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Background Checks Are The Beginning, Not The End For A Safe Environment Program

Police arrested a detective from the Los Angeles County sheriff's child sex crimes division. He is accused of raping a 14-year-old girl, whom he met during "the scope of his work."

The alleged rape occurred in November 2017, according to the chief assistant district attorney. The accused has investigated several child molestation cases in the course of his duties. Chris Helgren "LA Child-Sex Crimes Detective Arrested on Suspicion of Child Rape" thedailybeast.com (Nov. 2018).

Commentary and Checklist

Research from Bowling Green State University reports that police officers in the United States were charged with forcible rape 405 times in an eight-year period, ending in 2013. Forcible fondling was most common - 636 instances.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice the responsibilities of law enforcement officers begin as soon as a sex crime is reported, and officers should: “demonstrate respect, sensitivity, and support and take great care to minimize the potential for inadvertently re-traumatizing victims during the course of the investigation…”.

Law enforcement personnel must complete a thorough background check. Obviously, the detective in the above matter and others passed a background check, but were still a risk to children.

That is why instances above are informative because it is proof that background checks are not where an organization’s child safety program should end, but where it should start.

Background checks are a must, but they do not prove that a person is safe with children. A child safety program should have, in addition to background checks, policies, procedures, training, education, audits, and most important, a reaffirmation of a person’s child safety background after the initial check, if that person works with or around children.   

Here are some additional thoughts about background checks:

  • Always perform reference checks. If a job candidate cannot provide recent references or if the references refuse to cooperate, then you should give preference to those whose references check out positive.
  • If an applicant's references refuse to cooperate, ask the applicant for other references. It is important that you find past employers that can state the applicant has not shown any signs of being a child predator.
  • On personal references, question the reference closely to determine that the reference worked with the applicant in the manner that was described to you.
  • Google the candidate. See if you can find blogs or other writings by the candidate or about the candidate that will shed more light on the candidate's personality or possible signs of misbehavior.
  • Check social network websites. Social websites ask users to post personal information. How a candidate describes him or herself outside of the hiring process can be very helpful.
  • Double-check factual information the candidate lists on the application. If an applicant is untruthful in his or her written application, then that is a sign to move on to the next candidate.
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