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Public Safety Column
The IPSA's Public Safety Column is an opportunity for our members and corporate sponsors to provide thought leadership articles about all topics facing public safety.
The articles we publish are not necessarily the views of the IPSA, rather they are opinions shared by each contributor.
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By Joseph “Paul” Manley, Lieutenant, Nahant Police Department
Certain words or phrases can be verbal indicators of deception. The presence of one or two of these indicators is not necessarily a sign of deception, but a good interviewer should treat them as cues to probe further. Investigators must always look for clusters of verbal indicators and treat them as markers for where to insert more probing questions.
Stalling tactics, such as asking the investigator to repeat the question, provides additional time for deceivers to think of an appropriate answer. Some stalling phrases include:
Deceivers typically ask investigators to repeat questions without realizing that honest conversations do not require the restatement of questions.
Distraction techniques can be easy to spot and are crucial to note. These can take place in a variety of forms. For example, asking for directions in the middle of questioning, asking for advice on places to stay in the area, showing great interest in your work as well as complimenting you on your uniform and profession. It’s important to be aware of distraction techniques that can divert your attention from your original purpose.
Trust anchors are statements or expressions offered by the potential deceiver to try to convince you that they are worthy of trust. They may even seem out of place or offered for no reason. It is typically because they don’t believe they have convinced you yet. Below are some commonly used statements:
These types of statements are often used as part of an effort to deceive.
Pitch changes or mumbling
Pay close attention to the rise and fall in pitch or tone of someone’s voice if you suspect they are telling you a lie. It is common for a liar’s voice pitch to change when they are speaking something deceitful. There are a few reasons for this change in pitch. For example, anxiety and nervousness cause a change in voice pitch. A change in voice pitch may be used to add emphasis on certain words to make it sound more believable. Voice pitch changes can be used as a distracting method.
One of the best ways to detect untruthfulness is to discover when what someone is saying and doing doesn’t match up. For example, a person may state, “Yes, everything is fine,” but they are shaking their head no. It is normal to forget or morph certain aspects of a story when it is retold, but obvious consistent changes are a red flag that the story may be fabricated.
Just having read this article, your behavioral awareness has increased. This means that your chances of spotting these warning signs have improved. Use this information wisely and be vigilant for those who may seek to manipulate you or do you harm.
About the Author
Lt. Manley is a 30+ year law enforcement professional and adjunct faculty member at North Shore Community College in Danvers, MA. Paul is the Founder of Risk Mitigation Technologies, LLC and currently serves as the Executive Officer for the Nahant Massachusetts Police Department. Paul has a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Anna Maria College, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from American International College. Paul is proud and honored to serve on the IPSA Memorial Committee.
By Rick Bates, retired police lieutenant and Professional Services Representative with Lexipol, an Official IPSA Corporate Supporter
“Congress shall make no law … abridging freedom of speech.”
This quotation is from the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights. And while it seems straightforward, consider the words of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, thought by many to be one of the finest jurists of all time. In the 1892 case of McAuliffe v. City of New Bedford, Holmes wrote that with regard to a police officer’s First Amendment rights, he “may have a constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be a policeman.”
How do we reconcile these two statements? The answer lies in the dichotomy of the government as a sovereign versus the government as an employer. The sovereign’s ability to regulate content is subject to the highest level of judicial scrutiny, requiring a compelling government interest to regulate the speech (which is rarely found). The government as employer, however, may regulate the time, place and manner of speech, and thus be subject to a lower level of judicial scrutiny. In such cases, the forum is a factor. As you will see, the judicial pendulum has swung back and forth based upon our social norms at the time.
You might be asking yourself, how does the “speech” of a public-sector employee become an issue that winds its way all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court? The quotations are added because speech can take on many forms, from oral assertions to written words to political and other associations, all as ferreted out by voluminous case law.
The answer to how speech makes its way to the Supreme Court starts when a public-sector employee—a police officer, firefighter, corrections officer or a teacher, for example—speaks in a manner that offends his/her employer. As a result, the employer takes an adverse employment decision, usually some form of discipline (a suspension, termination, demotion or lack of promotion). And the employee sues, averring that the employer abridged his/her constitutional right to free speech.
For over a half-century, Justice Holmes’ assertion that public-sector employees had no First Amendment rights was classic authority in the United States. This analysis lent itself to the master/servant relationship that prevailed at the time: Public employment was a privilege bestowed by the sovereign, and therefore not a right protected by the Bill of Rights.
The U.S. Supreme Court followed Justice Holmes’ lead in 1947 in United Public Workers of America v. Mitchell, upholding the terminating of a federal employee for violation of the Hatch Act, which regulated political activity by federal employees. The pendulum then, starts at the right.
Due process and the Pickering Test
Things began to change with the emergence of the Due Process Era of the 1960s. Courts began to see the First Amendment as affording limited constitutional protection to certain speech by public-sector employees. In Pickering v. Board of Education (1968), the U.S. Supreme Court decided that public-sector employees did not totally relinquish their First Amendment rights at the door. The pendulum swung to the left.
