DC government admits no background checks conducted on hack insp - KMSP-TV

DC government admits no background checks conducted on hack inspectors

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WASHINGTON -

The D.C. government acknowledged Friday it does not conduct background checks on the city's hack inspectors -- the men and women who enforce the laws of the taxicab industry. It is an admission that has angered cab drivers who must submit to the checks every two years.

On Thursday, FOX 5 reported one of the District's 13 hack inspectors has been arrested multiple times since the early ‘80s for theft and assault and has served time in prison for robbery. In fact, the man has been convicted of robbery three times.

If you want to drive a cab in the District of Columbia, there are certain rules and regulations.

First, you must agree to a background check, be fingerprinted and have your picture taken. And if you pass all the tests, you can look forward to doing most of it again two years later.

In fact, a form the driver must fill out asks, "Have you ever had your license revoked?" and "Have you ever been arrested?”

But FOX 5 has learned the men and women who patrol the streets in police-style uniforms enforcing the rules of the taxi industry have to do none of that.

"That's ridiculous really,” said Kebede Zegirgef, a D.C. taxi driver waiting for a fare outside the Willard Hotel. “That's not the way it should be.”

"Time after time, we have to get the background checks and just about every document we have to bring, and supporting documents you have to prove it," Zegirgef added.

Another driver, Sirak Medhin said, "That surprised me…because if they are criminals they are going to hurt you…they don’t care.”

A third driver, Sisay Shewga, added "Every two years, yes, every two years when you renew, we have to clear on those things, criminal record and driving record and medical.”

In an interview Thursday, the Chairman of the Taxicab Commission said he relied on the District’s Department of Human Resources to conduct background checks and did none of his own.

"We do not have the authority to probe into the background to that extent of individual applicants," said Chairman Ron Linton.

But after learning of the lengthy criminal record of one of his inspectors, Linton said he would propose making a change.

"Well, knowing what I know now, I would probably propose that we review and have a background check similar to the background checks we have on drivers,” he said.

FOX 5 is not identifying the inspector in our stories because he has not been suspended and there are outstanding questions on how he first obtained the job in 2009.

All applicants for city jobs must fill out criminal disclosure forms and reveal their criminal history in the previous ten years.


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