My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Federal investigation of Census worker?

A civil-liberties group in VA is asking for a federal investigation in the case of one enumerator who reportedly, after being told that the homeowner was unavailable, stuck his foot into a closing door, entered the home, and insisted to the homeowner’s son that he looked Hispanic (even after being told he is half-Chinese.) The civil liberties group is right that there are constitutional concerns regarding a government worker impinging on a home’s privacy in such a way. However, shades of gray have to be admitted. The enumerator is a government employee, yes, but in all likelihood he wouldn’t have been for much longer even if isn’t fired from this. Enumerator training obviously was not effective — but at what point is it his OWN error rather than that of his trainers? We could have a federal investigation into this guy, but we may have an easier time if we just fire one irresponsible guy.

From Charlottesville, VA’s DailyProgress.com:

Local group wants investigation into complaint of agressive Census worker

By TASHA KATES
Published: May 18, 2010

The president of a Charlottesville-based civil liberties group is pushing for a federal investigation into a report of aggressive behavior by a U.S. Census Bureau worker during a visit to an Albemarle County home.

In a letter John W. Whitehead mailed Tuesday to U.S. Rep Tom Perriello, D-Ivy, he writes that the worker may have violated Fourth Amendment rights by entering a family’s home without permission. The worker also asked questions about ethnicities beyond what is required for the census, Whitehead said in the letter.

“For a government agent to enter a private citizen’s home without invitation and against the wishes of the resident not only indicates a trespass but raises grave constitutional concerns,” wrote Whitehead, who is with The Rutherford Institute.

Tony Jones, a Census spokesman, said the agency hadn’t heard of the incident before Tuesday. He said the employee in question still works for the Census Bureau and likely will receive more training.

“We certainly apologize if anyone has been offended by this particular census taker’s actions,” Jones said. “We strive every day to do a better job, and we promise to do better going forward.”

According to White-head’s letter, a census taker came to Susan Broadwa-ter’s home on May 10 to conduct the survey. Broadwater’s 19-year-old son said his mother was unavailable, asked the man to come back and started to close the door.

“The Census Bureau worker, insistent that the son answer the questions, stuck his foot in the door and illegally entered the premises of Ms. Broadwater’s home,” the letter said.

Whitehead’s letter said the worker “began to vigorously question” the teenager about his ethnicity. The employee reportedly told the boy that he looked Hispanic or Latino after being told that the teenager was half Chinese. The man told the worker that no one in the home was Hispanic or Latino, the letter said, but the employee continued to question him about the presence of Hispanic/Latino people in the home.

Broadwater didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment for this story. Jones said that enumerators receive a week of training, during which time they are told to only conduct the questionnaire in the doorway because of concerns about census worker safety.

When asked what census workers are instructed to do when they think a respondent is lying, Jones said enumerators are instructed to use the 10-question form as the script for the interview.

Jessica Barba, Perriello’s press secretary, said the Charlottesville office is getting a Privacy Act consent form from Broadwater so that the congressman’s office can start making inquiries to the U.S. Department of Commerce, which oversees the census.

Jones said census workers are supposed to identify themselves, show their ID badges and share the name and phone number of their supervisor with respondents before asking questions. Whitehead said if a census worker tries to enter a person’s home, the person should ask them to leave and contact police if the worker remains.

Anyone who has a complaint or question about the census may call the Charlotte-based regional census center at (704) 936-5300, Jones said.

29 Responses to “Federal investigation of Census worker?”

  1. Harley Says:

    If these accusations are proved to be correct.Yes,the enumerator should be fired immediately.I have a very strong feeling this person is already gone.

  2. Anonymous NE Says:

    As with everything else with Census…look at the SOURCE …the hiring, the training, the selection of Management,supervisors etc.

    Garbage in….garbage out

  3. Crew Leader Says:

    I have little doubt that Census Enumerators are getting too agressive. I believe there is a larger issue here than one rogue enumerator doing something he shouldn’t.