However, while Pickering recognized that public-sector employees had First Amendment rights, it did not rule that such rights were absolute. Rather, it adopted the rather nebulous “Pickering Test.” The test has two parts:
The government interests often espoused in these cases fall into two broad categories:
The pendulum swings again: Garcetti v. Ceballos
After this paradigm had been established for public employee speech, the pendulum swung back again in the 2006 seminal case of Garcetti v. Ceballos. A supervising District Attorney had drafted an internal memorandum questioning the veracity of an affidavit in support of a search warrant. When his concerns were not taken seriously, he testified for the defense. And when he was subsequently transferred and passed up for promotion, the DA sued, avowing his First Amendment rights had been violated.
The court decided the Pickering test was inapplicable to “on-duty” speech and ruled, “When public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, they are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline.” The Court stated that the public employees’ rights can be adequately protected by whistleblower statutes. However, those statutes vary widely across the country and can be limited in their protection.
Courts have since struggled with this onerous decision and a few cases have begun to whittle away at the black-letter ruling espoused in Garcetti, but it is still the law today.
On or off-duty
The result of Garcetti is that the public employment free speech analysis must be bifurcated: Was the speech on-duty or off-duty? If the speech owes its existence to the public employee’s employment, then Garcetti controls and the employee is afforded no constitutional protection (aside from the limited protections afforded in any applicable whistleblower statutes). If the speech is off-duty, and not made pursuant to the employee’s official duties, then the two-pronged Pickering Test applies. In such cases, the ruling normally balances the employee’s interest in public speech versus the government employer’s interest in regulating that speech.
It is in this off-duty arena where litigation often arises. We’ve already established that public-sector employees are afforded limited constitutional protection if they’re speaking on a matter of public concern. However, the courts have continually recognized that the effectiveness of government entities may be undermined even when the speech touches on a matter of public concern. This is even more prevalent in law enforcement. In Breuer v. Hart, the court ruled law enforcement employers have a heightened interest in maintaining discipline and harmony in the workplace and in fostering a positive relationship with other agencies and the public, stating that there is an “urgent need for close teamwork among those involved in the ‘high stakes’ field of law enforcement.”
And that brings us to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals 2002 case of Pappas v. Giuliani. The court upheld the termination of a police officer for anonymously disseminating racially offensive material, citing McAuliffe in its opinion. The Court wrote:
“The effectiveness of a city’s police department depends importantly on the respect and trust of the community and on the perception in the community that it enforces the law fairly, even-handedly, and without bias … If the police department treats a segment of the population of any race, religion, gender, national origin, or sexual preference, etc., with contempt, so that the particular minority comes to regard the police as oppressor rather than protector, respect for law enforcement is eroded and the ability of the police to do its work in that community is impaired. Members of the minority will be less likely to report crimes, to offer testimony as witnesses, and to rely on the police for their protection. When the police make arrests in that community, its members are likely to assume that the arrests are the product of bias, rather than well-founded, protective law enforcement. And the department’s ability to recruit and train personnel from the community will be damaged.”
(Firefighters and other public-sector employees, don’t think you’re off the hook because this decision pertained to law enforcement. Pappas was cited in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals case of Locurto v. Giuliani in upholding the termination of firefighters who had been riding on a racially offensive float in a city parade.)
Furthermore, in Phillips v. Pamplico the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, citing the U.S. Supreme Court in Rankin v. McPherson, upheld the termination of a police chief for criticizing his town council, writing that “a public employee who has a confidential, policy making, or public contact role and speaks out in a manner that interferes with or undermines the operation of the agency, its mission, or its public confidence, enjoys substantially less First Amendment protection than does a lower level employee.”
Free speech meets social media
So why is the public sector free speech analysis so important and relevant today? Because of the social media explosion! From Facebook to Twitter to Instagram—and in whatever forum going forward—off-duty public sector employees have a false sense of security that they can hide behind their keyboards and will be afforded constitutional protection from adverse employment action when they post offensive content.
The country is littered with ex-public-sector employees who thought they could post whatever content they wanted on the internet without ramification, only to find out their employer did not feel the same way. These employees then run the First Amendment protection up the flagpole, only to find it is not there to protect them—because the government’s interest (as an employer) in regulating their speech outweighed their interests in that free speech.
Did Justice Holmes have a crystal ball? In 1892 he declared public-sector employees had little, if any, constitutional protection for their “speech.” Today, social media and the internet have vastly complicated the forms of speech we engage in. But in terms of constitutional protection for that speech, the pendulum has swung right back to where it started.
Rick Bates is a Professional Services Representative for Lexipol. He retired as a lieutenant after a 32-year career with the Worcester (MA) Police Department, serving as a risk manager, accreditation manager, academy director, legal advisor, internal investigator, detective and patrol officer during his time with the department. Rick lectures frequently on risk management for law enforcement, police supervisory liability, and First Amendment and free speech issues for police. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Anna Maria College and his Juris Doctor from New England School of Law. Rick is a 2012 graduate of the FBI National Academy Session 249 and graduated from the Massachusetts Police Leadership Institute.
