Fast fingerprint processing to cost more for Ontario volunteers

July 11, 2012 - 

Expedited criminal record checks that utilize biometric fingerprint processing for volunteers in Ontario will cost much more than traditional criminal record checks.

For those who wish to volunteer with vulnerable members of society such as children, the elderly or persons with disabilities, some may need to complete a vulnerable sector check. Examples of positions that may require a vulnerable sector check include teachers, social workers, day-care workers, nurses and children’s sports coaches.

Such a check is designed to protect the vulnerable from dangerous offenders by uncovering the existence of a criminal record or a pardoned sexual offence conviction and is recommended as part of an overall volunteer screening process. The results of the check can help to determine whether an individual is suitable to work in positions where they will be in close contact with vulnerable people.

Such a check is undertaken with local police. After receiving a letter of instruction from the police, individuals can go to an accredited company with electronic scanners for faster fingerprint processing. However, on average, it costs anywhere from $40 to $50 to have them done. Discounts may be granted to organizations with large numbers of volunteers.

The fingerprints taken from volunteers are forwarded to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) for matching with convicted offenders. Volunteers will then be advised if they have been cleared or not of having criminal records, outstanding charges, probation orders and convictions.

James Maxwell, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orillia, says that while he supports the need for in-depth screening of potential volunteers, the price is something that could deter the volunteers from becoming involved: “We just don’t have the money to cover the cost of that.”

Typical fingerprint services can be done at an Ontario Provincial Police detachment but the process can yield results that take about four to five months.

Malcolm Quigley, the local acting OPP detachment commander in Orillia concurred: “The difficulty is, by the time an individual’s prints get to the Mounties, they get screened, reviewed and the response comes back, that could be anywhere from two to three months and maybe as many as four,” he said.

As for electronically scanned fingerprints, these can be processed within “anywhere from a half an hour for a response or as much as three days.” Quigley acknowledged it is indeed a challenge for non-profit groups. “I understand that, but the reality is, the only way to fast track the process is to pay,” he said.

With the large volumes of requests for vulnerable sector checks undertaken, it has become overwhelming for police forces across Ontario. recently reported however that the OPP has begun to slowly redress this problem by introducing a digital fingerprint and palm print scanner in its Norfolk detachment for criminal record checks, in order to test the technology.

Is it right for the volunteers and non-profit organizations to bear increased costs for processing biometrics for criminal record checks?

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About T'ash Spenser

T’ash Spencer writes full time for She has 15 years experience in the field of regional planning and earned her Master’s of Science in Regional Development Planning and Management from the University of Dortmund, Germany. Follow her @tashspencer1.