The Capitol Record

Auditor calls for stricter background checks

State Auditor Troy Kelley

State Auditor Troy Kelley

State Auditor Troy Kelley is recommending the state improve its background check process by setting up automatic notifications every time someone like a school employee or foster parent commits a crime.

Twenty-nine other states have an automatic notification system in place, also known as a “rap back service.”

In Washington, people who apply for certain jobs must undergo a background check, with periodic follow-up background checks. Those jobs include child care workers, foster parents, teachers, home care aides, school employees and others working in what the report describes as “positions of trust.”

Between 2005 and 2012, the auditor’s office found that about 500 people faced new criminal charges after passing the initial background check. Most of those crimes went unnoticed for nearly two years, with the charges ranging from drugs to theft to child molestation.

The auditor’s report cites a high school janitor who passed an initial background check, then was arrested for a sex offense a year later. He continued to work in the school district for several years after his conviction because of gaps in the background check process.

It would cost about $300,000 to upgrade Washington’s criminal history system for automatic notifications. After that, it would cost about $350,000 a year to maintain, according to the report.

Read the full auditor’s report here.

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