Steamboat Springs Every day, thousands of men and women charge into homes and whisk vulnerable children away while their parents watch in horror. Those men and women are emergency medical technicians and other emergency workers that many people trust with their lives. But should they?
"Nowhere else in society can you run into someone else's home and take a kid and run off and the parents trust you," said Bryan Rickman, fire chief for the West Routt Fire Protection District.
Rickman and other emergency officials were in Meeker last night begging state officials to allow them to do state and national criminal background checks on prospective employees.
"I'm 100 percent behind the concept," said Rickman, who has come up against the issue personally.
"I actually had some people on board in the past, where some stuff finally came out," Rickman said. "He was molesting kids locally."
Rickman said if he had been able to order a national background check, the worker's out-of-state record would have followed him.
"People put us in a position of trust," Rickman added. "We have to be clear and up front."
The problem now is that there's no clear standard established by the state. The public hearing in Meeker Monday night was the first of 10 hearings being held to help the Colorado Legislature establish a standard for EMT background checks.
Law enforcement officers blame the background-check difficulty on the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
For example, the local Routt County Sheriff's Office has access to CBI's state and national computer that allows it to look up a person's criminal record, but CBI won't allow the department to give that information to the local fire and ambulance departments.
"It's frustrating," Routt County Sheriff John Warner said. "I want to cooperate with fire and EMS, but my hands are tied."
Warner added he can tell them about Routt County cases, but CBI won't allow him to give out criminal records cataloged on the state and national computers.
"It's ludicrous not to know anything about the people who are going into people's homes and dealing with their lives," said Chuck Vale, Routt County emergency management director.
Not so fast, said CBI Deputy Director Al Stanley.
"Anyone can do a statewide name check for $10" by mail, phone or in person, he said.
He added that CBI must "maintain the integrity and privacy rights of citizens."
Stanley explained that law enforcement has access to more than just criminal history records for people.There's fear that local law enforcement may accidentally let private information out that's also contained in the database. That's why individuals must request name checks.
As for the national computer, Stanley said there are federal restrictions and that's why the state of Colorado must pass legislation on criminal background checks.
"We have to be in compliance with federal statutes and regulations regarding access to criminal history and fingerprints," Stanley said.
Vale and Rickman both said Routt County would be willing to help establish standards for background checks.
The state Legislature hopes to have some kind of EMT background check into law by summer of 2001.
To reach Frances Hohl, call 871-4208.