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Chilliwack RCMP work to make civilian fingerprinting less intimidating

Chilliwack RCMP information officer Jim Flom takes a sample print on the local detachment’s recently upgraded electronic, live-scan fingerprinting equipment. - Cpl. Len vanNieuwenhuizen
Chilliwack RCMP information officer Jim Flom takes a sample print on the local detachment’s recently upgraded electronic, live-scan fingerprinting equipment.
— image credit: Cpl. Len vanNieuwenhuizen

The Chilliwack RCMP has made changes to its fingerprinting process to accommodate teachers who have to be fingerprinted because they share a gender and birthdate with pardoned sex offenders.

Since January, the detachment has seen a wave of teachers who have been sent letters from the B.C. Ministry of Justice, essentially telling them they need to get fingerprinted if they want to keep their jobs.

Chilliwack Teachers Association president Clint Johnston told the Times in January the union had received numerous complaints from teachers worried about the letters and frustrated by the $80 in fees and the fact that fingerprinting is only available at the RCMP detachment during the middle of the school day.

Local Mounties say they can’t do anything about the requirement itself or the fees—$55 for the city and $25 for the receiver general of Canada—but they have decided to shift their fingerprinting hours to Monday to Thursday from noon to 5 p.m. starting next week.

A hardware upgrade to the detachment’s electronic fingerprint scanner should streamline the process as well.

RCMP officials say the Ministry of Justice didn’t warn them about the extra volume of fingerprinting that would be coming their way after a change to the province’s Criminal Records Review Program in November.

“Before January, we never saw letters from the B.C. Ministry of Justice,” Chilliwack RCMP information officer Jim Flom told the Times Monday. “It was like this big surge in January and February, but it’s begun to taper.”

Since 2010, everyone who works with children, the elderly or the disabled has been subject to a fingerprinting requirement (called a vulnerable sector check) if they share a birthdate and gender with a pardoned sex offender.

The process has been designed to weed out pardoned sex offenders who’ve changed their names and might be working (or trying to get work) with vulnerable populations.

Until January of this year, however, B.C. teachers seemed to have been exempt.

A B.C. Ministry of Justice official told the Times that was because B.C.’s Criminal Records Review Program had suspended the checks in response to extreme processing backlogs in Ottawa.

With digital fingerprinting now more widely available, the spokesperson said, the backlogs have been almost eliminated and the checks “resumed” Nov. 30, 2013.

When the ministry began sending out letters, however, they surprised school officials, the teachers’ union, the RCMP and, most of all, teachers, many of whom had never heard of the requirement.

“Everybody who comes in here feels uncomfortable with getting letters from the BC Ministry of Justice,” Flom said.

Local RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Len vanNieuwenhuizen attributes that unease to the fact most teachers have had little to do with the police.

“There’s that anxiety there, and then coupled with the fact that they have to be fingerprinted now for their employment is a very anxious thing,” he said.

In response, local Mounties have tried to make the process as efficient and unintimidating as possible.

Flom, who takes the prints, makes every effort to get clients smiling.

The detachment’s electronic live scanner means there’s no messy ink.

And a recent upgrade allows for people with good prints (fingerprints deteriorate with age and certain kinds of manual labour) to give just three quick presses on an electronic pad— their two thumbs together and their four fingers together on each hand—instead of having each finger rolled separately.

For people with a clean record, the turnaround time for a vulnerable-sector check is about two weeks.

 

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