Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Criminal Background Checks - A Requirement for Emergency Personnel

Criminal background checks are vitally important, especially when trust is required. People who are responsible for helping and caring for those who are injured must be trustworthy and perceived as people of integrity. Emergency personnel fall under this category. Many people assume they can trust first responders in emergency situations simply because their services are so needed and time is of the essence. We often forget that they enter homes and workplaces and, if they are not trustworthy, those in need of service are put at risk.  

The Township Committee of Readington, New Jersey discovered the importance of the security of its town’s inhabitants as it relates to the emergency first responders working for the town. As a result, they plan to require criminal background checks for any person who is interested in joining the rescue squad or becoming a firefighter.

In addition to the background checks, all emergency personnel under the new ordinance are required to disclose any previous arrests, offenses, thefts or drug issues. According to the ordinance, these checks are performed to “protect the public health, safety and welfare”. The Police Department, ensuring the safety of the town, is also mandating that all rescue squad members and firefighters notify their heads within 72 hours if they are arrested. 

What happens to emergency personnel when they act in violation of the rules?

Committee members held discussions about the seriousness of the penalties and who they would affect. Though some suggested the organization in which the penalized works suffer by removing its financial assistance, Mayor Frank Gotti replied, “I don’t know if we need to penalize the organization”. The Mayor felt that the person committing the offense should be responsible, not the organization to which the offender belongs. Township Attorney Sharon Dragan agreed with the Mayor and proposed that a penalty include a fine not to exceed $1,000, community service, or even a prison sentence of up to 90 days. The committee will vote on the matter shortly during a public hearing forum.

The Police Department of Readington understands the severity of this pressing matter. The safety of the people of their town is of utmost importance, especially when dealing with life or death situations, where trust has to be implied in split second time. For Readington police officials, criminal background checks will help them to take control of the safety of the town and put its residents at ease in emergency situations.

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