By: SAM COOPER AND ELIZABETH CONNERS
For more than 10 years police officers in British Columbia have been quietly amassing potentially damaging personal information in a little-known database called PRIME-BC.
You don’t have to be a criminal to have a file. If you’ve phoned 911, witnessed a crime, been a suspect, or been pulled over by an officer in B.C., then your name and personal information are likely logged in the system.
More than 85 per cent of B.C.’s adult population is in PRIME-BC, officially known as Police Records Information Management Environment. Even more surprising, a growing number of employers are accessing the records and potentially ruling out job-seekers based on contacts that are “adverse” according to police.
After releasing a report Wednesday that points to the B.C. government’s flawed use of employee criminal record checks, Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said the government is not accessing PRIME information — but “more and more” private companies are.
“I believe that is problematic under B.C.’s privacy laws, because that is information that has not been confirmed by judicial oversight,” Denham said Wednesday. “Adverse police contact is recorded in PRIME, and that could create a flag on a file that at the end of the day could prejudice someone from obtaining employment. I think that is a problem for the citizens of B.C., and I don’t believe PRIME should be used in an employment setting.”
The first details about PRIME-BC were released in 2010 through an annual general report issued by PRIMECorp.
Officially, the database went into operation on a pilot basis in Vancouver, Port Moody and Richmond in 2001. Yet, The Province has learned that PRIME-BC started recording individuals’ personal information for the first time in Richmond, in 1998.
It’s difficult to know what constitutes a negative contact in PRIME, because few police agencies were willing to discuss guidelines for officer reporting.
Rules on what represents “adverse police contact” on a record check vary between policing agencies, and even with various personnel completing the check.