Background check system dangerously unreliable

School systems use Ohio’s criminal background check system to ensure they are not hiring someone who may be a danger to children. Police officers rely on it to alert them when they have stopped people who may be a threat to them. Employers utilize it to guard against job applicants who may plan to steal them blind.

Let us hope all involved have backup plans -because the system sometimes does not work. State officials admit that during its 15-year-history, the background check program has inaccurately indicated thousands of criminals did not have records.

Fingerprints submitted by law enforcement agencies, the courts, government and even private-sector employers are the key to the system. It is operated by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office.

Given the fact the program is used for about 1.3 million background checks every year, a few thousand misses may not seem like much. But remember, background checks are used by those who need to know the people with whom they are dealing. DeWine has said the system is “critical for the safety of Ohio families.”

The attorney general also alluded to the computerized program’s age, calling it “kind of a Model T system.”

According to published reports, state officials are taking two actions to provide more reliable background checks. First, they are buying a replacement. Second, they are insisting on better performance by the contractor for the existing system.

Good. Knowing of errors in the past, state officials should have taken such action long ago.

But even now that upgrades are being made, the experience is a reminder to all who rely on computer-generated background checks. It is that no matter how good the system, errors will be made – and the most dangerous threats to Ohioans, especially to children, are experts at concealing their pasts. With that in mind, multiple safeguards such as calling previous employers are vital, especially when the safety of children is involved.