For scary co-workers, trust your gut and tell your boss
by Ben Baeder
After disgruntled former Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner's murderous rampage, it's a question a lot of people are asking.
A man considered to be the father of forensic psychology said there is probably no way for rank-and-file workers to accurately identify dangerous co-workers, but that doesn't mean a worried worker shouldn't say something to a supervisor.
"The job of normal people should be to notice unusual behaviors for that person, behaviors that make you concerned about the person's stability," said Park Dietz, a Newport Beach-based psychiatrist who has testified as an expert or consulted on dozens of high-profile cases, including the Unabomber and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.
Dietz also runs Threat Assessment Group, a group that helps businesses deal with irrational, violent behavior of employees.
The FBI has created a list of warning signs of someone who might snap, much of it based on Dietz's work.
Danger signals include: threats to workers, a newly acquired fascination with weapons, and an obsession with a co-worker or boss. Alcoholism and drug use also seem to be linked to violent employees.
Workers who were recently laid off, or who are about to be laid off, also tend to be dangerous.
Christopher Dorner exhibited warning signs identified by experts, including hypersensitivity to criticism, obsession with supervisors, and, according to a manifesto he left online, a fascination with other violent events.
When employees see what they consider to be disturbing or disconcerting behavior by a co-worker, they should immediately tell a supervisor, Dietz said.
If the first boss doesn't take it seriously, tell someone else until the matter is investigated, he said.
"Shop," he said. "Keep it up until someone pays attention. "
Large and medium-size companies should have teams of people trained to assess whether an employee is dangerous, he said.
Small companies should have a risk-assessment contractor "on speed dial," he said.
Too often, Dietz said, a supervisor either calls the police or seeks a restraining order - two measures that usually don't help the situation.
Instead, managers need to sit down and carefully consider the facts and clues, Dietz said.
"They should be thoughtfully collecting information, and putting right minds together to determine whether this is a real problem," he said.
The first priority should be employee safety, the second priority should be fairness, he said.
Even if they never kill or seriously injure an employee, problem staff members can severely cut into a firm's bottom line through lost productivity and litigation costs, Dietz said.
While many companies these days have plans and procedures in place for identifying and dealing with potentially dangerous employees, that wasn't always the case.
In the 1990s the small industrial suburb of Santa Fe Springs was rocked by workplace shootings. Nine people were killed in Santa Fe Springs during four separate workplace shootings.
City officials became so concerned that they started a city-wide training program to help workers and company leaders identify problem workers and prevent violence.
Right away, company owners started contacting the city and asking for advice about potentially violent workers.
"There's no question that we had lots and lots of calls from business people who said they had a problem employee," said Fred Latham, a former Santa Fe Springs city manager who served as the city's director of public safety during the 1990s.
"In each and every instance, the employer had no idea of how best to handle the situation," Latham said.
The owners wanted to know how to identify potentially violent employees, what to do about the employee, and who to turn to for help, according to Latham.
Southern California Edison had a risk-assessment team and policy in place when employee Andre Turner in 2011 killed two supervisors at an Irwindale office building and then shot himself.
The team either missed signals or didn't get enough clues to take action, experts said.
Los Angeles County sheriff's Lt. Holly Francisco said detectives never determined why Turner snapped.
"We have nothing at all," she said. "We don't know what his motive was. "
Turner recently got in trouble for missing a deadline, but he was only verbally reprimanded.
"He was counseled about an incident, but it was very minor," Francisco said.
Nevertheless, Dietz warned that all cases have warning signs. If a worker increasingly becomes isolated, disorganized and threatening, an employee should tell a supervisor, experts say.
The supervisor should then collect information from employees and supervisors to paint a complete picture of the employee's risk.
"The fewest warning signs I've ever seen is two, and it's usually between 10 and 30," Dietz said.
From the Department of Justice
Protecting Those Who Protect Us
by Tracy Russo
When servicemembers board the plane to return to the United States from deployment overseas, their family and friends are not the only ones waiting for them. Scam artists are also busy setting up store fronts, phone lines, and websites specifically targeting servicemembers.
These consumer predators know that servicemembers have to deal with distinct pressures, such as spending extended periods of time abroad, moving to different cities multiple times, and being held to a higher standard for debt repayment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In addition, servicemembers are known for having a steady income and trying to do what is best for their families.
At the Department of Justice, we are working hard to protect consumers like you. The Civil Division's Consumer Protection Branch has made fighting fraud aimed at servicemembers and veterans a top priority. We are working internally with the department's Civil Rights Division to ensure that businesses respect the rights of servicemembers. And we are working externally with other agencies, such as the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, to identify potential fraud earlier.
We are also collaborating with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Office of Servicemember Affairs, led by Holly Petreaus, to engage in a dialogue with military leadership about how we can prevent this fraud together. And we have joined forces with federal and state prosecutors — as well as the JAG Corps — to identify scammers and bring more cases against them. In fact, we are sending resources to the JAG/legal assistance officers at bases nationwide, so they can help you get relief from consumer fraud, while providing referrals that help us bring more enforcement actions to stop that fraud.
We are committed to using all of the tools at our disposal to hold these swindlers responsible. But the best way to fight them is to deprive them of customers.
Servicemembers of each military branch have told us about their experiences, and we are dedicated to getting their message out — not just as we celebrate National Consumer Protection Week, but every week. Here are a few tips on how to protect yourself and your family:
- Be wary of up-front fees.