By Tom Joyce with Vigilant Solutions, an Official IPSA Corporate Supporter
Whether it’s Pew or Gallup, there are reports of anywhere from 270 to 310 million guns in the U.S. And with the recent massacre in Las Vegas, the worst shooting in U.S. history, gun ownership and gun access have become main topics of conversation again.
When it comes to gun violence, Chicago bears the brunt of it. It seems that every Monday, the Windy City’s weekend violence stats make national news. Chicago’s raw numbers are the largest in the country for violence. But, where is the mention of the 17 other cities, that have a higher per capita homicide rate or the 10 other cities that have higher per capita non-fatal shootings?
The violence in this U.S. is disturbing. Having worked as a police officer and ultimately as a homicide investigator from the 1980s until the 2000s, I was constantly dismayed at the senseless loss of life. New York City has done a remarkable job of not only keeping violence under control, but continuously driving the violent crime statistics to incredible lows. So, what can these other cities learn from NYPD?
The Centers for Disease Control reports that seven children (under the age of 19) die every day from gun violence. With these statistics by the CDC, that means that in any given week, 49 children die from gun violence. In a month, the number increases to 196, and in a year, we lose an average of 2,352 children to gun violence.
Something, needs to be done to save innocent lives. And, it starts when you have the right strategies and tools at your disposal.
Cities need better strategies to support the men and women who attempt to prevent and ultimately investigate violent crimes. And for tools, technology is a necessary complement to smart people and processes. Staying vigilant is important when keeping communities safe.
At the recent International Association of Crime Analysts annual conference, keynote speaker NYPD Chief Dermot Shea spoke about precision policing, a concept which focuses on the small amount of people responsible for the disproportionately high amount of crime.
Chief Shea also spoke of targeting organized narcotics gangs and violent serial offenders, and how in those investigations, you shouldn’t leave any stone unturned. That includes the highly valuable practice of connecting gun crimes based on forensic evidence left behind in the form of ballistic evidence. He begged the attendees to not “kick shell casings down the sewer,” and to focus on connecting the shots.
Tom is a retired member of the NYPD in the rank of Lieutenant Commander of Detectives. He commanded the NYPD Cold Case Squad upon his retirement and additionally held many other roles within the detective and organized crime bureaus. Prior to working with Vigilant Solutions, Tom was the Director of Law Enforcement Market Planning for LexisNexis Government Services. Tom often lectures on various subject matters relating to Homicide Investigations and has published numerous articles on criminal investigations. Tom is currently a member of the International Homicide Investigators Association’s Advisory Board.
Webinar: Why Law Enforcement Agencies Need to Connect the Shots with BallisticSearch™
By Kassondra O’Hara, Communications Training Officer, Troy Police Department
One area that often receives little attention in the communications field is that of recruiting new employees. The 911 communications center profession is often overlooked and misunderstood by the general public, and recruitment is a powerful tool that can be leveraged to explain what the job entails.
Due to the number of specialized skills that communications center employees are required to have by the completion of their training period, it is almost impossible to find the needed number of applicants when you are reliant on them finding you and your agency. Implementing a realistic recruitment campaign will ensure that all applicants get an accurate picture of what the daily life is like in the communications center.
Transparency during recruitment
Issues such as stress, overtime, shift work and the physical effects of the job should be described thoroughly and honestly so that the potential recruit can make a sound decision on whether this is truly the career they wish to pursue. Communications centers are often guilty of sugar-coating the stressors in front of new employees and this can back-fire when they eventually realize that this is not what they signed up for. Prospective employees are more likely to be receptive to training and will be better mentally prepared if they are given the full description up front.
All recruiting campaigns should include the center’s current employees one way or another. Let current employees know the center is actively recruiting, ask them to refer candidates and tell them that potential applicants may want to meet with them and also observe them in action. In addition to allowing potential employees to be able to meet and speak to current employees, giving them a better idea of what to expect, this also helps to improve morale within the center.
Employees enjoy the opportunity to help in making decisions and being a part of the progression of their center. Recruitment can take place at job fairs, open houses, community events, social media, college and high school campuses, and even from current employees’ everyday contact with people who may be interested in our line of work.
Dedicating extra time to finding quality employees will pay off in the long run as there is less of a chance that that time will be spent later in replacing an employee who was a poor hiring position.
Scheduling new, current employees
Depending on the extent of unfilled positions in any given communications center, scheduling may have to be reevaluated to make sure that all shifts are covered with the mandatory amount of people. Just keep in mind that while overtime is expected in our profession, employees need days off, scheduled and for emergencies. This may require a change in shift hours such as eight-hour shifts to 10-hour shifts. Or it may include rotating shifts, changes in off days, rotating off days or transferring of shifts.
Before making any changes in scheduling, the pros and cons need to be assessed and the communications center supervisor needs to be prepared for some push-back or dissatisfaction among employees. Making scheduling changes is often something that causes employees to be discouraged as some may be on their preferred shift or have their preferred days off. It may also affect an individual’s family life (e.g. child care options) and even cause short-term physical stress (e.g. shift in sleep patterns).
Unfortunately, any significant scheduling changes will disappoint employees. Therefore, all communications center supervisors must keep each employee’s preferences in mind and communicate the reasons and expected time frames for the change. The more communication that takes place and the more opinions that current employees can express will increase the chances of a smooth transition to a more conducive schedule.
