Monday, July 20, 2015

Police Chief Sam Dotson: Uber's Background Checks Are "Thorough" and "Responsible"

Posted By on Mon, Jul 20, 2015 at 7:00 AM

click to enlarge Sam Dotson tells RFT, "If St. Louis had Uber, I would use it." - IMAGE VIA
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  • Sam Dotson tells RFT, "If St. Louis had Uber, I would use it."

The last big sticking point in negotiations between UberX, the ride-hailing app that wants to launch here, and the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission (MTC), which regulates the industry, is not actually background checks.

Everybody agrees it's important to get thorough background checks on all aspiring drivers-for-hire.

The debate is: Can you get that without a fingerprint? The MTC says no -- and that, in any case, state law requires one.

But Uber believes you can. And now, so too does St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson.

"Uber has a very reasonable system and a very responsible system," he says. One aspect of their check does concern him, he says, but "it's not a deal-breaker" and only involves a miniscule proportion of potential drivers.

Uber relies on a third-party service called Checkr to do its background checks. Checkr runs a candidate's info through sex offender registries, criminal records and motor vehicle records from the local to the national level. It also verifies an applicant's social security number.

Checkr from Daniel Yanisse on Vimeo.

According to an Uber fact sheet, an applicant is disqualified from being a driver-partner if their record shows convictions for:

DUI or drug-related driving offenses fraud reckless driving hit-and-runs violent crimes acts of terror sexual offenses property damage resisting/evading arrest fatal accidents theft/burglary/stealing/robbery and any other felony

What's more, an UberX applicant is disqualified if, in the past three years, they had three minor violations (such as accidents, speeding tickets, traffic violations) in the county where they want to operate, or were caught driving without valid license or insurance in the state where they want to operate.

Dotson says he recently attended a meeting with Uber and Checkr to learn how it works. He considered it "very thorough." One vulnerability, he observes, is that sometimes people commit crimes, then change identities and move from state to state.

"Uber's system can potentially catch some of that," he says, meaning it can link seemingly disparate crime data to one perpetrator. "If they move around a lot, it gets harder."

Next: The MTC defends its methods

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