- The sales pitch: “I can help you access benefits, get a good rate on a loan, and make a great investment. All you need to do is pay me an up-front fee.”
- The defense: The military offers legal assistance, interest-free emergency loans and financial planning tools. Ask your military installation offices for details.
- Always find out what the total price is.
- The sales pitch: “I'll sell you this car, refrigerator, or anything else you want. Just give me a little bit of money every installment.”
- The defense: Salespeople can offer misleading information about how much something really costs once all the payments and fees are added up. If the total price is too high, take your business elsewhere.
- Don't trust promises about the future.
- The sales pitch: “Just buy the car with this higher interest rate, and I'll call you later once I get the lower interest rate for you.”
- The defense: Make sure that everyone agrees to the final terms of a deal before you hand over any money.
- Find out who you are dealing with.
- The sales pitch: “I'm a veteran of the armed forces. Sign up with my program to make sure that your family has everything they need while deployed overseas.”
- The defense: Ask your base community service office about the company or individual. You can also contact the Better Business Bureau.
If you have been the victim of a scam, we encourage you to come forward and complain. So often, financial fraud goes unreported because victims feel embarrassed or foolish. But only when you complain is it possible for you to get the help you need. And only when we know there is a problem can we and our law enforcement partners work to stop it. So, consult your military installation's legal assistance office or your state attorney general — and log your complaint at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint
With your help, we can continue to ramp up our fight against those who prey on the financial well-being of you and your families, and leave you free to focus on your invaluable work protecting the nation.
Thank you for your service.
Justice Department Announces Nearly $2 Million in Grants to Strengthen Legal Services for the Poor
Announced at Event Marking the 50th Anniversary of Gideon V. Wainwright
Attorney General Eric Holder announced today $1.8 million in new resources to improve access to criminal legal services and strengthen indigent defense across the nation. In remarks during the “50 Years Later: The Legacy of Gideon v. Wainwright” event hosted by the Department of Justice, the Attorney General emphasized the department's commitment to ensuring that all those accused of a crime, regardless of their wealth, education or class, have adequate legal representation and counsel. March 18th marks the 50th Anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, where the court unanimously ruled that even those unable to afford counsel are entitled to counsel by court appointment. At today's event, Attorney General Holder led a discussion on keeping and continuing the promise of Gideon, which included U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and former Vice President Walter Mondale, who, as Minnesota Attorney General in 1963, organized the submission of the amicus curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court with 21 state attorneys general in support of Clarence Gideon.
“Despite half a century of progress, far too many Americans still struggle to gain access to the legal assistance they need, and far too many children and adults enter our justice systems with little understanding of their rights,” said Attorney General Holder. “This is unacceptable and unworthy of a legal system that stands as an example for the world. I'm proud to say that today's Justice Department is rising to the challenge to confront the obstacles facing indigent defense providers.”
Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West also delivered remarks about reclaiming Gideon's petition at today's ceremony.
“The constitutional right to counsel is a cornerstone of our criminal justice system,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West. “It's a principle that resides at the core of our concept of equal justice under the law, to which the Department of Justice remains deeply committed. Gideon reminds us that justice is as much a journey as it is a destination -- as much a process as it is an outcome -- and that we must give equal attention to both.”
At the event, Attorney General Holder discussed the importance of the Department's Access to Justice Initiative, which he launched in 2010, to address the access to justice crisis in the criminal and civil justice system and help ensure that the justice system delivers outcomes that are fair to everyone, regardless of wealth and status. Strengthening the indigent defense system is among the Initiative's priorities.
“Fair treatment and justice are the right of everyone, no matter what their income,” said Deborah Leff, Acting Senior Counselor of the Access to Justice Initiative. “Clarence Earl Gideon won a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court for all Americans. It is now our responsibility to make sure that Gideon's promise is fulfilled.”
The following Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) initiatives were a part of today's announcement:
- $720,000 toward the upcoming grant solicitation, Answering Gideon's Call: National Assistance to Improve the Effectiveness of Right to Counsel Services, which will enable an organization to work directly with states and counties to improve their ability to provide quality representation to indigent defendants and implement innovative strategies.
- $540,000 for two new jurisdictions, chosen by BJA, from last year's Answering Gideon's Call solicitation that will improve public defender and other indigent defense systems. The two new jurisdictions will join four jurisdictions, selected last year, to receive assistance with improving the capacity of indigent defense systems and increase the knowledge base about those systems.
- $140,000 toward opportunities through BJA's National Training and Technical Assistance Center (NTTAC) that will provide technical assistance to help jurisdictions meet their constitutional obligation and provide adequate representation to indigent defendants. Additionally, these funds will support an initiative that will collect data to help determine ineffective components of criminal justice systems, and enable stakeholders, including district attorneys and judges, to join public defenders in the call for more manageable caseloads and to ensure adequate time is devoted to their clients.
The following Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) solicitation was also part of today's announcement:
- $400,000 for the Office of Justice Programs' Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention competitive solicitation, Juvenile Indigent Defense National Clearinghouse. This award will support the improvement of juvenile indigent defense by providing a broad range of activities and services to improve the overall level of systemic advocacy, improving the quality of juvenile indigent defense representation and ensuring professional and ongoing technical support to the juvenile indigent defense bar.
For more information on the DOJ's Access to Justice Initiative, which works to strengthen and improve legal services for disadvantaged groups, please visit: www.justice.gov/atj and www.justice.gov/atj/gideon