Friday, May 9, 2008

Security Guard Background Checks

NOTE: This blog was originally posted on my blog (see: "Security Guard Background Checks") on 5-29-07.

A recent article in the Columbus Ledger Enquirer has some important implications for chemical plants that fall under the new regulations for protecting chemical plants against terrorist attack. This is an AP article that claims that private security guards in Georgia are not getting the background checks required under Georgia law. It seems that the 2,600 armed guards in Georgia get their FBI fingerprint check because they are state licensed and that check is done as part of the licensing process. The 50,000+ unarmed guards are not licensed and are only required to under go a local records check. Furthermore, the state does not keep records on the unlicensed guards so has no way of knowing if even the local records checks are being done.

The new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations (6 CFR part 27) that go into effect on June 8th require that high-risk chemical facilities ensure that all personnel that have unaccompanied access to sensitive areas of the facilities have extensive background checks. These checks include criminal background checks and checks against terrorist watch lists. While chemical companies will be responsible for checking on their own employees, most guards at these facilities work for contract guard companies. These guard companies are going to have to get these checks done on their employees.

The DHS regulations do not spell out what items uncovered in the background checks would prohibit people from working in sensitive areas of chemical facilities. While terrorist connections, membership in violent groups, and convictions for violent crimes would certainly make someone unsuitable for work in such areas, people with lesser felonies and misdemeanors are not automatically prohibited. Unfortunately for the guard companies, they will not be the ones required to make those decisions, it will be the chemical facilities responsibility.

This brings up privacy issues. If there are minor issues in a guard’s background, how much data does the guard company have to share with the facility management? Are they going to have to get the guard’s permission to share this information? Will it be sufficient for the guard company to certify to the chemical facility that the background check has been made and there are no findings, or will they have to show the facility the background investigation results?

These are all issues that are going to have to be ironed out before chemical facilities start submitting their site security plans later this year.

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