Recent tragedies around the country have focused attention on workplace violence in the United States. The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides an annual count of fatal work injuries in the United States, including homicides. Shootings accounted for 78 percent of all workplace homicides…More
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Security guard negligence is a serious issue that can result in injury or death. As a security expert witness I am routinely retained in such matters. These claims also may lead to claims of negligent hiring, training and supervision. The individual in this incident allegedly was not licensed as a security guard nor was he authorized to carry a weapon.
New York Daily News. A California man is suing his local mall after security guard was captured on video pointing a gun at him for running over a traffic cone.
Nicholas Buchanan said he was in a line to drive out of Westfield Valley Fair Mall in San Jose in December, when he drove around a car that was backing up and hit the cone.
The 27-year-old filed a lawsuit last week against Westfield saying that guard Francis Lancaster-Abraham Fielding chased after him and yelled at him to get out of his car.
Buchanan, who works at Apple as an engineer, stayed put and recorded the incident on his phone as Fielding pulled out a handgun and had his finger on the trigger as he pointed it at the driver.
As a security expert witness, I am retained in cases of workplace violence, active shooters, and policy and procedures. A temporary employee can bring issues to your workplace that were not developed or disclosed by the temp agency.
August 26, 2016
Police say a disgruntled employee fired shots into multiple vehicles just before 10 a.m. in a parking lot at the plant on Passmore Lane near the Highway 45 Bypass.
Troopers with the Tennessee Highway Patrol later intercepted the alleged gunman near Old Humboldt Road and Ashport Road.
A WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News reporter on scene saw officers take a man into custody who appeared to be naked.
Passmore Lane is closed to traffic and will be for several hours while officers process the crime scene, according to police.
Stanley Black & Decker released the following statement in response to the shooting.
“This morning a temporary employee committed an act of workplace violence in the parking lot of our Jackson Facility. We are thankful that no one was hurt and grateful to the local law enforcement for their extremely rapid response and apprehension of the suspect.”
Derek Pernell Melton recently picked up a job as a bouncer at a troubled Savannah nightclub to make ends meet for his family.
Early Saturday morning, Melton, 39, a husband and father of six children, was fatally shot while trying to stop a drunken, gun-wielding patron from firing his weapon outside Club Exclusive at the corner of Bull and 41st streets.
Bouncers and nightclub security guards are frequently involved in altercations and violence with customers. Clubs should create reasonable policy and procedure for these foreseeable events. Training should coincide with the club’s policies. The use of force should be used only to protect themselves. In occasions where a patron is to be ejected, if physical redirection to the door is not effective, the police should be called.
No place of business, including the rental industry, can guarantee your safety from the criminal acts of others. Property Management companies tend to make it difficult, if not impossible, to understand what level of crime is both on the property and in the neighborhood. What you are likely to hear as a prospective tenant is: We don’t provide security. We cannot guarantee your safety.” They may not have security personnel on property but they do provide certain aspects of security and safety. Lights, locks, gates, maintaining the property’s appearance, notifying tenants of crimes (at their discretion), and so forth.
CrimeReports (www.crimereports.com) is a good resource for crime data across the US. Keep in mind that there is no magic number that has to be passed before an address is dangerous. Everyone interprets “safety” differently but having information is critical to that decision.
CrimeReports is free but it should not be considered the absolute crime tool. These are crimes that are reported and 40% don’t get reported. It is estimated that 60% of sexual assaults are not reported.
Talk to the property manager with this information in your hand and ask about the crime. They are not required to tell you anything. That’s why you should already have the information to show them!
Employee Theft by Fake Robbery: A Painful Tale
Sometimes employees either commit robberies of their employer or they are the “brains” behind it. I read a story long ago that stated employees were responsible for over 70% of business robberies. I remember thinking how dumb it would be to do such a thing but, then again, stranger things happen. So here’s a warning to you HR-types: Don’t read this.
I got a call from one of my Dallas Regional Managers late one night to report a horrible armed robbery at one of our stores. The store manager was closing and was forced back into his store to open the safe. The suspect stabbed the manager in the abdomen in the process and was now in surgery. The injury was life-threatening. The safe: cleaned out. Loss: around $4000.00.
Joe closed the store and sent the employees home. He straightened up his office, locked the safe and left. As he turned from locking the door “a huge black guy” showed up and forced him at knife point back into the store. He was terrified and nervous and had a hard time remembering the combination to the safe. The suspect grew impatient and stabbed him. Wounded, he bravely got the safe open and the suspect left with the money.
