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.

Washington Post: Stricter hiring rules at the Census Bureau

In response to recent incidents and pressure from lawmakers, Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves has made hiring rules more tough. MyTwoCensus has for more than a year exposed holes in the Census Bureau’s hiring plan and fingerprinting procedures, so this shouldn’t come as a major surprise. However, this action may further fuel the class action lawsuit against the Census Bureau. Here’s the latest from Ed O’Keefe and Carol Morello of The Washington Post:

The Census Bureau is adopting stricter rules for screening new hires after a registered sex offender using an alias got a job as a census taker, the bureau’s director said Wednesday.

Robert M. Groves said that from now on, applicants whose name, age, gender and Social Security number don’t all match background records will be held up for more investigation instead of being sent on for FBI fingerprint checks. Applicants whose fingerprints are not legible, as sometimes happens with older people whose ridges have worn down, will not be hired until their identities and backgrounds can be checked.

And when there is any “evidence of criminality” by a census worker, Groves said, there will be swifter invention to get them off the streets.

“These three things are good things to do,” said Groves, speaking at a Fairfax event that aimed to encourage Asian Americans to open their doors to census takers and answer their questions. “People should know that the person coming to your door won’t harm you.”

In early May, a woman in Pennsauken, N.J., who was home alone with her toddler son, opened her door to a census worker who asked for the names and birth dates of everyone residing there. Thinking he looked familiar, the woman checked the sex offender registry site after he left and recognized the man under a different name than the one he had given her.

Census officials said the man had passed a name check but failed a fingerprint check and was fired in the first week of May, apparently after he had visited the woman’s home. The man was charged with using a fake Social Security number in his census application.

In a separate incident, a census worker in Indiana was charged with raping and beating a disabled woman in early May when he allegedly returned to the house after first visiting on an official call as a census taker.

The Census Bureau has hired about 635,000 people to make house calls to people who did not send in their census forms by the end of April. This phase is more than half completed, and is scheduled to continue into July.

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22 Responses to “Washington Post: Stricter hiring rules at the Census Bureau”

  1. Kris Says:

    So penalize the poor person whose prints don’t clear the first time. What isn’t noted is that one trainee from each ‘class’ is given a few hours training in fingerprinting and that’s who does it, during the class. It is trickier than you might expect, to roll the fingers and get a print that is acceptable. In our class, the trainer ( Crew Leader) who had had the same print training the afternoon prior to ours, and the enumerator together had to do prints for each oithers and for our class of 18. This took the better part of 3 hours.

    So some poor soul’s hope of employment may be dashed just because the other newbie didnt get his/her prints doen correctly…
    The other aspect that doesnt jive with this story is that the prints are taken during the 4 day class. On the 5th day you actually begin working….while the prints are still in the mail somewhere. We didn’t hear until the start of the 4th week of work whose prints had to be redone.

  2. Enumerator anywhere USA Says:

    They need to bring in a professional fingerprinter to do the fingerprints, and do it in advance of training week. It would be far cheaper than paying that professional fingerprinter anyway, but later, at $20 per person, plus the time and mileage for the employees to go to the local law enforcement office, and the overnight FedEx shipment of the prints not just once (to the LCO) but twice (from the LCO to the FBI).

    But the good news? We’re almost done, we won’t have to deal with it again for another 10 years or so.

  3. lagirl Says:

    everyone in my group was fingerprinted Twice. I was 3x. They did the it first day of training. By the 3rd time, I had already been out enumerating. My friend was called in after 2 weeks to get hers re-done.

    Agree with E anywhereUSA they need to have better qualified people doing this. It was a joke the first day, there was in-fighting among the fingerprinters about proceedure. Last name first or first initial first? So cards would have to be Redone. Time wasted bickering and fighting in front of the newly hired trainees. This was my first impression of what this job would be like, and an accurate portrayal at that.

  4. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    MyTwoCensus has been publishing posts criticizing the fingerprinting system for ages now. Here’s a good example from October, 2009:

  5. CLA Dave Says:

    Is he talking about changing hiring rules for 2020 or are they still hiring new workers while trained/sworn workers are being let go?

  6. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    This seems to be for 2010, not 2020.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    It’s about time! How did some Census workers get hired in the first place? How do they keep their jobs?

  8. Temporary CB employee Says:

    It’s like closing the barn door after the horses get out.

