Compact Council Ratification Overview

States that ratify the National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact Act, or Compact, enjoy a seat at the table to help set polices and regulations they will be subject to regarding national noncriminal justice background checks.

Video Transcript

Narrator: If you had an additional opportunity to advocate for your state to protect the nation’s citizens and save on costs, would you do it? Ratifying the National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact Act, or Compact, can provide your state with that opportunity.

In 1998, the Compact was enacted as a federal law, which paved the way for interstate sharing of criminal history record information for noncriminal justice purposes. The Compact established the Compact Council, a 15-member body that sets rules and procedures regarding noncriminal justice use of criminal history record information. When a state ratifies the Compact, they must select an individual to serve as the state Compact officer. Through the state Compact officer, each Compact state has an opportunity to lend its voice via the Compact Council process. Here to explain more about the Compact Council is Idaho State Compact Officer Dawn Peck.

Dawn Peck: Idaho became a Compact state in 2005 with the mindset that it would assist not just the state but the entire country when national fingerprint-based background checks are conducted. Prior to the introduction of the Compact, this made the interstate exchange of criminal history record information for noncriminal justice purposes difficult, and in some cases impossible. The Compact presented the solution to this problem. A state can ratify the Compact to allow for interstate exchange of criminal history information without affecting its in-state dissemination laws. This increases the effectiveness of a national fingerprint-based background check without impacting in-state dissemination. Becoming a Compact state also helps protect individual privacy rights. According to the Compact, national background checks must be based on positive identification, which is accomplished by submission of fingerprints. This drastically reduces the risk of false negatives and false positives associated with any name-based system.

Narrator: By the beginning of 2017, 30 states had ratified the Compact, and its influence reaches from coast to coast. Twice a year, in May and November, all state Compact officers gather for meetings of the Compact Council. Nine of the 15 members of the Compact Council are state Compact officers; all state Compact officers are invited to provide their input at each meeting.

Dawn Peck: We truly value the voices of all Compact states. The Council has several committees, task forces, and focus groups that tackle various issues, and nearly all 30 of our state Compact officers are represented on these groups. Including everyone’s perspective helps us identify solutions that will work well nationwide.

Charles Schaeffer: In 1999, Florida was one of the first states to join the Compact, so we’ve been involved with the Compact since the beginning. In Florida, we’ve always recognized the important mission of the Compact Council, and we’ve been deeply involved in the Council’s process. One of the key programs under the Council’s oversight is the National Fingerprint File, or NFF, program. Florida was the first state to participate in the NFF program, which allowed us to reduce duplicate processing and decrease our operational costs. Under the NFF program, we no longer have to send duplicate information to the FBI on our criminal history record checks. We respond directly with our state’s record when a background check matches a record that we maintain. In addition to eliminating redundant work and, by extension, reducing our operating costs, NFF helps protect our vulnerable populations and individual privacy rights by making sure we are always responding with a complete and current record. Ratifying the Compact is the first step to becoming an NFF program participant, making it a benefit available only to Compact states. Participation in the NFF program is the final step in ensuring the most accurate and up-to-date criminal history information is available when a fingerprint-based background check is conducted. Being a Compact state isn’t just good for the country—it benefits us as a state. We have the opportunity to have our voices heard on noncriminal justice background check issues through the Compact Council process while contributing to better fingerprint-based background checks across the country.

Carole Shelton: As a Compact officer since 2005, I’ve had several opportunities to meet and speak with representatives from non-Compact states. Misconceptions about what the Compact requires or how it will affect a state are common. One question we often hear is, “But won’t this affect my in-state sealing or firearms laws?” The answer is no. Ratifying the Compact has no effect on your in-state dissemination laws. If you have in-state requirements surrounding record dissemination, those will not change when you ratify the Compact.

Another common misconception is that joining the Compact will require immediate and significant programming changes. This is also not true. States are asked to program their system to support requests for all authorized purposes within one year of Compact ratification. This is a minor change and one that many non-Compact states won’t have to make, as they already respond to requests for all purposes. We are available to meet any time with state representatives interested in Compact ratification so we can discuss these types of questions. In 2015, the Council established the Compact Mentorship Program in an effort to pair states interested in Compact ratification with other states who have been through the process from beginning to end. We are always happy to welcome new states into the program and would be thrilled to help with any questions you might have. We encourage non-Compact state attendance at our Compact Council meetings and welcome the opportunity to share the great work of this Council with others.

Joseph Morrissey: I am happy to report that New York state has had the pleasure of being the 30th state to ratify the Compact. Shortly thereafter, we also joined the NFF program to become the 20th NFF participating state. New York state has jumped into the Council process with both feet and been welcomed into the fold. Compact ratification has provided both us and the whole country with numerous benefits.

We’ve enjoyed our seat at the table to help set rules and regulations. We’ve actually seen a decrease in manual and redundant processing due to our participation in the NFF program. And best of all, we know that we are helping to provide the most accurate, complete, and up-to-date records for noncriminal justice background checks nationwide. Joining the Compact helped show the country that the state of New York is dedicated to protecting those who can’t protect themselves. It was really a win-win situation, and I’m excited to help additional states join us as part of the Compact family.

Dawn Peck: We want to see every state ratify the Compact. A Compact state enjoys a seat at the table to help set policies and regulations it will be subject to regarding national noncriminal justice background checks. The opportunity to become an NFF participant offers the chance to reduce redundant processing and lower operational costs. Thirty states are already here, lending their voices and ensuring the safety of our nation’s vulnerable populations.

Are you ready to take your seat at the table?

Narrator: Want to learn more about Compact ratification and how you can get started? Call or e-mail today for more information.

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