Joe was bleeding profusely and immediately passed out. He was going into shock. After about 10 minutes he regained consciousness and called 911. He survived but, according to doctors, he was near death when he was brought in.
As usual, my department investigated crimes of all kinds and worked well with local law enforcement. The crime scene was a horrible bloody mess. Except for the attack-weapon, a Ginsu knife, the office was as tidy as a pin. The Regional on scene found it odd that a bad guy would bring a Ginsu knife to a robbery. Then while talking to the Detective, he sees an end cap of Ginsu knives near the office . There on the shelf was an open box with one knife missing…yep…the one on the floor in the office.
Of course, he thought; the guy came in, shoplifted the knife, and stood around outside to rob the manager. Or…no, this couldn’t be the case…the manager staged the robbery and stabbed himself! As it turned out, that was, in fact the case. Joe had this crime perfectly planned but had never stabbed himself so this whole “stab myself thing” would be just a guess.
When he stabbed himself, he had already taken the money to his car and drove to a nearby friend’s apartment. He hid the money there and returned to the store. So far, so good. When he stabbed himself he did not know just how painful that was going to be and he misjudged the strength of his thrust. Result: excruciating pain and immediate heavy blood loss. Luckily, as he was bleeding out, he regained consciousness long enough to call 911.
He subsequently failed the Dallas police polygraph. They money was never recovered even after police received a tip as to where it might be. The one thing that tripped up the whole plan was that, based on his description of the events, he was outside when attacked and forced back into the store. For that to be true he would have had to set the burglar alarm. That also meant that he would have had to turn it off upon re-entering the store. None of that happened.
Human Resources was all atwitter. How can we fire this poor man after having been stabbed, etc. There was no confession, no video, no recovery of the money. After several explanations, Joe was sent packing for “failure to protect company assets”. Worked for me.
As for the Ginsu knife set…the remaining knives went into the trash after they were removed from the book inventory.
Employers: employees will be your worst liability and will go to extreme lengths to commit some acts. Never ask why. They can never explain it.
Case study No. 247: Employee Prosecuted for Crime She Did Not Commit
I am a security expert witness. I am retained by plaintiff and defense attorneys related to negligent security, inadequate security, physical security measures and a host of others. My job is to assist the attorney with a highly specialized area in an effort to eventually provide testimony about my opinions of the incident at hand. My experience in Retail Loss Prevention/Security spans nearly three decades which was very helpful to understanding this case.
The Basic Facts
A major retailer experienced a loss of $5,000 cash. The security department investigated immediately and determined that the shortage came from a customer service department where money orders can be purchased and several types of bills can be paid. It was a high cash-transaction department.
The high security risk of cash required the registers and counter area be covered by high definition color cameras that provided excellent recorded video. This video was reviewed by security staff and no unusual activity was observed until late the evening before.
There was only one employee there that evening and she was a relatively new part-time associate. She had absolutely no supervision but, as it was learned later, she was performing her job very well and always called a supervisor if she had a question. The associate was 52 years old.
The following is a description of the actions of Ms. Jones (not her real name) during her shift.
At the beginning of her shift, Ms. Jones verified the amount of cash in the register and notated it on a required form. Much of the cash was still in the bank straps and filled both the cash slots and a large space that was below the drawer. The register held several thousand dollars. The customer traffic varied over her 6 hour shift and, as usual, the transactions all involved cash. Money order sales were frequent and the transactions sometimes involved over a thousand dollars. With the amount of cash in the drawer at the beginning of the shift and the added money from transactions, the register was running out of space to the point the drawer was difficult to close. The retailer failed to have the forethought to provide some type of drop to allow better management of the physical space available so Ms. Jones had to do something.
Although Jones was relatively new, she had worked in various positions in retailers and restaurants her entire adult life. Handling money was not new and she didn’t want to bother a supervisor with her dilemma. In an attempt to create space, she removed a handful of cash ($20’s) from the register and placed it on the counter. Subsequently she counted out the money into stacks of 100 bills ($2,000), rubber banded them, and wrote the amount on the stack. One hundred $20s is the correct/standard number of bills for banking and retail. There was so much loose cash that she had to repeat this process several times. Having compressed the stacks of bills into less space, she made room in the register for the drawer to close properly. All of this was recorded with an unobstructed view with the high definition cameras.
While counting and banding the money, Jones picked up two stacks of bills in her left hand and bent under the register to a shelf. When she stood up she made some movement with her left hand under the till and closed the drawer. The money was not seen again. Two hours later her shift ended and the department closed for the evening. A supervisor assisted her in closing out the register and picked up the cash. Ms. Jones never left her area except for a brief moment for a restroom break.