Overall, communications center supervisors must realize that while they are in overall control of how a center operates, that they must work with their current employees as an inclusive team to ensure that operations run smoothly.
Without the cooperation and respect of those that they oversee, everything that a manager attempts to accomplish will be in vain. As more attention is brought to the emotional, mental and physical health of those in the emergency communications field, hopefully we will soon be on the road to making the constant understaffing of centers a thing of the past.
How 911 communications center supervisors can prevent employee burnout and improve morale
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Kassondra O’Hara is an Emergency Communications Operator at the Troy Police Department in Troy, AL and has served since 2006. She has functioned as a Communications Training Officer since 2010. She has recently become certified to train regionally through APCO and is currently serving on the IPSA Communications Committee.
For anyone who has worked in an emergency communications center for any length of time, it is generally understood that overtime, shift work, working holidays and weekends and dealing with periods of short staffing is a way of life. Even during the rare moments that a center is fully staffed, the long hours, call-ins and time away from family can be stressful to even the most dedicated of employees. This stress often results in low morale, burnout and health problems.
What about when the dreaded term “understaffed” is being used to describe your agency? In an age where it seems like communication centers across the country are continuously understaffed, the need for trainable personnel who meet the high standards of the job and the retention of current employees is on the top of every center manager’s list. What can communication center supervisors do to effectively operate a center that does not have the needed personnel in an already stressful environment?
Communication center supervisors need to make it a priority to prevent burnout. Preventing burnout will improve morale and ultimately deter more unfilled positions in the future.
The first step in preventing burnout is examining and recognizing the causes. Burnout is a physical and emotional breakdown of an employee that over time can result in pessimism and detachment. Common indicators include:
Educating employees on what they can do personally to prevent overstress and burnout is extremely important. Giving each dispatcher or call-taker the power to take control of their own professional path is one of the most ideal ways that a manager can help their employees.
Simple things such as reminding them that each call is different and that citizens may be concerned over things that we do not deem as important is one way to help them to continue to identify with callers and prevent emotional numbness. Allowing employees to put forth ideas and opinions that includes them in the center’s decision-making processes often gives them a feeling of being included and needed.
Over time, this will essentially boost the morale of the center. Including all levels of dispatch staff is generally the most effective. Committing time, necessary resources and encouraging positivity throughout the center are significant steps in decreasing burnout and increasing morale.
Speaking of raising morale throughout the communications center, this is honestly the easiest way to reduce turnover and increase employee retention and productivity. Being short staffed is enough to discourage current employees as they realize that it will at least temporarily increase their already overwhelming hours and duties. Managers need to keep in mind that bad attitudes and low morale are highly contagious.
The first step is self-reflection and improvement if necessary. A positive attitude starts at the top and will hopefully spread center-wide. By starting with themselves, communications center supervisors can positively influence and become role models for those under their command. Encouraging employees to take an active role in rediscovering their passion for the job is one of the most imperative aspects of being a communications center supervisor.
The second step is to identify the reasons for low morale. Employees are the best people to shed light on these as they are the ones being affected. What are some of their ideas that would help to increase positivity in their center? Increases in pay, incentive programs, predictable fairness, activities outside the center, access to relevant training and progressive, expected discipline are often complaints heard by many managers. Active listening, communication, and preparedness and willingness to lead are also traits that inspire employees.
Recognition for a job well done is inherently craved by most humans, professional or otherwise. Focusing only on discipline and corrections when something is done incorrectly is the number one way to lower morale amongst employees and create a negative atmosphere in your center.
Picking out incidents that are handled very well, recognizing those employees who consistently go above and beyond their normal duties and/or commending that call-taker or dispatcher who did a phenomenal job on that major call that came in yesterday are ways to make sure that the majority of your employees strive for excellence rather than just doing what they have to in order to avoid reprimand.
Improving morale is one issue while sustaining that morale is a whole other beast. A good manager must strive to continuously take notice of their employees, recognize trends within the center that may indicate a lack of motivation, and most of all, listen.
Listening to current employees’ concerns and opinions and working to compromise or adjust when a problem presents itself is not only a manager’s responsibility, but should be their desire if they wish to be a manager of a center with a consistently high morale and productive work ethic.
By Group Mobile, an Official IPSA Supporter
First responders rely on today’s technologies. The latest hardware and software are allowing them to do their jobs more efficiently than in previous years, however, this efficiency is becoming a dependency. It is ingrained in civilians to call on first responders when crisis occurs. They're the first line of defense. Often unaware of what's going on behind the scenes, civilians expect responders to arrive quickly, take charge and work seamlessly together to resolve the situation.
When public safety systems are brought into the Internet of Things, sensors and signals push relevant information to dispatchers and fellow mobile responders so that everyone in the field can respond quickly and appropriately. To harness the power of IoT, in-vehicle connectivity is crucial. In-vehicle connectivity enables the functionality for a wide variety of first response-specific applications on multiple wireless devices. Rugged routers and mobile gateways achieve this connectivity by supporting machine-to-machine communications and connected devices.
