Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
For Immediate Release: February 4, 2009
Senator Ron Justice
National Background Checks for Firefighters
Approved in Senate Committee
Oklahoma applicants for certain professions and
licenses are required under state law to undergo both state and
national background checks for the sake of public safety. Unfortunately,
municipal fire departments do not have that same authorization,
but State Sen. Ron
Justice hopes that he can get that changed this year through
his Senate Bill 249.
"My bill is about prevention and peace of
mind. Victims of fire or other situations that require assistance
from a fire department shouldn't have to worry about the integrity
of the men and women helping them," said Justice, R-Chickasha.
"This would give citizens peace of mind that the people in
their homes aren't criminals and would also help our municipal
fire departments prevent any wrongdoings from happening by keeping
criminals off their forces."
SB 249 was requested by Mustang's Fire Department
in conjunction with the State Fire Marshall's office. The measure
would authorize municipal fire departments to conduct national
criminal history records checks on perspective firefighters. They
currently are authorized to conduct state background checks but
as Mustang Fire Chief Carl Hickman pointed out that is not enough
when departments are considering out of state applicants.
Hickman said he once had an applicant from out
of state that, unknown to the department at the time, had an out
of state felony warrant out for his arrest. The person was not
hired, but when Hickman later found out about the individual’s
criminal record he realized that the law needed to be changed.
“From a fire chief’s standpoint, I
want to have as many tools at my disposal to ensure that I’m
hiring people with integrity beyond reproach, not individuals
with a shady background or issues in other states,” said
Mustang Fire Chief Carl Hickman. “Our job is to protect
the public, and we can’t do that to the best of our ability
if we don’t know everything about our applicants.”
Each applicant would be required to provide the
department with two completed fingerprint cards and a money order
or cashier's check made payable to the Oklahoma State Bureau of
Investigation to cover the fee for the background check. The Bureau
would keep one set of fingerprints in the Automated Fingerprint
Identification System (AFIS) and submit the other set to the Federal
Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for the national criminal history
Some examples of other professionals that are required
to undergo a national background check to obtain their professional
license include teachers, locksmiths, jewelers, bell bondsmen
and security guards as well as applicants for the Horse Racing
and ABLE Commissions.
The measure will now go before the full Senate.