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“We think it should be administered by a third party, such as D.C. [human resources], and only those infractions should be reported to the fire department,” Mr. Smith said.

The fire department conducts background checks when vetting potential employees, but once individuals are hired, it is their responsibility to report any arrests or convictions.

Under current policy, the only employees who have been subject to background checks while working for the agency are those detailed to work at presidential inaugurations. Those checks are done by the Secret Service, Mr. Wilson said.

Under the previous administration of Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin, the fire department set a goal of running background checks on its force.

According to agency performance records, the department pledged in fiscal 2009 to conduct background checks on its then 2,100-member workforce. The records indicate only 133 background checks were completed that year. Background checks do not show up again on performance records in subsequent fiscal years.