    First of all, let’s be realistic & recognize that Census workers are (for the most part) from the ranks of the unemployed & not the “cream of the crop”. Before you get all excited & defensive, go back & read what I just wrote. There are plenty of Census workers that are very compitent & doing a great job.

    Next, the training for enumerators was minimal. An FOS was trained for 2 weeks & then trained thier CLs. CLs were trained for 2 weeks & then trained thier enumerators. Enumerators were in training for 4 days with 1 of those days taken up by admin & fingerprinting. With 3 days of enumerator training, they were sent into the field as the faces of the 2010 Census.

    Lastly, after the crews were doing a good (for the most part) job, LCOs started turning back a lot of EQs because they wanted better results. Most, if not all, no contact & refusal EQs were marked BTF. The instructions from FOSs were to “get the numbers”, “try harder”, “no doesn’t always mean no”, “reassign it to someone better (more assertive/aggressive)”. NCs & REs beecame unacceptable.

    With these implicit instructions, many CLs, CLAs & Enumerators hit the streets with a newfound agressive mentality. It seems, now, that the public has a dislike for Census employees which I understand. My only surprise is that I haven’t heard more stories regarding conflict between the hunters & the hunted.

    I think my subject for tommorrows meeting will be on safety.

  4. Harley Says:

    I agree 100% with you CL.I’m a CLA and our CLD worked well together and got our work done very quickly and now are just about unemployed.
    We did get a few binders from 2-3 other groups and have 95%completed work.Have enjoyed work and hope to get another assignment.

  5. GS-X Says:

    Could someone tell me what BTF means?

  6. Sheri Says:

    Sheesh, one more person who says that employees come from the “ranks of the unemployed” therefore are not “cream of the crop.” I’ve heard it said that some of the personal nastiness that can occur in census operations is due to people scrambling for any possibility that temp employment might translate into a permanent federal job, who knows.

    As for training, selection, I defy anyone to find an employer with 1000′s of people, condense workplace issues into a matter of weeks or months, and not find issues with employee conduct, relationships with one another or the public. Not that it isn’t interesting to read the stories.

  7. Crew Leader Says:

    @ GS-X: Back To Field

    @ Sheri: You are, exactly, the type of person I tried to address when I said, “Before you get all excited & defensive, go back & read what I just wrote. There are plenty of Census workers that are very compitent & doing a great job.” You might want to study this quote for a few days before you comment again. Sheesh!

  8. Buzz Lightyear Says:

    Unprofessional and unacceptable.

  9. Yet Another Enumerator Says:

    @Sheri & Crew Leader: I think you’re both correct, and essentially saying the same thing.

    Look at it this way: How could it be possible to hire nearly a million temporary workers with inadequate screening and minimal training and not expect problems to develop with at some of them?

    Training has been discussed here, but not screening. I think it’s useful to look at how were were screened for our jobs, or not. In my case (I’m an enumerator), there were exactly two parts to my screening: my employment application and the 28-question test. No interview of any kind. Under the circumstances, this is probably all that could be done within the budgetary constraints of the Census Bureau.

    So one could look at the same set of circumstances and reach another conclusion, that for such a marginal effort to hire such a huge workforce, things aren’t going too badly. That’s closer to my take on things. (At least from my worm’s eye view of the Census.)

  10. Census Worker Too Says:

    It’s really unfortunate that this website only lowlights poor employees of the Census Bureau while I am sure that at least 90% of the enumerators out there are grateful for the job, are doing HARD WORK, and are getting zero credit. In fact, thanks to this website, they’re probably getting the worst possible reception.

  11. anonymous Says:

    CL said the police dept. would give us names, DOB, number of residents living in a household ….. Can this be true?

    Census info is not an emergency.

  12. Anon 2 Says:

    Civil liberties? Can the police or other emergency services department give Census workers personal info on a housing unit that has not replied after repeated attemts?

