Does your department do background checks of prospective members? How far does it go? Do you only do a county check? When was it implemented?
What about current members?
Do they take an integrity test (Wonderlik)?
What are your thoughts?
There is a blog that we have been discussing:

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I think it's cool to see that you have 64 volunteer fire departments in your state.

We have 94 volunteer fire departments just in Erie County, NY.
Chief, Our department does a pre-employment background check on all members either paid or volunteer. e also do a repeat check each year around July. If at any time you are accused of an offence and it was not reported you can and will have a meeting with the officers of the department. If it is a felony you may be terminated. There are a few things that are not promitted, theft other than small bad checks (we then try to help you get your finances in order), Demestic violance or any act involving a wepon. These will get you terminated quick. Most problem children are found before they get in the door. If a current member gets in trouble he/she goes to the Chief ASAP and gives his/her side of the story and from there it is up to the CHief.

Our backgrund checks are Local, state and national.

Im not sure how other department's handle it. As for ours the official policy is that any felony will disqualify any member from further participation with the department as will violent misdemeanors, sexual offenses regardless of degree and of course arson. DUI will disqualify the member from driving, which in our department we are all trained to do. Other offenses will be referred to the board for a decision.

As for decimation of the department, I suppose going back and booting people for old offenses could have that effect. Our department has approximately 60 firefighters plus officers. I would also be concerned about the moral of the other firefighters. We have to trust each other absolutely. I would be worried that something as little as stealing pack of cigarettes or bottle of beer would cause concern amongst the other members as to that member's character. If he will steal a pack of smokes, would he steal my watch from my locker and if so, why is he stealing? Is there a reason he needs extra money, is it a compulsion...etc? It seems to me that this might be as important as the actual offense itself as far as it concerns the cohesion of the department.

What do you think, Chief?
As for ours the official policy is that any felony will disqualify any member from further participation with the department

I am only playing the devils advocate here.... What happens in the case where someone is 18 or 19 years old and gets into a fist fight and gets charged with a felony. They pay their price to society through the judicial system and now at age 30 apply and get denied due to a felony?
About stealing in the firehouse, remember most theives are stealing not for the money, or for the thrill, it is based on opportunity. I would hope that the thefts of cigarettes and beer are outside the firehouse, and if thats the case it can't really be dealt with inside the firehouse aside from you personally losing trust in that person.
The funny thing about BCI's that people neglect to remember is it only accounts for crimes that people are caught and prosecuted for. As Art said, if its a plea agreement 85% of the time, it doesn't go on the persons record. (and it states so in court documents) When a person pays the fine, does the time or whatever it just vanishes. What do you do in that situation? I know it is s should (in my opinion) show up on the BCI but the law is the law.
The audit is a must. I see too many occurances nationwide where embezzelment occurs due to no true auditing. Again thieves are opportunists, and when they have an opportunity to cook a book and have it go undetected what stops them from doing it further? All departments should have dual signature checks and a professional multi person panel who does the audit and provides a report for the members/officers
Come on Tiger, you must have had a sale on your recruitment and retention tool Kits a few years back huh? LOL If only they knew you would be doing it free for FFN
I think policy needs to be consistent and enforceable.
If not, someone released under the policy might have grounds to sue if the same thing under the same circumstances didn't happen to someone else. If there is a hint of discrimination/favoritism/nepotism, plan on having a fire sale. It will be six figures, minimum.
This is why I advocate having a competent attorney well versed in employment law deal with the stickier policies and procedures.
James Sinclair is an excellent source here in Illinois.
We had a meeting of the county Chiefs last night to discuss methods of credentialing emergency responders. One of the topics touched on was background checks.

I was surprised that about 1/4 to 1/3 of the county departments now do BG checks through the sheriff's office. One chief said that his department does a full check, from local to federal level, and weeds out about 60% of the initial applicants for one reason or another.

At least one organization had all existing members checked out, so that all members have gone through the same process.

The department that does a full background check elected NOT - for reasons not stated - to investigate its existing members. One comment from a member was "what if we found something undesireable on a 10 year member who's a great jake? Suppose something happened years back and he/she straightened out and...?"

I didn't get a chance to respond, but the obvious answer has to be that that member is OUT. There's no guarantee that the member would not "flare up" again, just like there's no guarantee that a convicted felon would.

Also - the background check does come back with history and an opinion or judgment from the SD regarding the person's character. So this info has to be guarded carefully and kept private; such info falling into the wrong hands would not be good.

This reinforces the idea that a person handling this documentation has to be a chief officer (implying tact, discretion and responsibility) and that BG checks of the chief officers is the place to start. Commissioners too, if you have them.
When we apply the township performs a background check. How far they go I'm not positive, but it's probably a county check.
Yes we do, big time, to be a firefighter here at Hanford Fire we have to have a Department of Energy clearance. It makes the back ground checks of a municipal department look like a walk in the park. Nothing more be said about this from me.
We just started implementing the background checks. We are looking to see if there is arson in their past. From what I understand if there is anythingelse that is questionable there is not much we can do about it, except watch them very closely. Everyone who applies so far has not complained and it seems to work right now. No problems so far.
Background checks should be thorough, complete and done on every member; current or future so that it will be an effective tool and a powerful PR message.
"Child molesters and torches need not apply".
Oh and make sure you check for DUIs also. Might be a good idea to run a DMV check along with the background check. Especially if they are going to be driving rigs.

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