    My first fingerprinting was on the first day of training. I was working in the field a little over a week later. The following week I received a call that my fingerprints were “unclassifiable”. I had to get them redone. I took a break from my work to go and get my fingerprints redone at the local sheriff’s office. I went back to work.

    I have no concept of how long it takes from the time that those are dropped at FedEx until they are received by the FBI, and examined. There was a weekend involved, during which time I worked long hours.

    I consider myself an honest person, and somebody who can be trusted with PII information. However, not everybody fits that description. Unfortunately we develop the 20-20 hindsight that there needs to be better scrutiny of new hires before turning them loose on the public. But I would strongly suggest that we not penalize the older workers whose fingerprints may be more time-worn than others.

    Would it be too much to do the fingerprinting along with the initial testing? That would be part of the overall pre-hire screening. It may be expensive, but not as expensive as are the legal expenses because a census worker puts the public at risk.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Are enumerators taking spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends, pet dogs, small children with them to jobs in your area? Are enumerators having other people drive them to AA sites and friends help them with enumeration? Our LCO has a few people do this.

  10. LCO-AM Says:

    Word was put out that new hires are to be fingerprinted 5 days prior to training.

    Guess what, hiring is over, whoopie.

  11. In some LCO Says:

    We have four portable computerized fingerprinting set ups at my LCO. They are small portable digital units (the size of a Bryers Ice Cream 1/2 gallon) and hooked up to laptops. They have an almost nil error rate and errors are detected immediately. They download right to the FBI. They haven’t moved from where they are and are collecting dust due to lack of training.

  12. Temporary CB employee Says:

    Anonymous (aren’t we all here?): I would think that it would be a huge violation of policy to bring unbadged people, regardless of age or relationship to enumerator, along on our work. We aren’t to show our work, our locations, where we’re visiting, etc., to anybody who is not authorized to see them. My husband knows the general area where I’m working but no specifics whatsoever.

    If I were in charge (which I am not) and learned that anybody was doing what you said, they would be out of a job faster than you could say “confidential information.” I would also make it a mandatory part of training to not take anybody else with you while you’re working, unless that person is badged, and there is a special safety or language issue with that particular HU. There are too many concerns with safety, security, and confidentiality. We meet some nice people, but we also meet people who are threats to our personal safety. Conversely, we are seeing issues with people doing census work who were not adequately screened.

    If the enumerator has young children who cannot be left alone, child care needs to be arranged. If the enumerator feels uncomfortable visiting homes without somebody else with them, that person needs to find another line of work. Indeed, that was part of our telephone screening to get these jobs to begin with.

  13. ANON Says:

    I knew issues with background checks would arise with both the Census and their contractors such as CSC. Take it from someone in HR who cares about what happens to people in the community.

  14. Temporary CB employee Says:

    Regarding the TV interview with the woman who spotted the sex offender, she expressed alarm that he was asking her the ages and birth dates of everyone in the household. “That raised a red flag right there,” she said on a national TV show. “And his eyes, they just didn’t look right, they rolled and looked shifty.” (I actually saw that interview, albeit a brief portion of it.)

    Those of us who work with the questionnaire know that those *are* legitimate questions on the 2010 census. My concern is that members of the public who caught that same segment of the program could easily be led to believe that any census worker who asks those questions is suspicious, and will quickly slam the door and call 911.

    I won’t even get into the issue of people with physical disabilities that may make them appear “not quite right” in the eyes of the public. Will we end up with discrimination against a very qualified and trustworthy employee because their eyes “rolled and looked shifty”? I can think of a number of honorable people who may fit that description because of stroke or other physical impairment.

  15. end the census Says:

    There’s no good reason that legitimate census workers can’t team up for their own safety. Police officers do that,and they have guns whereas we certainly aren’t allowed that defense (nor should we be!)
    Plus, it helps the work go faster when one is driving and the other running the gps or map.

  16. Temporary CB employee Says:

    Assuming that one’s CL approves the teaming up, thus the double-paying of enumerators to do the same area. I couldn’t see it being approved where I am, but perhaps in riskier areas it might be.

    The other issue with enumerators bringing others along with them to help out involved bringing unbadged people with them: boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, children, pet dogs (not service animals).