Again the video was exceptionally clear.
The following day the store’s central cashier department discovered the shortage and immediately called security. Because the shortage was for a specific register, they began reviewing the video from the prior day. Nothing suspicious was observed until they saw Jones “playing” with the money. When she began counting money on the counter they felt that was extremely odd but when she bent under the register, they took a closer examination.
When Jones came in at the beginning of her shift, she was carrying her purse and a large over-the-shoulder tote. It looked like a smaller version of a beach bag. She put both under the counter on a shelf that was well right of the register. That was a policy violation but was not atypical.
Security reviewed the video numerous times and came to the conclusion that at the moment she bent over she placed the money in one of her bags. They further concluded that she intentionally took a position with her back to the ceiling camera so as to block the register drawer and her hands from view. Based on that evidence they contacted their supervisor. The supervisor, located in another city, agreed with their conclusions despite not having seen the video. He then authorized the interview of Ms. Jones and also, regardless if she confessed, authorized her prosecution for felony theft. Human Resources met with security and agreed to move forward with the interview and, regardless of confession, agreed to terminate her. With the pieces in place on the retailer side, it was now time to contact the police.
The city had about a 20,000 population and the detective division of the police department was not very large. Security spoke with the day shift Detective and discussed their findings and the evidence. The Detective said to “Call ‘em when you’re done with her. We’ll come get her.” Now all of the pieces were in place and the only thing left was to interview Jones.
Ms. Jones is a middle aged woman, who was about 5’2”, and probably needed to carry extra weight during breezy weather to keep from being blown away. She had earned her head of silver hair from years of raising kids and working multiple simultaneous jobs over her life time. The day I met her she looked almost frail but she managed a smile occasionally as we spoke. Obviously, this had taken a toll as what money she did have was nearly gone and she couldn’t find another job. She looked lost.
The following afternoon, Ms. Jones came to work as she always did and virtually went through the same motions as two days prior. She put her purse and tote on the same shelf and set about the day’s work.
A person from HR went to her and told her that some paperwork was overlooked when she was hired and they needed her to come back to the office to sign them. When she entered the HR Manager’s office, two security personnel were there as well as the HR Manger and an HR assistant. The lead security person was seated at the HR Manager’s desk and she was place in a chair in front of the desk. She was basically surrounded. The lead security person was a female with about one year’s experience and had no training in interview techniques. Her boss, however, thought the case was clearly open and shut and decided to allow her to conduct the interview.
The lead security person, I’ll call Debra, was seated in the manger’s chair wearing a polo shirt and jeans. She had her hand cupped on top of the desk with arms extended with this very serious look. “Why did you do it?” Debra asked. Ms. Jones started looking at everyone and asked: “Do what?”
I’ll divert from the story to discuss investigations and interviews as part of this case study.
Investigations require patience and professionalism. You are a fact gatherer and you should be very thorough. This process begins to create a picture of the crime itself as well as the potential suspects involved. While this case pointed directly to a single person, it would be very unusual for an employee to steal $5,000 and then return to work. It’s unlikely that the shortage would be overlooked. Despite what you think you see, it pays to be patient and work the process. You have already identified a probable suspect, you know where they live, and given her age she was not likely to be a flight risk. An investigation may take several days but the suspect’s activities are being monitored in the event another shortage occurred.
Now, back to the interview. There is a company, Wicklander and Zulawski (w-z.com), that is the preeminent interview and interrogation trainer in the country. They provide an approach that is conversational and non-confrontational, allowing the two people a chance to calm down to get to a confession. Asking Why did you do it, is not a non-confrontational/conversational start. If Debra had received the least amount of training she would have known this but she would have also known to never expect a full confession after the first question. Furthermore, training would have taught her to listen to the answers from questions and to not simply toss them away as lies. A professional interviewer will get this sense in their stomach that something is wrong. The “suspect” seems clueless to the questions and seems truthful in their answers. A nonprofessional interviewer keeps beating the dead horse because they are failing in front of other employees (who were told this was a slam dunk) and they become frustrated. Debra’s frustration culminated in the final question: “Do you want to go to jail?” By now Ms. Jones was crying and simply said no. Debra then called the Detective who arrived some 10 minutes later. Ms. Jones was handcuffed and walked through the store in front of customers and other employees. She was place in a police unit and transported to the Detective’s office.
The Police Investigation
The best description of their investigation: none. The Detective did not interview Jones or ask her if she had committed a crime. She did not offer any explanation or ask any questions as she was frightened. She’d never been issued a ticket much less be seated in front of a police officer in handcuffs.
