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Anyone applying for a job with the City of Boise will now get a longer look, courtesy of their fingerprint. Although background checks are the norm at many public agencies, few such entities really dig into a person's past. Many perform background checks that merely look for recent and local crimes, nothing more.

That's all about to change. The city plans to buy a $20,000 digital fingerprint scanner that will allow the city to check national law-enforcement databases, including the FBI database, at once. After city staff get a fingerprint from their job candidate, they'll send it on to the Idaho State Police, who will run that print through a series of nationwide criminal files.

"Your past will come back to haunt you," said Elizabeth Duncan, spokeswoman for Mayor Dave Bieter.

Under the current system, the city, like many companies and agencies, asks their applicants to disclose any criminal background they might have. But they also perform their own background check, which typically involves looking through the Ada County public criminal records.

But that's not good enough, said Shawn Miller, the director of human resources for the city. Such cursory looks might only highlight a crime committed in and around Ada County, but are likely to miss crimes committed in other states or even other counties within Idaho.

"Because of how innacurate that is, or how many holes there are, we decided to go to the fingerprint method," Miller told BW. "You can just make a more informed decision."

The city hires more than 760 people per year, according to the human resources department. The scanner the city hopes to buy would cost $20,000, but Miller's department has requested an additional $1,980 to pay for maintenance and operations. If the city paid the $34 that each fingerprint scan would cost, it would take more than $25,000 per year to scan all the new employees that come in.

Miller said his interest in the system came from his experience in the public school system, where new hires are typically run through national crime databases. He is recommending that Bieter and the city council adopt a policy that reviews four criteria when viewing a person's application in light of their criminal background: the type of crime, how recent it was, whether it was part of a repeated pattern, and what that individual's employment pattern looked like since their conviction. Miller said the policy would state that any candidate with a sexual misconduct crime or crime against children on their record would not be hired.

So far the council has approved the interim budget request to pay for the machine. If it all comes together, Miller intends for the system to be up and running in February 2007. One position the city is likely to fill beforehand is a biggie: the city is on the hunt for a new director of the Boise Airport to replace John Anderson, who resigned earlier this fall.

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