Author Archive

Bee in the Bonnet Beaten by Back Block

May 30th, 2014 Comments off

We have all heard of the usual ways to find information through social media but quite often, we end up missing the obvious.  There are more websites out there now that use a public platform than ever before.  The days of standing on a milk crate with a megaphone in a local town speaker’s corner are far behind us, being replaced with millions of active appendages.

We are all witness to the celebrity feuds that evolve through Twitter causing more PR nightmares than a substance abusing Mayor (arguable I suppose).  The goal with Twitter is to gain as many followers as possible and have an influential voice with all the superfluous thoughts that filter through busy thumbs.  As a result, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone declining a potential smart phone screen to fill.  The same rings true with many other sites that have arose throughout the past few years.  One may never think that the website Pinterest could assist in an investigation; they would be wrong.  Pinterest is a billion dollar idea that allows people to share crafty ideas such as innovative recipes, inexpensive décor tips no matter how big or small, even remote undiscovered recreation spots.  Utilized in an investigative manor, the best recipe that can be provided is the plain old breadcrumb that can begin or connect a trail leading to further activity.  This website is much more than the Martha Stewart of Facebook and quite often can alert those looking in on upcoming events.

Well I’m going to suggest another route to take where data mining has proven successful on many occasions; the all too archaic organized club sites.

Recently we conducted an initial social media investigation on a subject that was becoming quite a hindrance for a client.  This particular subject had also become evasive and sporadic at best in co-operation with the initial investigation causing immediate red flags.  After some data mining we hit pay dirt when we found that the subject was an active member in a roller derby league under an alias that would make a pro wrestler jealous.  We were not only able to retrieve a schedule of the upcoming bouts (as they are called) but we could also pull up her very own league profile complete with a recent picture and persona.  She apparently had a reputation for being quite aggressive and terms like ‘hip-whip, rink rash, and back block were not used sparingly when others described her.

The investigator was sent to the next upcoming match to join the subcultural popular sport for a productive evening of filming.  It didn’t take long to realize that the leg injury sustained in the claim had clearly been replaced with bionics as our subject was a bonafide star complete with her own cheering section.  Continuity is always a concern in surveillance of any kind and even after a 2-hour night of         ‘t-stops, toe-stops and tripping’ we had to be certain the evidence would be convincing enough to prove that this was no magical one-time game.  After looking further into her sporting statistics, we were able to prove that this roller girl was the Cal Ripken of this world and hadn’t missed a game all season.

The video evidence along with the social media gathered was certainly going to turn this derby dynamo into a cornered kitten.


Shhh!! Its Better She Doesn’t Know

April 30th, 2014 Comments off

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive in this industry in regards to workplace violence from clients is “will I be breaching their privacy?”  Chances are if you’re asking the question you already know the answer.  The real question that should be asked however is “what repercussions would the organization absorb if I don’t tell the potential victim(s)?”

Simply put, if the safety of an employee or employees is at risk then the privacy issue should be trumped.  This would be the equivalent of seeing someone through a window getting hurt and not breaking down the door, the trick is we need to make sure our eyes are clear and what we assess is accurate.

Would it be justified to tell everyone on the same shift that an individual they are working with has an assault charge from 10 years ago? Absolutely not.  Would it be justified to tell everyone that a recently suspended worker has a long history of violence when he is not on his proper medication?  I would argue yes.

The most recent case we encountered was that of a public personality who was being stalked at work.  Although when in the public eye it is almost expected to a certain degree, the employer of this particular victim decided that it would be in their best interest to keep her in the dark of the threats that were received through email.  Even though the emails were focused on the one individual they assumed they were just members of the public trying to get attention.  It wasn’t until the particulars of the emails became extremely personal including the victim’s family members that they made the logical decision to inform the personality of the imminent danger she may be in.

Although the IP addresses were scattered (making the employer think there were multiple authors of the threats) the domain of the single offender was eventually discovered and an arrest was made.  The offender was known to police and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was in fact intent on making these threats a reality. A further investigation uncovered news articles and personal photos of not only the personality but her family members as well, in his possession.  The offender was charged and eventually sentenced to a mere 19 days plus time served; however, the employer was now aware of the severity of the issue, as were the police.

The victim in this case chose the route of forgiveness in relation to the employer and somewhat understood their intent to shield her from unnecessary stress.  Since then however the employer has gone above and beyond equipping the victim with a portable SOS device complete with a GPS tracker.