The Incarceration: Sometimes all things work out.
Ms. Jones was photographed, fingerprinted and given an orange jump suit. She was booked for felony theft and placed in a cell by herself. Her bond was set but she did not have enough money to post bond nor would they allow her to be released on personal recognizance.
After two days a new inmate was placed in her cell. This could only be seen as a miracle. As the two got to know each other the conversation eventually turned to why they were incarcerated. When Ms.Jones finished her story, her cellmate said she had been in another part of the jail where her cellmate had been charged with felony theft from the same retailer! As the story unfolded, the other “former employee” was busted for stealing cash…a large amount of cash. She refurnished her apartment. She paid off her truck. She bought a new wardrobe. She was also concerned that once her boyfriend found out she was in jail that he would find the rest of the cash in her apartment.
This new information was a godsend and she immediately called a friend to try to get her out of jail. Through the appointment of a public defender, Jones was released on a personal recognizance bond. Her appointed attorney then began to investigate further.
The retailer had been investigating large cash shortages for some time. The shortages had been happening at various departments and with no distinct pattern. When Ms. Jones was “caught” the store thought that was the end of their problems but the shortages continued. Two days after having Ms. Jones arrested, they caught the real thief. The new inmate at the City jail had been a supervisor whose job it was to help employees at the end of their shift close out their register. She was in charge of taking their money to the main cash office and, this time, security had clear video of the theft. The subsequent confession was astonishing: $25,000 that she could remember. As for Ms. Jones’ register, she probably took that money but just couldn’t remember.
With the “new” culprit now in jail, the retailer went back to work as usual. As for Ms. Jones: they did not notify the police that they had wrongfully prosecuted her and she sat in jail for four days.
After months of work, she finally had the charge dismissed and her record was expunged. The paper trail of her misadventure was erased. The mental and emotional trauma was not. The retailer offered her job back but she declined. She decided, instead, to contact an attorney.
The Civil Investigation and Mediation
As a security expert witness, I am retained by lawyers for law suits that allege inadequate security or negligent security. In this case I reviewed all of the training, supervision, policies and procedures of the defendant’s security staff and reviewed hours of video of the alleged theft. My review allows me to provide an opinion as to whether the actions of the defendant were reasonable. There clearly were anything but reasonable.
Civil cases rarely go to trial as they are settled through mediation. In essence, both sides meet with a mediator, who is usually a retired judge, and through the presentation of the case, a settlement value is agreed upon. If the offer of the defendant is unacceptable, the case moves forward. A case can settle at any time afterwards.
It is important to understand that the actual company rarely pays anything. They are covered under insurance policies that cover attorney costs and settlement. Many times, however, they are self-insured up to a certain amount.
The initial offer when the civil case was filed was $25,000. The settlement (to keep it from going to trial) was $600,000.00. The mediator was so outraged at the conduct of the retailer, he suggested substantially more but that was rejected.
Conclusion and Take-aways
Companies of any type provide a hiring basis, policy and procedure, training regarding those policies and supervision of its employees. I call these the four legs of the chair. Without all four firmly in place, the failure is foreseeable. Chairs don’t usually break the first time you sit on one. The actions of the security personnel and management over the years prior to this showed a continuing escalation of failing to follow procedures and lax supervision. Lax supervision results in people not following procedures.
The security staff simply were told to “get this wrapped up right away”. The pressure of their marching orders and their supervisor’s approval to move forward set in motion a train wreck. What also happened in this case is the thinking that if the police pursued a criminal case it certainly must be “okay”. Reality check: If you are the complaining witness, the liability rests with you. Your actions, investigation, and subsequent confrontation of the employee ultimately resulted in your identification of a specific person committing a specific criminal act.
If you are in a position within a business to conduct investigations, especially criminal investigations, I offer the following:
- Never, never, never hurry through an investigation! It is better to fully understand the specific facts over time than to feel compelled to hurry to confront an employee.
- Company managers “always” believe they know how to interview an employee. It’s their chance to prove they took notes during the last rerun of Colombo or they’ve watched 100 YouTube videos (or read Pat Murphy’s investigation guide). Consider an interview as if you’ve been called to diffuse a bomb. Is it the green wire or the red wire?
- Most employers do not have a security department to investigate crimes. In this case, that didn’t matter anyway. They were foolish across the board. Calling the police is a great option. What I mean by that is to call the police headquarters and talk to an investigator or detective. Cover the facts and see if they have any input. At this point, you, as the employer, are still in control of what happens next.