  13. Bobby J Says:

    I don’t know why anyone is surprised at this. There are numerous articles and comments on this site about how various census offices and supervisors are telling their people that no refusals or no-contact returns will be allowed (I don’t know all these technical terms and abbreviations). Don’t you think this was bound to happen under those circumstances? Also, I seriously doubt most of these census workers even know what the 4th amendment is, much less what it means.

  14. A.B Says:

    Enumerators are NOT REQUIRED to say our crew leaders name or number during the introduction, we give them the confidentiality agreement/list sheet, introduce ourselves from the Census by name and show them our badge. We will you give you the number however if you do ask for it. What that man said was a lie.

  15. Samantha Jackson Says:

    Yet Another Enumerator, you were interviewed when Admin called you about the job for which you were hired. It was a telephone interview with a verbatim script.

  16. DVR Camera Systems - On Camera: Talking Surveillance on the Streets of Manhattan Says:

    [...] My Two Census » Blog Archive » Federal investigation of Census worker? [...]

  17. Yet Another Enumerator Says:

    @Samantha Jackson: I don’t consider the call I got asking if I wanted to work to be a proper interview; I was simply told that I got a high score on the test and asked if I wanted to work for the Census. That’s not an interview, it’s a notification of employment.

  18. Crew Leader Says:

    The quality of Census workers is only one factor in this “perfect storm” scenario that feeds negative public sentiments. Let’s try to get back to constructive comments. The situation “is what it is.” We can’t turn back the clock or get a do over. There is nothing constructive about pointing fingers or getting defensive.

    I would like to discuss solutions & actions going forward. My primary concern is for the safety of my crew members. That will be the subject at my CL meeting this morning & my FOS meeting this afternoon.

    I see this as a real problem for those in the field. Let’s try to use this site for developing solutions instead of whining or preening. It is my hope that, when I get back to this site later in the day, I will read some good ideas.

  19. Bobby J Says:

    @Crew Leader: People are getting paid (with our tax money) to “develop solutions”. Ask them.

  20. Anonymous NE Says:

    Sheri-

    Selection doesn’t have to be done “the night before the operation”. Selection, training and finl aptitude testing before the enumerators are sent out into the field can be done at a designated facility in each state, therefore assuring the competence of who goes out into YOUR community and knocks on doors. When $$$$ is wasted having LCO’s, recruiters etc hunt for donated backroom training sites that aren’t equipped to handle proper training, then there is a serious problem. I saw first hand the facilities of several so-called training sites , that were not only embarrassing to use but quite honestly unsafe. You’re a newly selected “government employee” and you’re told to report to some run down facility to be trained???? I think it casts such a negative pall on the new hire, AND it disrupts and degrades the training.

    Sticking to a “timeline”, that quite honestly is thrown out the window for the sake of finishing first (see Area Managers/NYC) also includes the timeline for training. What a pleasure to train a group of 30-50 new hires in the basement of some 200 year old church in Staten Island with no heat or restroom facilities that worked….and they wonder why the garbage that left training and walks the streets puts out inferior work…

    C’mon…billions of dollars allotted to the Census??? For what? They hire and put private sector, experienced managers into the LCO’s, then basically don’t allow input from them to run the operation effectively…..jerks like the ARCM here in NY run the roost, and dictate policy that she doesn’t even know….

    “The US Census…..don’t even bother mailing it back…we can’t go forward anyway”

  21. Crew Leader Says:

    Thank you, Bobby J, but I’ve been looking for effective ideas. Order up another one & tell the bartender what assholes we are.

    As we get deeper into the NRFU operation, the public is getting “testy”. Some people didn’t like us from the very beginning & fewer like us now. I’ve spoken to a lot of people today & I think we might have some workable solutions.

    My crew is going to increase safety measures & be much more cognizant of thier surroundings. Me & my CLAs are going to talk about safety with enumerators at every opportunity. My CLAs & I will be available to accompany anyone that requests it. The CLAs will visit enumerators frequently while in the field. I will proxy certain NRFU addresses & use info-comms liberally to indicate that an address should be put on the “Dangerous Address List”. If these EQs come back, I will refuse to redo them.

