Officer Faces Felony Charge For Unauthorized Background Check

November 12, 2019
After running a background check without a permissible purpose, a police officer faces a serious criminal charge.
Backgrounds Online | November 12, 2019


After running a background check without a permissible purpose, a police officer faces a serious criminal charge.

The Story

A police officer in Peoria, Arizona stands accused of wrongfully running a background check on a citizen. Allegedly, the officer agreed to look up information about a woman at the request of a friend. This friend was reportedly interested in dating a co-worker but first wanted to know if she has a criminal record.

The officer allegedly provided a completed background report to his friend. After reviewing, that friend approached the woman he hoped to date and referenced a personal experience which he should not have known. When asked how he got that information, the man shared the story of what happened.

Soon after, the co-worker called local police and filed a complaint.

Background Searches Are Tracked

This incident was investigated immediately. Another Peoria officer, Brandon Sheffert, mentioned that the station performs quarterly audits on the use of their background checking system. He said they have tracking in place to help prevent misuse.

Sheffert told a local news source: "That entire system is tracked, so if they start to see someone starting to run famous people for instance, that will flag over DPS. They’ll give us a call and say can you check on this, and that’s when our professional standards unit will get involved."

Officers are permitted to run license plates while on active duty, but they are not allowed to run background checks on individuals without cause. The officer who stands accused of running an unauthorized background report faces a class six felony charge. He was placed on administrative leave and later resigned.

Permissible Purpose

Before any person or organization runs a background check, they must have a permissible purpose. Police officers run them for a variety of valid reasons – but not because they simply want to look up information about someone for themselves or a friend.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) establishes a permissible purpose for employers. It says that an organization may run a background check on an applicant or employee to determine the person’s eligibility for employment, retention, promotion or a related business purpose. An employer cannot run a background check on an individual for non-permissible reasons. Doing so could lead to criminal and other charges such as those facing the now former officer in Peoria.

Until an employer is vetted and shown to have a permissible purpose, a reputable Consumer Reporting Agency, like Backgrounds Online, will not conduct background investigations on their behalf.

Employers Should Know

In addition to having a permissible purpose, employers must provide a disclosure and authorization form to any person they wish to background check. Employers must also certify that they will follow federal and state laws throughout the hiring and background screening process.

Backgrounds Online ensures our customers have a permissible purpose and we provide sample copies of the compliance documents that are required when running background checks. If you are bringing on employees, contractors or volunteers, please contact us. Our experienced team will setup your account and prepare you to start running reports that help you make informed decisions, create a safe workplace and demonstrate you are performing due diligence.

Our experienced, professional team is available Monday through Friday from 5am to 6pm PT to assist with all of your background screening needs.