- The alternative is to not even consider prosecution. Termination cannot be taken lightly if it is brought about by a hurried, thrown-together, investigation. My recommended approach is to have sufficient grounds under current company to terminate before ever talking to the employee. There is absolutely no ground to be gained by hoping for some sort of admission of a serious policy violation and thus basing their termination on that. There is also no ground to be gained by trying for get a confession from them for past acts. Caution and professionalism is critical.
- Lastly, the more important question is how the employee was able to commit the act(s). If a thorough post-incident review is not conducted, nothing has been accomplished. Generally, the cause was lax or lack of supervision. The direct supervisor was probably already identified as a poor performer so the end result should not be a surprise.
Litigation is very costly and can ruin a business both financially and their reputation in the community. Seek professional guidance before conducting a criminal investigation
We are in an era where video cameras are in a wild assortment of shapes and sizes. The “spy camera” industry has just exploded in the past 5 years and the proliferation of adult web sites that cater to hidden camera video has been more than exponential. With that said, the natural question is why aren’t there more news stories on this? Many are planted. Few are caught.
Today, you can buy a color camera with good resolution for about $75.00. These are just not cameras. They also have a built-in battery and an SD card. Going further, the chip is programmable in a number of ways with the most frequent setting being motion-recording only. Motion-only recording triggers the camera to record when it detects motion and stop once the motion stops for a period of time. By doing that, a complete unit is no bigger than your thumb and can record hours of video.
Another threat is just the common cell phone. In unisex fitting rooms, the dividing wall does not always go to the floor and to the ceiling. There is no standard design for fitting rooms so we all have different experiences. A male who is in the stall next to a female can easily peer over or under the wall to record. With the new selfie-sticks, the range of reach could potentially overcome even high walls.
As a security expert witness, I have been involved in several hidden camera cases in both restrooms and fitting rooms. The cases involve all types of cameras, including ones that are wi-fi supported. Negligent security cases are often filed in these circumstances especially when a plaintiff learns their images have been uploaded to the internet. The Erin Andrews case is an excellent example of the use of a cell phone to secretly record someone.
Be very aware of your surroundings but also understand that these cameras can be disguised as almost anything from a smoke detector to a working electrical outlet.
PatMurphy Apartment Security, Apartment Security Crime Prevention, Background checks, Crime Analysis, Negligent Security, Security Assessments, Security Expert Witness, Security Guards, Security Management
A claim of inadequate security or negligent security at an apartment property is very common. The Texas Apartment Association (TAA) offers a Texas Crime Awareness Guide (link is at the bottom of the page) that can assist any property owner or manager develop crime prevention programs.
Apartment security is a very difficult topic for managers. The phrase: “We don’t provide security” is, in my opinion, very misunderstood and does not play well in court. Of course you don’t provide security, that is, if the definition of security is one that even infers a high level of personal safety. Even the president is not guaranteed that. However, if violent crime is occurring on your property and in the area then doing nothing is a different definition.
Tenants should be provided reasonable security. What a court may deem as “reasonable” is really a question of how the property addressed criminal activity over time. That is a pretty broad brush because the options within that are plentiful. The best crime awareness (and it’s free) is to advise tenants of crime, especially violent crime. This information allows the residents to be very aware of their surroundings in a way they may have done in the past.
Read the Texas Apartment Association’s Crime Awareness Guide! It’s full of great ideas.
A recent news story gives insight, as well as great video, into the little known crime of cargo theft. (www.nbcdfw.com/investigations/DFW-Leads-Nation-In-Cargo-Theft.html)
Cargo theft in the north Texas regions is fueled by DFW Airport and the massive hubs of freight lines in the area. The trucks also feed company warehouses which is another favorite target of bad guys looking for a huge haul. The thefts are as well planned and executed as a Navy Seal raid. Not only do they employ surveillance of a target, they stay at the hotels of truckers and mingle to obtain intelligence. They’ll follow a load across the country and hit it when it is the most vulnerable. All done under the watchful eye of security cameras.
Warehouse alarm systems, as are all hardwired systems, are connected through phone lines to a central station. Cut the phone lines and the alarm company has no more connectivity. With the advent of cellular back up alarms, cutting phone lines is no longer effective. Of course for every security improvement, there is a modified attack to counter them. Now the bad guys can use cell phone jammers to kill that signal.
We all pay a premium on goods we buy due to theft. Security Experts in Texas can educate businesses on the most effective means of protecting their inventory. However, we are always just one step behind the latest workaround for our efforts.