This incident of workplace violence is certainly on the extreme end of the scale and similar to an episode of Criminal Minds.  The offender in this situation was obsessed with being a part of the personality’s life regardless of what route was required.  Quite often in these workplace violence situations the offender is someone that is known to the victim, whether an ex or a co-worker.  With that said, either situation is not and should not be treated as any less of a threat. Communication is imperative from the onset in these scenarios.

In having dealt with these types of people throughout my career, it is my opinion that in most cases this type of behaviour can be narrowed down to neurosis and psychosis.  The difference; the neurotic sees the castle in the sky………..the psychotic moves in.


Staplers or Sombreros

March 31st, 2014 Comments off

It’s no secret that the cost of doing business in our local region isn’t as economically feasible as it once was. If we can manufacture and deliver a marble for 10 cents in foreign countries why would we pay 1 dollar to do the same domestically?  If the bottom line is only measured by morality, the answer would be simple. However, we have a different kind of math when it comes to business and regardless of how ‘nice’ we are that isn’t going to keep the lights on.  The question is; how much are we saving?

The hidden cost of discounts are beginning to expose themselves more and more and as a result risk management teams are forced to look into mitigating practices when it comes to the protection and ‘duty of care’ of their employees in both a nomadic and sedentary role.  As we are aware, workplace violence and the organization’s policies are effective anywhere the employee may be in their daily role, which would lead us to the conclusion that that includes anywhere in the world that an employee would have to travel to.  The term ‘executive protection’ has now morphed into something that encompasses more than just a stretched limo and an Armani wardrobe.  ‘Duty of care’ is a much more accurate term that simply means that anyone from a salesman, to a CEO requires some form of protection when travelling to foreign areas in a business capacity.  The levels of protection and the pre-planning of course will fluctuate based on the importance of each role.

When the bad guys are looking to kidnap an employee of an organization they look at one main thing; how much are they worth?  If a certain individual were to go missing, what would the damage be in terms of the organization’s operations and image? Once these questions are assessed and answered, the worth of the employee can then be established.

Each region must be assessed continuously for any potential threats that could be harmful; anything from local crime to the political theme.  In Mexico for example large, multinational corporations face a substantial cost of doing business due to the continuously changing risk landscape, which requires security executives and their organizations to be able to adapt quickly to changes. The nation is inundated by an ongoing war between drug cartels, which has to be taken into account in enterprise risk management plans, as do other crimes including cargo theft, extortion and kidnapping.  Companies with operations in Mexico are forced to maintain a certain level of situational awareness and conduct detailed due diligence on third-party vendors and employees and as a result have had to include security and theses costs are beginning to rise.

So whether we are using staplers in an administrative role at the local headquarters or dawning the local customary clothing in the foreign areas we frequent, we exist under one brand, all things are equal including the protection we are entitled to.


Harassment or Känflikt

February 26th, 2014 Comments off

Whether it’s he said, she said or any other combination thereof one of the major issues we face in today’s workplace are personalities and the clashes they bring appearing at all levels of the hierarchy.  When investigating these issues the determination that needs to be made is where this issue can be categorized. Is it a common conflict among workers, or could it be considered that all too commonly used category of harassment?  The latter term will perk ears quicker and become a higher priority in the human resource triage much like claiming a head injury in the emergency room.  Which may explain why it is so commonly misused and as a result the system so commonly abused.

Having that said, the question remains. How do we determine which way to lean when it comes to dealing with these complaints?  Our answer will only become clear when we first have a clear understanding in the differences of the two.

A conflict can be defined in many ways depending on what we are discussing; however, the fundamental definition is as simple as, a difference that prevents agreement.  If we put it in these terms we can almost see it as a competition or struggle for power, a tug of war of sorts.  When we were kids we would often hear our mediators’ attempt to resolve issues by a diagnosis as simple as “oh they’re just jealous” or “you just both have strong personalities”.  As simple as that sounds, quite often it is accurate.

When we look to hire someone to better our team we quite often seek out the person that can make their own decisions and work independently, more importantly someone who is motivated to better the organization.  Nothing motivates more than a little healthy competition, whether that represents two people in line for the same promotion or two people trying to better each other’s piece count. Either way the organization will benefit from the competition.  When the contest becomes unhealthy and there is a clear winner in sight is when the problems start to occur.   Quite often the person in line for the silver will be the one to lodge the complaint and claim ‘the head injury’.

The definition of harassment is much more aggressive in nature and very one sided. Aggressive pressure or intimidation, the act of systematic and/or continued unwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group, including threats and demands.  The intent is to cause harm and force the victim into acting in ways against their choice. The purposes may vary, including racial prejudice, personal malice, or an attempt to force someone to quit a job.  Quite often an alliance is formed and there is a reputation or past experience that will cause the victim to legitimately feel threatened by the bully.