Though agencies can expect to see extensive benefits from these devices, here is a run-down of applications most commonly used in the field. Here’s what to expect from rugged mobile gateways and routers.
Consolidated, reliable connectivity
Harsh mobile environments, where first responders are often needed, are a breeding ground for lost connectivity. Not only are obstacles like this potentially life threatening, but there usually isn't a quick fix for handling them. For instance, with consumer grade routers, the management platforms make it impossible to locate the source of the issue remotely. This means emergency vehicles are forced to go back to the station to resolve the error.
Mobile gateways and routers address this problem by providing a multi-network solution, connecting to multiple networks, switching between them in sub-second timeframes. This also leads to less modems and antennas, providing connectivity for wired ethernet, USB, and serial in-vehicle devices. Various configurations are often available for different application environments.
Safe, fast communication
The consolidated connectivity from gateways and routers also delivers secure and fast communication for dispatchers, IT teams and first responders. The 3G network often available with consumer routers causes in-vehicle application to function poorly. This increases downtime and reduces productivity. The number of networks suitable for rugged mobile gateways and routers, however, utilize IoT to also enable scalability. Not only does this improve communication in ways impossible without, but it also dramatically increases downlink speed, meaning teams have fast access to real-time data and mission critical applications, like federal criminal records and pertinent incident location data.
This improved communication is at the core of empowering first response teams to make the best decisions based off real-time information.
First responders leverage an assortment of technologies to improve functionality and efficiency, such as body-worn cameras, license plate recognition and Bluetooth that provide geolocation capabilities. When all these technologies run through one source of connectivity, triggers send messages to nearby responders and dispatchers, ultimately creating a clear timeline of events.
Such connectivity makes it possible for dispatchers and team leads to manage rather than just track. If a police officer pulls over a speeding car, for instance, the Bluetooth in his badge will send a message to dispatchers when the officer leaves the patrol vehicle and approaches the pulled over car. Such messages put nearby responders on alert for potential triggers prompting back up. This allows emergency personnel to assist one another without the officer in need of assistance stopping what they're doing and verbally alerting those nearby.
In-vehicle mobile gateways and routers require ruggedness. They need to be built and designed to endure temperature changes, exposure to dust and sand, as well as shaking and vibrations. Improved connectivity can only perform as well as the hardware enabling it. Rugged mobile gateways and routers ensure the durability to withstand hazardous environments commonly associated with locations experiencing crisis.
Utilizing rugged mobile gateways, routers
Agencies can install routers and gateways in emergency vehicles to provide new tools for their teams to focus on the situation at hand, know when to aide nearby responders and reflect on a clear timeline after the fact. Increased connectivity, advanced communication, access to real-time data and the durability to withstand hazardous environments set rugged mobile gateways and routers apart from commercial routers.
Group Mobile works closely with Sierra Wireless to offer the world a comprehensive offering of hardware, software and services for connected devices and machine-to-machine communications. Together, Group Mobile and Sierra Wireless provide innovative, reliable and high performing solutions. Group Mobile’s team of industry experts can assist you in selecting, designing and implementing a multi-network environment for mission-critical fleets, request a free personalized quote. Group Mobile is an official IPSA Supporter.
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By Columbia Southern University, an Official IPSA Supporter
The importance of earning a university degree, whether it is an associate, bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate, cannot be underestimated. Aside from looking great on a resume, a degree enhances a person’s life on so many levels. Particularly when the degree is in a field that an individual seeks a career in or wants for advancement.
This applies directly to those seeking a position or advancement in emergency medical services administration. As a behind-the-scenes field for emergency medical services, EMSA is key to the management, planning, organizing and improving of emergency medical services. A degree in EMSA educates a student on the business aspects of emergency medical services and leadership skills to help direct and assign services, both in urgent and routine situations.
Hera are five things an EMSA degree do for you.
Columbia Southern University is one of the nation’s pioneer online universities. It was established in 1993 to provide an alternative to the traditional university experience. CSU offers online associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees such as business administration, criminal justice, fire administration and occupational safety and health. Visit ColumbiaSouthern.edu or call (877) 347-6050 to learn more.
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By Jennifer Brust, Senior Product Manager, Lexipol, an Official IPSA Corporate Supporter
In September 2017, fire service leaders came together for what could arguably be called the most important conference of the year. And yet, it had no hands-on training, no huge exhibit area where companies advertised their wares, and there were no bands marching through the streets.
But what was discussed over those two days has the potential to save many firefighter lives.
If you haven’t guessed it already, the event was the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Symposium in Phoenix. Sponsored by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the event featured dedicated men and women from the fire service, academia and allied organizations sharing their expertise, research and personal stories for the common mission to reduce firefighter risk of occupational cancer.
Reducing the risk of cancer
As one of over 500 attendees, I was anxious to hear the latest research and how it could be applied to create definitive risk-reduction solutions. What did I learn? There is tremendous research going on to get to some solutions, but there are a lot of unknowns and no silver bullet. There are, however, real actions that firefighters and fire departments can take now to reduce their risk. Below are 10 key takeaways:
Continuing research on safety
In the next few years, as more research is conducted, we can expect to see more information regarding firefighter cancer statistics, PPE cleaning procedures, effectiveness of intervention methods and more.
