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Criminal Justice Update

Q&A: Beth Owens, Director of Identification at BCI


Beth Owens leads the Bureau of Criminal Investigation's Identification Division.

What does BCI’s Identification Division do?

Our work centers on Ohio’s criminal master files: BCI has more than 6 million records containing charge and demographic details, dispositions, fingerprints and other documents from the courts and state Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. These records make up the foundation of Ohio’s Computerized Criminal History (CCH).

The CCH serves the citizens of Ohio through background checks for concealed-handgun licenses, job applications and other requirements. And the system provides vital information to courts and law enforcement — including during traffic stops, with cautions about violent offenders that help keep our officers safe.

We have multiple units, each with a specific area of focus. They include:
  • The Criminal Unit is dedicated to ensuring the accuracy of the computerized criminal histories.
  • Quality Assurance staff members are assigned a region of the state to assist the courts and law enforcement with correcting errors in submitted records.
  • The Fingerprint Examiners compare fingerprint submissions for identification, including when courts request that records be sealed, coroners’ offices request identity verifications and poor-quality fingerprints are submitted.
  • The Civilian Section processes background checks for citizens, and the staff members have to be experts on the numerous laws that govern how different background checks must be processed.
How does your personal history inform your work?

I worked in the Columbus Division of Police’s Identification Section for 17 years. I started my career there fingerprinting arrestees, updating records and submitting information to BCI, and was promoted a couple of times. In 2007, the Franklin County Sheriff ’s Office recruited me to lead the jail’s Identification Unit. I did that for 11 years before coming to BCI.

My husband was a Columbus police officer and a sergeant in the Narcotics Bureau for 20 years; through my family and my larger law enforcement family, I experienced the importance of the Ohio CCH in helping officers and investigators to stay safe.

So how many background checks does the Identification Division run a year?

The Civilian Section completed 1.6 million background checks in 2019, and we also added more than 1,000 sex offenders and 100 arson offenders to state registries. The point is helping to ensure the safety of our vulnerable — children, patients and residents of nursing facilities. Those who work with these groups must pass background checks to help prove they can be trusted.

What first got you interested in a career in criminal justice?

I always wanted to make a difference in some way. When I met my husband, he was a Columbus police officer assigned to the Detective Bureau. I was intrigued by the judicial processes from arrest to court. I must add, I did not want to be an officer. The job in the Identification Section came open, and it was a great match.
Bio box

Hometown: “My dad was a minister; I have lived in eight states. ‘Hometown’ to me is wherever my family is.”

Family: married with six children, 19 grandchildren and many more beloved family members, including siblings and her 86-year-old mother