Tony Richardson knows the importance of background checks. A member of the Little League® International Board of Directors (2014-2018), Mr. Richardson was elected as District Administrator in 1996, and has served as New Jersey’s Little League State Director for more than 10 years.
Professionally, he retired in 1999 from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after 30 years of service, and since that time has specialized in private investigations and served as a background check specialist.
After retiring from the FBI, Mr. Richardson was hired as a Special Investigator, conducting background investigations for the FBI, as well as numerous other federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, and the National Security Agency.
“It’s important to understand why background checks are necessary,” said Mr. Richardson. “Each case has to be judged individually by the league or district, but you check to protect. Get past the idea that ‘bad people aren’t around here,’ and ‘we know all of our coaches,’ and put the reality into your community. The worst thing you can do is have ‘selective justice’.”
15 Tips to consider when doing background checks:
- An individual’s criminal history is as important as the sex offender history. Review both thoroughly.
- Review your state’s laws for pedophiles; and be aware of the three levels of pedophiles (Level 1 – low risk of repeat offense; Level 2 – moderate risk of repeat offense; Level 3 – high risk of repeat offense and a threat to public safety).
- Select a person to serve in the role of Background Check Coordinator (it can also be the Safety Officer).
- The Background Check Coordinator is the first person to be background checked by another Board member, usually the League President.
- A Safety Officer position should be established at the district and state levels, not just the local level. This individual would regularly coordinate with the local league Background Check Coordinator/Safety Officer to insure all checks are being completed correctly, and in a timely fashion.
- There is a new option available through JDP that allows board members conducting the background checks to send a link to their volunteers to fill out the Little League Volunteer Application online. A league board member can enter the volunteer’s information, name and email address, on the JDP website under “Quick App.” This will allow the league volunteer to complete their own volunteer application, including the social security number. The Little League Volunteer Application is tied with the background check and can be viewed on the leagues JDP Portal. Leagues must still verify the volunteer’s application with a government-issued photo ID.
- If using a paper Little League Volunteer Application, be sure that the application is signed by the individual applying as volunteer, and a copy of that individual’s current government-issued photo identification accompanies the application. Be diligent to capture and verify spelling, date of birth, address, and social security number of the volunteer to avoid “false positives” that result from an inaccurate information search.
- Minimize the people who have access to the background check results (i.e. – League President, Background Check Coordinator/Safety Officer).
- Review misdemeanors and look for a pattern.
- Create a 3-person review panel to consider those individuals that return a criminal record.
- If the league or district approves an individual with a charge(s) that is/are not an automatic disqualifier per Little League regulations, the league or district must take responsibility for that decision. With choice, comes responsibility and accountability.
- The League President is solely responsible for maintaining the background check file.
- Review and retain hard copies and electronic copies of all checks that return a “hit.”
- Redact all personal information after completing the background check.
- Maintain secure files for two years after an individual is no longer a league or district volunteer. For checks that return a “hit,” permanently retain the individual’s information in a separate, secure file.
Little League® requires local leagues to annually conduct background checks in order to protect children and maintain a hostile environment for those persons who would sexually abuse or exploit children in any way. If a local league publicly makes background checks a top priority, then anyone with a criminal past will be much less inclined to attempt to volunteer or work in a local league.
Regulation I(c) 8 and 9 states that local leagues will conduct annual background checks of all individuals required to submit a paper Little League Volunteer Application or use the JDP Quickapp which is stored on the JDP database, prior to the applicant assuming duties for the current season. Any person with a conviction, guilty plea, no contest plea, or admission in connection with a crime against or involving a minor or minors cannot participate in the local league.
Little League International has contracted with JDP Background Screening to provide local leagues and districts with a Little League specific website that allows members to instantly search an extensive criminal records database. This site provides searches of available criminal records from various repository sources and state-level sex offender registries. The fee for the first 125 searches per chartered league and district is free to the local league and district as the cost for these searches is being provided by Little League International. Any additional searches above 125 come with a nominal charge to the league and district. Be sure to visit the JDP National Criminal Database for your state.
Each local league must also be aware of its state laws, which may require other separate and additional background check processes be completed before individuals would be permitted to assume local league volunteer responsibilities. Several states also require (by law) additional background check procedures be completed above those required by Little League International. At present, Alabama, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Pennsylvania have such background check laws in place. Albeit mandatory, these laws DO NOT meet the Little League regulation. Background checks required by property owners in order for leagues to utilize their facilities does not satisfy the Regulations requiring the league to conduct its own background checks. For additional information on state requirements, review LittleLeague.org/StateLaws.