Just as important is the need for real compassion and support for those affected with cancer. The event highlighted ways departments can provide support and resources that individuals, families and departments can draw on.
Firefighting is a job that calls the brave and big-hearted. Now that bravery is needed to be a change agent in your organization. Have the courage to stay on air and be proud of a clean helmet. It’s not just about making it home at the end of a shift—it’s about making it home at the end of your career.
For more information about the research that was presented at the NFFF Fire Service Occupational Cancer Symposium, feel free to contact me or the NFFF. Lexipol’s Fire Policy Solutions and Daily Training Bulletin Service provides essential policies the support firefighter health and safety, including comprehensive PPE and respiratory protection policies. Contact us today for more information or to request a free demo.
Jen Brust is Lexipol’s Senior Product Manager for the Fire & EMS markets. Before joining Lexipol, she served as Senior Product Marketing Manager for Honeywell’s First Responder Products (formerly Morning Pride). Jen has a bachelor’s degrees in Chemistry from Albion College and a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Michigan Technological University.
By M.K. Palmore, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Cyber Branch, FBI San Francisco
As an executive and someone responsible for outreach on behalf of my organization, I do a ton of talking on information security matters. I also get to see a fair amount in the post-mortem analysis of some fairly interesting technical exploits. Time and again information security practitioners and the executives they work for want to know what they should be doing to protect their enterprises.
What are cyber threat actors trying to accomplish? They are trying to get to the data and information that your agency has behind a “wall” of protection that has value to you and, therefore, can be monetized by most cyber threat actors. So, all your agency has to do is protect your enterprise from attackers, right? Yes, in the simplest answer ever given, but there is more to it than that.
Back to the basics
Start with the basics to protect your agency’s enterprises – at least as a starting point. I recognize this can be misleading, as the basics or fundamentals require steady adherence to principles which require qualified teams to take a systematic approach to keeping an enterprise safe from would be attackers. But, if you are great at the basics or fundamentals your agency will be in better shape than most.
In today’s market, there’s no shortage of vendor tools promising the end to your security nightmares. Some of those tools are great and likely will do some of what they promise, while others can be a fancy visual showing of an already confusing landscape.
Understanding risk management
The problem is that some practitioners and most executives have no idea what enterprise protection looks and feels like. Let’s assume your agency just approved an increase in the InfoSec budget and the CISO has promised the implementation of several controls and solutions and maybe even an event management tool to protect your enterprise. That’s all you need to do, right? While most business operations have straightforward metrics taught at every business school that shows you exactly how to calculate ROI for an investment, information security managers have various tools and templates that show a similar value; however, the problem arises in communicating these results to the c-suite.
Information security is about enterprise risk management. Most organizations have hundreds, or even thousands, of security events and probably tens/hundreds of actual security incidents all of which require some level of adherence to the incident response model (prepare, identify, contain, eradicate, recovery and lessons learned). But how much effort needs to be applied all depends on where those risk fall on your overall enterprise risk management register.
Using proven risk methodologies, you can begin to “rack and stack” information security risks among all of your other enterprise risk issues. Your limited resources are then used to target the issues potentially causing the greatest impact and likelihood of occurrence.
Effectively communicating risk assessments
The chasm exists when security professionals are unable to effectively communicate this delta to business leaders who then provide either a complete blanket approach to addressing InfoSec issues (expecting absolute system integrity) or they tend to guard the business treasure with angst exercising the least engagement necessary hoping upon hope that nothing happens on their watch. Happiness and effectiveness lies somewhere in between.
The InfoSec triad of Confidentiality – Integrity – Availability is the foundation of all instruction in the security realm. From this triad flows security frameworks, system controls and every other fancy high-level control, approach and protocol in the security world. If you have a highly capable and mature security apparatus you are likely following the tenets of the triad and using a viable template, like the NIST framework, to structure your approach to InfoSec. If you are winging it, well you are probably doing a lot of things, some of which is helpful while other aspects are not.
When I talk about the fundamentals, I’m speaking of these five areas when engaged and practiced allow you the greatest ROI (not an exhaustive list):
Let’s encapsulate this in a relatively decent understanding of the cyber threat landscape and you are off to the races. If you can get to a point where these fundamentals become second nature, you will be better situated than most.
Back to the premise of this piece, I believe practitioners lose sight of the fundamentals because there’s too much noise and not enough signal on the landscape. Because of the sheer increase in our reliance on tech and all things it brings; frankly there’s just too much information coming at those expected to protect these environments. We must learn to focus on the fundamentals because it’s a darn good starting point.
M.K. Palmore, CISSP, is a Senior Federal Law Enforcement Executive and has strong leadership and mentoring skills responsible for cybersecurity, risk management and strategic-vision creation and implementation. His skilled competencies and areas of excellence include Cybersecurity, Enterprise Risk Management, Governance & Compliance, Information Security Program Development, Digital Forensics, InfoSec Incident Response & Management, Physical Security, Executive-Protection, Crisis Response & Management, Business Continuity and Disaster Response Planning.
