The Price of Failing to Validate Character: The Cost of Being CHEAP

One need only look at the horrific tragedy that occurred at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. June 17, 2015, where nine were shot and killed by a 21-year-old self-proclaimed white supremacist to measure the cost associated with failing to conduct thorough background investigations. Subsequent to a much-extended litigation process, the government agreed to pay $88 mil to victims and families of the deceased, thus holding the government responsible for the FBI’s failure in conducting a thorough background investigation. The FBI acknowledged that an error made during the background check failed to identify the pertinent details of his criminal background leading him to acquire a Glock 41. If done properly, he would have been prevented from obtaining. Specifically, Roof’s criminal history showed that he had been arrested on a felony drug charge in Lexington County, South Carolina. The sheriff’s office told the FBI examiner conducting the background check to contact the Columbia Police. But the FBI’s databases showed no such department in Lexington County, only a different one — the West Columbia police department — which had no record of any arrest.

Though the background check was still underway, Roof got his gun after the three-day waiting period expired. Federal law allows a gun sale to go ahead if the FBI hasn’t blocked it after three days. In a ruling allowing the lawsuits to go forward, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit concluded, “There is no dispute that the information in this report would have been sufficient to establish that Roof was an unlawful user of a controlled substance who could not lawfully possess a firearm.” Roof was convicted and sentenced to death after a trial in federal court. He also pleaded guilty in a separate trial in state court and was sentenced to life in prison

Most may focus on the 88 million; however, the real price of this negligence comes at the expense of the souls that were removed from this world by a disdain-fueled evil man; all because the proper attention was not given to the required quality to conduct a thorough background investigation. And this was the FBI, the premier law enforcement agency in the United States, so I guess it should be no surprise that across our country, employers of all sizes routinely make the same egregious error, and they do so consciously. Why? Because of money. Because thorough databases are expensive, entities will roll the dice that nothing will happen than beg forgiveness and promise changes once it does, regardless of the price.

There is a zero margin for error for those of us who have been bequeathed the privilege of protecting others. Cheap is expensive, and the safety of all lives must be a primary investment for absent life… money has no value. Hold your employers accountable and make sure that you hold your elected officials accountable. Your life may very well depend on it.