    The Census might be important but, the whole damn operation isn’t worth one drop of blood.

  22. Bobby J Says:

    @Crew Leader: So the people being paid to run this system can’t come up with effective ideas, leaving you to try to find outside ideas on your own. Says something about the census bureau and the people running it, doesn’t it? It sure doesn’t say anything about me or any other citizen.

    And now we find out there’s a government-run “Dangerous Address List”. Great. That’ll come in handy when the Brownshirt National Security Force gets established. By the way, are enumerators allowed to share such information with each other under the law? I thought all info was confidential and being entered in confidential secure databases, but it appears that additional information is being gathered for other purposes. Hmmmmmmm.

  23. NarfooSnafoo Says:

    @Bobby J: I keep mum regarding specific housing units when talking to fellow enums. The only time I’d mention a certain house is when I say to a crew leader: “That so-and-so address has a pit-bull/very angry guy/very unsafe situation. Can you visit?” Another time when to disclose is when I get assigned a refusal and the notes tell me what happened.

  24. Margot707 Says:

    @Bobby J – Notes are written up on addresses that are unsafe or inaccessible covering anything from road construction to vicious dogs. They are only meant to explain why a census form could not be completed, or as a warning to the next worker to whom it may be assigned.

  25. Anonymous Says:

    Crew Leader 5:25 pm: I can tell you’re an excellent CL. The “Dangergous Address Lists” you create and may refuse to re-work will be bounced to a different crew instead.

  26. Crew Leader Says:

    You’re right, Bobby J. The decennial census is a HUGE government conspiracy against the citizenry! Grab your guns!!! Man your bunker!!! THE BROWNSHIRTS ARE COMING!!! THE BROWNSHIRTS ARE COMING!!!

    Actually, you are right about the “people being paid to run this system”. But, it’s not that they can’t. It’s that they won’t come up with ideas. They are burueaucrats of the worst kind. I have no interest in putting the safety of the people that work under me in their hands.

    One of my greatest joys of working here is that I get to poke (figuratively) a bureaucrat in the eye about once a day. You should all try it. It’s great fun!!!

    @ Anonymous: At least the other crew will be forwarned of the danger. We, on the other hand, had to discover it ourselves. And, thank you for your support. It is greatly appreciated.

  27. TexasCLA Says:

    As with any job, the quality of the enums (and CLs and CLAs, for that matter) is variable. The CLs and CLAs have done the best we can to give them the tools they need, but there have been some personalities that have led to refusals where a better “salesman” might have gotten a complete EQ. Dangerous situations doesn’t mean a refusal, necessarily. I’ve re-worked some where the respondents were actually very nice (but their dogs weren’t). I’ve re-worked complete REFs and gotten complete EQs with a little social grease (and in some cases some unbelievable luck). There’s never any excuse for sticking a foot in the door (or risking damage to a any of a respondent’s property OR your foot). I disagree that this case was about the push to get BTFs reworked. I think, with this guys obsession with finding Hispanics, he had some mental issues, kind of like Jan Brewer.

    Crew Leader, I disagree with you about getting 3 days of training. Day 1 was completely taken up with fingerprinting and orientation. Day 4 was half taken up with paired field work. So it was actually 2.5 days. CLAs got an extra… well, zero, but we got a nifty book on how to be a CLA. Even so, when people don’t pay attention in class, it doesn’t matter if it’s 2.5 weeks. They won’t be prepared.

  28. Anonymous Says:

    Crew Leader 7:56 am you’re correct.

  29. Anonymous Says:

    Texas CLA, I agree. And, what’s up with that enumerator being investigated regarding a person’s origin and race? Some people give innocent enumerators a bad reputation. The public is reacting more negatively to us at this time. In our area, we deal with a lot of Tea Party respondents – many are nice, some are not.