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By Gregory L. Walterhouse, Bowling Green State University, IPSA Member
There is no universally accepted definition of school violence. Black’s Law Dictionary defines violence as “the use of physical force usually accompanied by fury, vehemence, or outrage; especially physical force unlawfully exercised with the intent to harm.” Arrowood however advocates for an expanded definition to include any acts which might harm an individual physically, psychological or emotionally.
The Safe School Initiative Final Report found that there is no accurate or useful “profile” of students who engage in targeted school violence. And, psychologist James Garbarino of Loyola University says there is no single cause that is deterministic of criminal violence, but an accumulation of risk factors. There have been numerous studies conducted on the risk factors for individuals who have a potential to commit school violence. The purpose of this research is to synthesize the findings of these various studies in an attempt to draw an inference as to whether troubled family relationships are the genesis for these risk factors.
An overview of violence
A number of factors have been identified for individuals most at risk for committing violence. Studies have shown that males are more prone to violent behavior than females with 90 percent of deaths on school campuses the result of male perpetrators. And, shootings are frequently perpetrated by white males according to Muschert. Age is also a factor with PBS reporting the average age of school avengers being 16.
Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General classifies violent behavior that begins before puberty as early trajectory and violent behavior that begins during adolescence as late trajectory. The report indicates that children who display violent behavior before the age of 13 typically commit a greater number of crimes, commit crime for a longer period of time, and commit more violent crimes. This is consistent with the developmental pathway reported by Verlinden, et. al. where progression from minor delinquent acts progress to more serious ones with serious interpersonal violent acts being the final set of behaviors.
The Surgeon General’s report identifies a number of risk factors for violent behavior. The most powerful early risk factors are involvement in general criminal offenses and abuse of drugs, alcohol and tobacco before the age of 12. Other individual risk factors that have smaller effects are psychological conditions including hyperactivity, low attention and impulsiveness though some researchers have questioned the effect of attention-deficit hyperactivity activity disorder on violent behavior. However, Verlinden, et. al. report that overall there appears to be a positive relationship between hyperactivity, concentration and attention problems, impulsivity and risk taking with violent behavior.
Though the Surgeon General’s report indicates there are no strong risk factors from the family domain, low socio-economic status/poverty, and anti-social parents are moderate risk factors. Other studies indicate family neglect or abuse may be a factor according to Muschert. And, lack of parental supervision and troubled family relationships have been found to be strong predictors of violence in children. This is not surprising as unsupervised children have a tendency to associate with deviant peers resulting in antisocial activities including violence and substance abuse. Verlinden et. al report that several studies have found a positive relationship between associations with a deviant peer group in adolescence and later violence. This is particularly relevant as some case studies reveal involvement by pairs of individuals.
According to Louis Schlesinger, professor of forensic psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice mass killers tend to be aggrieved, hurt, clinically depressed, socially isolated and paranoid. The paranoia is a special kind with the tendency to blame everyone else for their troubles and believe that life is unfair and the world is against them. This is consistent with a study reported by Muschert that perpetrator motivation for mass shootings is to exact revenge on the community with perpetrators equating their target schools as an attack on the community. In other words, according to Rocque, it is the statement made with violence and not exacting revenge on particular people.
As reported by Muschert, perpetrators are often the subject of bullying, romantic rejection and social marginalization. And, Rocque indicates mental illness is also a characteristic of school rampage shooters but these characteristics are similar to common characteristics of other violent juvenile offenders. Perpetrators are mostly male and feel victimized.
Studies indicate that perhaps most perpetrators of mass violence suffer from severe depression. In their study of nine incidents of multi-victim homicide, Verlinden et. al. found that most subjects of their study had displayed uncontrolled anger, depression, threats of violence and blamed others for their problems. Though studies have revealed that mental illness is rarely recognized prior to shootings, Rocque reports that many are diagnosed after the fact. These diagnoses and findings are instructive.
Perpetrators are often suicidal. The Safe School Initiative Report examined 31 cases with 41 shooters and found that 75 percent of the perpetrators were suicidal. The report also found that most attackers had difficulty coping with significant losses or personal failures, and many attackers felt bullied, persecuted or injured by others which is consistent with the findings of Professor Schlesinger. Davis reports that many school shooters underwent prior counseling for depression, impulsivity and anti-social behavior. In a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health researchers found that childhood abuse increased the lifetime risk for depression. Researchers also found that neglect, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the substantiated cases of child maltreatment, increased the risk for current depression.
As reported by Cincinnati Children’s, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and prolonged stressful life events such as bullying and relationship issues are all risk factors for suicide. The Center for Disease Control also report research findings that youth who are victims of bullying or who have bullied others are at the highest risk of anxiety, depression and thinking about suicide. Though many perpetrators of mass violence are suicidal, they often cannot bring themselves to commit suicide or desire to make a spectacle of the event. Anthony Preti has labeled this “suicide with hostile intent”.
