Stalking in the Workplace

Traditionally, prosecutors and law enforcement “react” to crimes after they are committed, such as when someone is shot, injured, or murdered. There are few methods that apply techniques to avoid further violence. The mentality is just to “wait”. We know now that there is no time to wait. We must intervene before the violence escalates. It was this mentality that made it difficult for law enforcement, prosecution, and the judiciary to address stalking cases. Initially, we were puzzled by these cases. With other cases, prosecutors have medical records, paramedic reports, photos of crime scene, photos of victim’s injuries, and independent witnesses’ testimony. However, in many stalking cases, there are no injuries so there are no pictures, no medical records or paramedic reports, and no crime scene photos. Professionals working in this field must refine their interviewing questions to ensure that they are getting sufficient “behaviors of concern” background information on the case. They must strive to gain insight on how far along the offender is on his path to acting out in a violent manner against the victim or other victims. Some states have passed laws allowing behaviors of concern/risk factors to be introduced in the case to assess the dangerousness of an offender.

So how does stalking infiltrate the workplace? When an individual terminates an intimate partner relationship, and moves out of the shared residence, the offender no longer knows where the victim lives, but often knows where they work. Work hours, location and the method in which the employee gets to work is all common knowledge. The offender continues to attempt to control the victim by calling and harassing her at work, waiting for her in the parking lot, and perhaps following her when she leaves work. Every day there are stories in the news about employees being shot at their workplaces by their former partners. Just in the last few months we have read the stories about the homicide/suicides at Excalibur Casino in Las Vegas, a salon outside Milwaukee, and the NFL football player that killed his girlfriend and mother of their baby, and then shot himself at the Kansas Chief’s stadium. A casino, a salon and a football stadium; it can happen anywhere.

Ask yourself. Are you prepared? Do you have a comprehensive workplace violence policy that conforms with the recommendations from the FBI, ASIS, SHRM, and the American Bar Association? Do you have a threat management team that is specifically trained on risk assessment and stalking in intimate partner violence cases? Are you creating a culture where your employees feel comfortable divulging information about their unhealthy and possibly dangerous relationships?

Just like homeland security’s motto, “If you see something, say something,” our employees know who the possible threats are to our organizations. Make absolutely certain that they are communicating that information to your security personnel. It’s the most critical first step in ANY prevention program.