The Truth about TV Police Shows

December 1, 2015

TV shows like The Blacklist and NCIS are entertaining and fun, but it’s clearly all stylized fiction, no matter how convincing it may look.

One of the greatest problems with these shows is how they portray the criminal record search process. You see them with huge computer screens that are touched and manipulated in ways that show everything you could ever possibly know about the person they are investigating. The sad and real truth is that even with today’s remarkable technology, no criminal record search can be 100% accurate. After all, you have 50 states, over 3000 counties and parishes, and tens of thousands of individual police departments, sheriffs’ offices, and courts all over the U.S. How can they all be on the same page? They can’t be. How can they all be expected to report their information to the FBI and other federal agencies in a timely manner? They don’t.

Therefore, even when an FBI database is checked it’s only as good as the information that is put into it. So, if that tiny police department in northern Michigan hasn’t forwarded details yet to the FBI about a person’s arrest for a crime, how can a search of FBI records find it? It cannot.

Again, although no criminal record search can be 100% accurate, checking criminal records on job applicants when appropriate is still an important part of the employment process for most employers. Laws pertaining to criminal record checks vary from state to state, even within counties and cities. Your legal counsel can advise you about these laws. And a good background screening program can help you check criminal records when you need them.

Contributed by Steven J. Austin of LABORCHEX.

Through the Michigan Chamber partnership with LABORCHEX, members get discounted pricing to employment background screening services. To learn more, please email Kym Lewis or call him at 1-800-880-0366.