We have been involved in numerous workplace investigations when it comes to these types of complaints, through numerous interviews and evidence gathering roughly 90% end up being determined as conflicts with chronic issues that surface exposing a pretty clear picture in the end.  The problem is we only hear about the 10% we let slip by and the catastrophic results that make the front pages.


Monitor the Monitors

January 24th, 2014 Comments off

Over the past few years social media has been utilized more frequently in workplace investigations as well as exposing various issues that may jeopardize the integrity of organizations and their brand.  Whether it is slander or misrepresentation of the company’s values by a single or multiple employees; social media monitoring is not only advantageous in exposing budding issues that could lead to irreparable damage, but necessary.

We have all witnessed the devastating results to our youth with cyber bullying and the permanency that can never be undone.  With many organizations operating on a global level, cyber slander can be just as devastating, knows no boundaries and doesn’t filter any recipients.  In many cases a reputable brand is the only thing that may differentiate your company from the competition.  Because of this it is imperative that all precautions be taken to maintain that standing.  The risk is equal and in some cases worse for the public sector or government agencies as competency of management may come into question by not only politicians but the general taxpaying public.

One recent example of this came from two firefighters who had been making misogynistic comments on their Twitter accounts.  The account domain clearly stated their positions as fire fighters.  It didn’t take long for public complaints to begin rolling in with a demand for action to be taken as this was viewed as highly inappropriate for anyone in their positions.  The public’s voice was heard clearly and indeed immediate action was taken with the termination of the two individuals in question; this decision of course bread controversy and a divide for those debating the issue.

A recent article (see link below) could perhaps assist in the debate as it suggests five separate criteria exist throughout a workplace investigation prior to any decision.

The five criteria suggested to exist are:

  1. The severity of what was said
  2. The position or role of the person who said it
  3. If the message represented a pattern or isolated incident
  4. What progressive discipline (if any) had already taken place (depending on severity)
  5. The impact of what was said on the brand, reputation, or public trust of the employer

When it comes to monitoring, investigating and disciplining social media breaches this can be quite intimidating for anyone with the responsibility of making the final decision; however, based on the numerous social media investigations we have been involved in, these five criteria suggested are certainly accurate.  If they exist and can be illustrated, the evidence will be far more concrete in convincing any trier of fact.

(Posted by Gavin Rouble on Thu, Sep 19, 2013 @ 12:01 PM)


The Domino Effect

November 27th, 2013 Comments off

Although it began the day after Halloween this year; the workers of BC have now been forced to dawn a disguise they may not be used to.  Ontario championed the cause in 2010 and now the remaining provinces are starting to follow suit.  On November 1st, the new legislation labeled Work Safe BC was born in British Columbia, Canada.  This anti-bullying and harassment legislation ensures that each employee is given a safe workplace; yet another tool to combat the workplace violence issue and try to harness a whirlwind of a problem.

At the risk of sounding realistic, workplace violence will always exist just as bullying will.  Whether we are in schools, arenas, or a political office, this problem is not going away.  We are ‘hard wired’ to bully. Powerful countries bully weaker ones. We glorify aggressive behaviour in sports. The whole human psyche is designed this way. The idea of ‘only the strong survive’ is engrained in our minds from birth and emphasized in our adolescence with literary classics such as ‘Lord of the Flies’.  I am in no way condoning this behaviour or minimizing the damage it causes but what I am saying is that these issues need to be triaged in an accurate manner and the real problems need to be addressed before they escalate.  A simple debate could easily be viewed as a major conflict or an all out fight to another.  Quite often when looking from the outside, it gives a much cleaner perspective; however, objectivity is often a gift that in many cases is sold out, especially when it comes to workplace issues.

To remain objective in a situation of passion is next to impossible for anyone with any level of proximity.  Third party investigative interviews are now one of the most sought after services in the workplace.  For years the best remedy was to take the ostrich approach with many of these issues and bury our heads in the sand until they went away but with the country’s elected political leaders beginning to take further steps we can clearly see we are starting to run out of sand.


The Best Kept Secret

November 7th, 2013 Comments off

There is a multi-billion dollar a year problem that we are only now starting to hear about in open forums and growing media coverage.  Approximately 90% of North American consumer products have the potential to be affected on some level; however, as citizens we are all affected.  Also this issue has a heavy influence on pricing in virtually every industry from the corner stores to insurance.  I’m talking about cargo crime and the epidemic it has become.

Whether we are staring out an office window or a windshield, we are guaranteed to see trucks with thousands of goods in our constant view.