Langman examined ten shooters and categorized the youths as traumatized (3), psychotic (5), and psychopathic (2). However, Langman states that most youths who are traumatized, psychotic or psychopathic do not commit murder. The three traumatized youth shooters all came from broken homes with parental substance abuse and criminal behavior. Broken homes have been identified as a risk factor for delinquency. They were all physically abused and two were sexually abused. Langman found two characteristics among the traumatized youth shooters that standout. First, all three had father figures who engaged in criminal behavior using firearms and second each had peer influence to commit the attack.
The five psychotic youth shooters all suffered from schizophrenia-spectrum disorder and all came from intact families with no history of abuse. None of the subjects had been prescribe anti-psychotic medication which has been identified as a risk factor. Among the psychotic subjects’ paranoia was the most common psychotic symptom. This correlates with the findings of Schlesinger. Langman also found that the psychotic subjects possessed some level of paranoid thinking including grandiose delusions, auditory hallucinations, and disorganized thoughts. The subjects also had higher functioning siblings making them feel like failures within their families. All of the psychotic shooters were the youngest siblings in their families and were misfits with obvious difference between themselves and their siblings, parents and teachers.
The two psychopathic youths were neither abused nor psychotic but exhibited narcissism, poor self-esteem, a lack of empathy and conscious as well as sadistic behavior. Verlinden reports that some studies have found a connection between narcissism, negative interpersonal feed-back and aggression. Langman reports that sadism is not a typical trait of psychopaths. Of interest, both psychopathic youth shooters had a fascination with guns, lacked empathy and were successful in recruiting followers to join them in the attacks. Psychopathic shooters in general feel no emotional connection to other humans and are unable to feel guilt or remorse according to Rocque.
Several risk factors have been identified by researchers that are suggestive that an individual may commit violence including mass violence in schools. However, no accurate or useful profile or single cause has been discovered by current research. Many of the identified strong predicators do relate to troubled family relationships including neglect, abuse, broken homes, lack of parental supervision, anti-social parents (moderate risk) and other similar troubled family relationships.
These risk factors in turn lead to other risk factors such as early trajectory consisting of violent or minor criminal behavior and substance abuse. Early trajectory most likely occurs as a result of parental neglect or a lack of parental supervision. Certain individuals may also feel inferior, persecuted or as misfits resulting from abuse and other troubled family relationships. When parental neglect is present attachment between parent and child does not develop. John Bowlby discovered through his research that a high proportion of juvenile thieves had “affectionless” characters which he believed resulted from maternal deprivation and separation and a failure to form normal attachments in childhood. This failure results in disorders of mood, behaviors and social relationships. Bowlby’s Attachment Theory may explain why many of those who commit violence often have feelings of isolation, persecution, being a misfit, lack empathy for others and are unable to feel guilt or remorse.
Researcher William Damon found that respect for rules and authority, learning to follow the social order, and developing the ability to feel empathy and guilt begins early with socialization by parents and is closely related to Attachment Theory. Neglectful and anti-social parents do not fill this need and may explain why many of those who commit violence have histories of anti-social and anti-authoritarian behavior. This may also explain those who exact revenge on the community instead of specific individuals.
Research has found that childhood abuse and neglect often lead to depression which is a condition from which many individuals who have committed school violence suffer. Depression is also closely associated with anxiety. Other research has found that depression, anxiety, substance abuse and prolonged stressful life events such as bullying and troubled relationships are all risk factors for suicide a condition found in many who have committed school violence.
Ultimately these factors can lead to an identity crisis for these individuals. Erik Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development tells us that young adults who have identity crisis tend to be isolated, afraid to have relationships with others and see others as dangerous. This could explain the feelings of rejection, marginalization, inferiority and paranoia that many of those who commit violence experience. According to Marcia these individuals are in a state of identity moratorium which is an acute state of crisis where he or she is exploring and actively searching for values to eventually call his or her own.
So, where do these individuals turn? In some cases to peers, evidenced by some acts of violence having been committed by pairs of individuals. Erikson’s Theory of Identity Crises tells us that identity confusion can lead to unhealthy and dangerous lifestyles and susceptibility to negative peer pressures. Lev Vygotsky also advocated that children learn from interaction with peers, though Vygotsky’s research focused on positive peer learning a reasonable inference can be drawn that bad behavior can be learned or reinforced by negative peer influence.
In conclusion, evidence strongly supports the hypothesis that predictors of violent behavior have their origin in troubled family relationships beginning in infancy into adolescence. These troubled relationships consisting of neglect, abuse, and lack of supervision; may result in the failure of children to form attachment, identity and development of morals consistent with social norms; resulting in isolation, anxiety, depression, suicidal tendency and violent behavior. Future research is needed to determine the extent that troubled family relationships have on those who commit school violence.
Greg Walterhouse is a full time faculty member in the Fire Administration and Masters in Public Administration programs at Bowling Green State University. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Management from Oakland University, a Master’s degree in Legal Studies from the University of Illinois and a Master’s degree in Management from Central Michigan University. Before joining BGSU he had over 35 years of experience in fire/rescue and emergency management with 18 years in upper management, including Manager of Emergency Services and Chief of the Rochester Hills (MI) Fire Department and Chief of the Mt. Pleasant (MI) Fire Department. Greg can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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