
this act will enable security providers to confirm that
the men and women they assign to protect the nation’s
critical infrastructure—and its citizens—do not
themselves present a security risk, as indicated by
a previous criminal history. The impact can be
immediate—but it requires a commitment from state
Attorneys General and other executives to demand
swift, widespread implementation.
Passage of this legislation constitutes an important win
for the American public. Those companies charged
with their protection now have an important new tool
to help reduce internal security threats. Still, much
work remains to improve the quality of the nation’s
private security forces. Inconsistent standards gov-
erning screening and training continue to contribute
to a false sense of security, as people place their
trust in individuals who may not have the back-
ground or skills to perform in a crisis situation.
Combating this long-standing problem will demand
great courage—courage from the industry, which
must invest in upgrading service quality, and courage
from corporate America, which must recognize the
need to support this investment. Such courage will not
be easy to come by, but it must come if the nation has
any hope of winning the war against terror.
Private Security Officer Employment Authorization Act
Landmark legislation grants security providers indirect access to FBI criminal database
(continued from preceding page)
The Lipman Report Editors

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