As we continue to become more of a global village, we are witnessing the exchange of product from country to country more than ever.  This need for cargo delivery has spawned a number of opportunities for the business minded, some of these opportunities are legal and above board and some…..well you know the rest.

As the times have changed, so has the loot of choice for the modern day pirates of the highway.  With the economy in a slump, the justification of crime becomes easier causing a Robin Hood like mentality with some.  For this reason the main type of cargo being taken currently is food and beverages.  Prior to the load even being in the wrong hands, the buyers are arranged and the goods are already sold. For the most part a syndicate of various small to medium grocery marts are willing to accept the deals that are clearly too good to be true (or at least legal).

Even though this type of loss may seem very costly, it pales in comparison to others.  On average a theft of pharmaceuticals equals $3.7 million per loss and a load of cigarettes is $1.4 million.  Now that is just the cost of the stolen goods but what we don’t see is the ripple effect that it causes as a result.  Sure it raises insurance rates and the price of goods; everything that any crime against property will do.  What makes this type of theft unique however, is the fact that the sheer amount of product being taken makes it very difficult to assume that it would be for personal use in any capacity; therefore, this product will find its way back into the market.

This becomes a matter of health and safety when we are dealing with non-perishables and…you guessed it – pharmaceuticals.  Even if one pallet is taken, the risk is there that someone could be drastically affected if it were to find its way back on the shelves.  Any type of sensitive medication such as immune system builders for transplant patients or the much more common insulin must be handled and stored in very particular ways. For this reason, a $25,000 loss can quickly become a multi-million dollar settlement.  In most cases however, the organization is forced to destroy the entire lot as a risk mitigation strategy to ensure the stolen medication can be tracked by a lot number, in turn costing them millions in product and production.

These are the types of issues that we are now being exposed to more and more. The public needs to realize that when it comes to cargo crime, it’s not just the rising costs that we should be concerned about. In some cases it could literally be a matter of life and death.  This is why many media outlets and statistics surrounding the cargo industry are finally letting this secret out.

One such example from 2009:


AFIMAC Answers Growing Demand From Clients and Opens an Office in Mexico

October 25th, 2013 Comments off

MIAMI, FL, Sept. 24, 2013 /CNW/ – AFIMAC, a North and South American leader in business travel security and intelligence services is pleased to announce their new office opening in Mexico. AFIMAC prides itself on partnering with their clients to protect people and property both during times of crisis and regular business operations.

Mexico is the third largest growing market for AFIMAC and the new office location will better serve companies with multi-regional operations and enhance their security postures in the growing economy. “Manufacturing plants will continue to expand and create jobs and employment, fostering vibrant local economies which will enhance overall security. But with this comes other forms of increased security threats which may mask themselves under varying asymmetric veils”, states Art Garffer, director of operations.

“Some of the many services AFIMAC will offer are security drivers, client protection, and consulting” asserts Garffer. “In addition, we provide critical analysis on how to prevent and mitigate risk, develop a corporate crisis management model, broaden the leveraging of intelligence and information scrutiny to preempt events, improve on corporate scenario planning and through improved and new technology, increase logistical cargo recovery and diminish loss”, affirms Garffer.



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Delicate Flowers with High Winds

August 23rd, 2013 Comments off

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the fastest growing claims in the workplace are mental health issues among employees.  This is a trend that has continued to grow for a number of years with no indication of slowing down any time soon.  From an investigative standpoint this presents it’s own unique yet exciting challenges differentiating the physical injury claims.

I would like to preface this by noting that there certainly are legitimate claims when it comes to employees suffering from mental health.  These issues need to be dealt with on an individual basis promptly, to ensure the safety of not only that particular employee but the entire workplace.  I will also agree with the fact that in many industries this current economy can be taxing on stress levels of many.  By the same token however, it is this economy and the uncertainty it brings that will escalate the ‘not so legitimate’ claims.

When certain people see that work is about to slow down, justification to solidify their monetary stability can be easily achieved regardless of ethics.  As we all know, getting paid by the organization or insurance company is always going to amount to more than what the government will provide.

This rising trend of using mental health as the claim is increasingly difficult for human resources departments for a couple of reasons:


  1. The main one being that no matter what the gossip is, or what logic is telling you, the fact is that these issues are difficult to prove with the resources from within.
  2. The next issue that seems to be arising more frequently revolves around the aftermath of the subject if they are questioned.  This could exacerbate the issue and provide further ammunition for the employee being questioned.


