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      Civil Liberties Assn. Claims Police Background Checks Wrongfully Preventing Job Opportunities

      Apr 12, 2011
      The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) voiced concerns of employers using a police database for pre-employment checks that go beyond checking for criminal convictions, resulting in lost jobs or volunteer opportunities. According to an article in The Epoch Times, Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham confirmed that her office has been investigating criminal record checks for several months and is looking into concerns raised by the BCCLA.

      The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) voiced concerns of employers using a police database for pre-employment checks that go beyond checking for criminal convictions, resulting in lost jobs or volunteer opportunities. According to an article in The Epoch Times, Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham confirmed that her office has been investigating criminal record checks for several months and is looking into concerns raised by the BCCLA.
       
      The Police Records Information Management Environment (PRIME) database is currently being used for pre-employment checks. This database is used by BC police forces to collect and disclose law enforcement information, such as who has called the police, been a victim or a suspect of a crime, or charged with an offense. According to the article, BCCLA president Robert Holmes said the problem is that some information is being recorded as “negative contact,” which could result in lost job opportunities, and more than 86% of B.C. adults have their names recorded in the database that holds a lot of sensitive information. 

      “Employers assume that if you have ‘negative contact’ you have done something wrong, but it’s just as likely that you insisted on your basic rights or that the information is incorrect. This is not some kind of philosophical objection, this misinformation is wrongfully keeping people from economic opportunities,” said Holmes.

      The Crown Corporation, which manages the PRIME database, released a report that stated it has 4,452,165 master name records, more than the province’s population as of October 1, 2010, which was 3,844,531. According to the article, this means that the names could be duplicated. 

      The article noted that the BCCLA stated that even if a quarter of the names are duplicates as a result of misspellings, aliases, or out-of-province residence, 86% of the adults in B.C. would still be recorded in the database.

      “With more than eight out of every ten B.C. adults in this database, we’re wondering if people know what the police are writing about them,” said Holmes. “These notes by police officers can prevent people from getting jobs, schooling and training, and it is difficult if not impossible to remove or alter incorrect information.”

      “In the past, the PRIME database has been considered a highly confidential tool for law enforcement in their daily activities,” Denham said. The article noted that the database was originally introduced in B.C. to combat sex offenders, serial killers, and career criminals. “If PRIME is going to be used increasingly for background checks, citizens will likely demand greater access to it to ensure any information contained therein is accurate,” Denham stated.

      According to the article, Denham’s office’s examination will include consultations with the solicitor general, civil society groups, the law enforcement community, and other information and privacy commissioners.

      “This is a very complex issue involving multiple jurisdictions, multiple data linkages, competing interests and the overlap of at least five different laws. And at the end of the day, we need to be certain that the process is fair and justifiable, both ethically and legally,” Denham said.

       

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