  17. Jerry Carman Says:

    It would appear that the media will try to put a spin out there to make it look like what the Census Bureau has done that resulted in the class action lawsuit, which clearly led to the occurence of these incidents, is actually a justifiable response to these occurences. We need to make damn sure that this doesn’t happen. Now, I hope a certain person reads this, assuming that he can read: Hey Mr Groves, the class action lawsuit was filed before these 2 thugs even hit the streets with badges & tote bags with census logos, & the proven-to-be-irresponsible way you ran your brainstorm of a background check was happening before that. You got one huge problem, that being that not everybody has empty space between their ears.

  18. James Says:

    Here’s a problem with training, and particularly with fingerprinting. I spent years doing fingerprint for the police department. I’ve probably finger printed thousands of people over 20 years before retiring a few years ago. But, I had to be ‘taught’ by a (very nice) person who outranked me and had never fingerprinted a person in her life. As it is, I had to be printed 3 times before my prints were finally approved.
    I’ve never seen any place before where an ‘expert’ at something (well, I was pretty good at it) had to be taught by someone with no knowledge of a subject only because he or she didn’t have as high a rank as the instructor. And this, as you all know, certainly doesn’t just apply to fingerprinting.
    I’d love to see something on this site about the debacle of verbatim training, particularly pertaining to PBOCS.

  19. Jerry Carman Says:

    I’d like to see anything about the class action on any local news media in my area. Well, they would probably put a spin on the subject if they did, because the elements that resulted in the lawsuit being filed definitely contributed to the incidentd where these 2 sex offenders were able to beat their fantastic system of weeding anybody out with an arrest & fingerprint record in the FBI database being held inelegeble for hire. Remember, although the unemployment rate is about 10%, about 35% of the population has some kind of arrest record in their lifetime, although about 1/3 of these arrests never led to a conviction. This means that the percentage of folks with arrest records is about 3 1/2 times the unemployment rate, a figure that is very much capable of overwhelming the unemployment rate, even as high as it currently is. This likely csused some local census offices problems with finding enough help to conduct the census, and the test & application secessions ran until the end of May. These 2 thugs, knowing that they had records that would keep them from being hired, waited until the last secession, & the offices were in such need for workers, that they put them through training & into the field before their background showed anything. Definitely, somebody needs to be held accountable, because had they done what they should have done, that disabled person would not have been raped.

  20. Pablo S Says:

    @In Some LCO…the digital fingerprint scanners are the logical solution. Glad to hear this is underway
    Granted it’s kinda late now.
    I can’t imagine expenses prevented wider use of the digital scanners…how many thousands and thousands of hours were logged by crew leaders getting trained to take fingerprints, and then performing the task? Not to mention all the expenses to ship them, re-do them, pay employees to drive to the office when fingerprints didn’t show up properly, etc.

  21. Jerry carman Says:

    Well, we all agree that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to come up with a better way to take fingerprints, nor would it be such a bad thing if the local office manager could be the one who decides who gets hired, instead of some dickhead in Washington who aparently thinkd that just because somebody’s fingerprints show up in the FBI database from an arrest for disorderly conduct 40 years ago he’s a danger to the community. After all, one of the 1st things that the local office manager looks at just might be the sex offender registry. You guys appear to be getting away from the main subject, that being how is it that thousands of folks with minor arrests that didn’t lead to convictions were systematically kept from getting census taker jobs, while 2 registered sex offenders beat the system & got the door-to-door jobs. Notably, one of these thugs rapes a woman in a wheelchair. Was the Census Bureau justified in preventing folks that, in spite of having been arrested & booked long ago, posed absolutely no danger to the public? Also, should the Census Bureau be held accountable for the assault on that disabled woman?

  22. MisterMike Says:

    I was a Field Operations Supervisor in an LCO that covered a lot of area. One of my assignments was re-fingerprinting in the field within the entire LCO’s territory. There were two fingerprint scanners in the LCO but they were not allowed to be taken out of the office.

    All fingerprints had to be taken by a Census employee (me). I used the facilities of several local PDs throughout the state but was not allowed to use the electronic scanning equipment even though it was offered to me. In a couple of cases the police chief offered to have one of their experienced officers take the prints but that was not allowed either.

    There were several cases where the fingerprints could not be taken successfully. After two retries the powers-that-be did a name check on the person and they were allowed to keep working. Of course by the time all this took place the operation was completed.