The first thing any employer should do is educate themselves of any issues the employee may be going through; whether at work, or in their personal lives.  The top 10 general stressors in life according to a recent on line survey:

1. Death of a spouse
2. Divorce
3. Marriage separation
4. Jail term
5. Death of a close relative
6. Injury or illness
7. Marriage
8. Fired from job
9. Marriage reconciliation
10. Retirement

Most mental health illnesses stem from depression (not letting go of a past issue), or anxiety (fearing the future) as these listed issues clearly illustrate. 

This can be done by offering the EAP option and starting a dialogue to get a sense of the true issue, without prying of course.  Also a lower stress, less demanding job could be offered as an alternative.  In addition, it’s important to note times and dates and that all the correct steps have been taken in the event that an investigation commences.

This is the one area that is increasingly causing organizations to scratch their heads and wonder what their next step should be.  As we have necessarily changed the legislation to protect workers from harassment that may cause this very issue, we have also justified many false claims that have and will continue to grow.  The first thing to do in regards to an investigation is to back off and excuse everyone directly related to the organization in their involvement.  After all, it was the workplace that caused the issue, and any further negative contact could certainly make it worse.  It is imperative that a third party handles these types of workplace investigation issues.

It is crucial that a list of restrictions be obtained from the doctor treating the subject and based on this list every possible light duty or modified position needs to be offered.  Every time it is turned down or an effortless attempt is made, it too needs to be noted.  Based on this growing list, a specific strategy in how to conduct the investigation will be devised.

We recently conducted an investigation that began with a subject on stress leave.  We had the employer offer every light or modified duty to the individual that wouldn’t breach the restrictions listed according to their doctor.  It was no surprise that every time a new position was offered; a new restriction was born.  This was exactly what we wanted in this investigation, although the subject wasn’t aware, they were playing right into the plan as they were further limiting themselves from numerous everyday activities, to the point where the subject was even restricted from driving.

We then began to build the evidence. The easiest breach to prove and record was the subject driving and according to their doctor this was something the subject wasn’t fit to do.  Now unless the subject was willing to confess they were feeling better, this matter could quickly escalate to a public safety issue involving the police.  Needless to say, the threat of potential police involvement cured the subject back into mental wellness.

Although the new legislation can make things increasingly difficult in regards to the hurdles it presents, there are always ways to jump higher.


Workplace Violence in Health Care: A Whole New Level

July 24th, 2013 Comments off

The numbers below clearly illustrate the ongoing issue of workplace violence that hospital care employees deal with on a regular basis with no decline in sight.  In fact, as the population grows we are witness to further crowding in emergency rooms, which will always equate to escalated emotion.  The triage nurse is expected to determine the patient’s priority in a 2-minute visual assessment with minimal questions; and almost always their assessment is never to the satisfaction of the patient or the family of the patient.

Regardless of the patient’s social status or state of mind, the hospital will never turn anyone away. In fact, in certain situations patients will be escorted by police officers. What other industry would invite trouble chaperoned by the police?  This practice however, is diminishing as it has been decided the officer could be better utilized on the street; therefore, leaving the troubled individual for hospital staff to deal with on their own.  After all, any event in an emergency room or elsewhere in a hospital is considered to be under ‘control’.

Security officers within the healthcare industry, for the most part, are given specialized training specific to what they may encounter and the type of environment (close quarters) they will be forced to react in.  The question is; “is the training enough?”  The government is very reluctant to provide hospital security with any additional physical tools such as pepper spray, or batons.  I would argue that these additions are necessary not only to ensure the safety of the workers but everyone around them.  For example, if an irate psychotic 300lb man enters the emergency room consisting of 25 people aged 2 to 92, the situation should be dealt with in an expeditious nature.  If security is equipped with nothing more than knowledge, we risk many others getting caught in the crossfire of a long drawn out battle; not to mention the mental harm that this could cause to a child that is forced to witness the incident.  When we discuss workplace violence we think about the disgruntled employee or perhaps a conflict between two workers. This doesn’t even begin to describe the issues that the healthcare industry has to face.

The numbers below only support the argument that we should allow these capable security officers more tools to combat the overwhelming issue of workplace violence within the healthcare sector.

  • 97% of physical assaults on staff are perpetrated by patients or their family members
  • 80% of physical assaults on staff occur in patient rooms
  • 38% of physical assaults on staff occur during triage or initial assessment
  • 33% of physical assaults on staff occur while restraining or subduing patients
  • 30% of physical assaults on staff occur while performing invasive procedures
  • 23% of physical assaults on staff occur in corridors, hallways, stairs and elevators
  • 14% of physical assaults on staff occur in nursing stations
  • 1 out of 9 emergency department staff is physically assaulted every week

Source:  Emergency Nurses Association

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