Thursday, May 5, 2011

Private Security Attitudes About The Role of Weapons in Preventing Workplace Violence II

The survey results are in...

image from

Some recent discussions at the Security Source Online discussion group at LinkedIn got me thinking there may be some detectable demographic differences between security professionals who hold strong opinions regarding the role of armed security personnel and armed citizens in reducing homicides at work, in houses of worship, or at school.

I used Survey Monkey instead of LinkedIn Polls as there are people who were inviting to participate who may not have a LinkedIn account. I do not have a premium account at Survey Monkey so I was limited to ten questions.

Private security professionals at several LinkedIn groups, the management staff of a contract guarding company, line officers at a guarding contract client site, and three security-related blogs were asked to answer a brief survey at Survey Monkey titled “Private Security Attitudes about the Role of Weapons in Preventing Workplace Violence.” Five questions were asked. Three solicited opinions on the role of weapons in preventing or responding to workplace violence. Two questions assessed the knowledge of the magnitude and nature of the problem. Then five demographic questions were asked. This was a crude instrument and a very small, self-selected sample, but there were several results I find striking.

1) Homicides at work, in church, and at school in the U.S. have reached epidemic proportions.

24 answered True (42.9%)

29 answered False (51.8%)

Three answered “Other” (05.4%)


“Epidemic is to strong a word. Worrysome is more accurate.”

“Epidemic too strong, but clearly homicides are too many”

“Don't know the data.”

2) Having armed guards on the premises will reduce the number of homicides at work, at church, or at school in the U.S.

29 replied True (51.8%)

22 replied False (39.3%)

Five replied “Other” (08.9%)


“armed and well trained”

“uniformed presence/marked vehicles could reduce”

“They will but at what expense?”

“Some armed guards would help, but not all should be armed as this is not needed.”

“I believe having armed security will help in reducing the risk factor for homicides in the workplace versus not having them.”

3) Allowing employees, members of the congregation, school staff, or adult students to carry concealed firearms will reduce the number of homicides at work, at church, or at school in the U.S.

21 said True (37.5%)

29 said False (51.8%)

Six said “Other” (10.7%)


“yes, with proper situational and firearms training”

“They will but at what expense?”

“Might decrease the number but not stop them.”

“depends upon their training”

“not sure, lets hear the evidence”

“Only professionals should carry, which train for those types of high risk workplace violence incidents.”

4) How many workplace violence murders occur each year in the U.S.?

For this question we rely on the Revisions to the 2009 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) counts (2011) published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The numbers were revised on May 4, 2011. Prior to this adjustment the number for 2009 was 521. It has since been revised to 542.

25 respondents under-estimated, 57% (10-350).

Five (11%) responded saying the number was between 500-600. 521 was the correct answer; only one respondent was precisely correct.

14 respondents over-estimated, 32% (1000-3000, and one respondent said 40,000).


“not sure”

“According to the BLS 2009 report there were 4,340 fatalities in the work place during 2009, with 521 by homicide. Although the BLS (1992 - 2009) report has shown a lessening of fatalities during this time, it should be remembered that medical science is saving ever more lives during this same time frame. To look ONLY at the # of Fatalities would be flawed. We must look at how many times someone TRIED to kill other humans in the work place, not just the # that actually died of their injuries.”


“Approximately 1,000 murders occur, however there are more than one million workplace occurrences if you include incidents that do not result in murder.”

“Not sure, but I do know its out of control”

“Dont know”



“(which includes service workers killed in robberies, police officers killed in the line of duty, etc.)”

“Don't know.”

No respondent got this and the next question right.

5) What percentage of workplace violence murders in the U.S. are committed by co-workers, former co-workers, clients, family, or friends of the victim?

For this question we take our answer from Occupational homicides by selected characteristics, 1997-2009, published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011). The correct answer is 24%.

37 said 70% (68.5%)

Six said 50% (11.1%)

Four selected the closest to the correct answer of 30% (7.4%)
Five said 10% (9.3%)

Two said “Other” (3.7%)


“Again the BLS (1992-2009) report shows that although Fatalities dropped 50% from 1992 to 2008, they have only dropped 1% from 2008 - 2009 and again the BLS report only shows fatalities.”

“Don't know.”

No respondent got this and the former question right.

A) How long have you worked in the private security field?

Less than 10 24.1% 13

10-20 31.5% 17

20-30 27.8% 15

30-40 13.0% 07

More than 40 03.7% 02

B) What is your age and gender?

52 men and four women participated in the survey.

(Analysis of ages will be presented shortly.)

C) Education 

HS or GED 13.0% 07

Two Year Degree 13.0% 07

Four Year Degree 53.7% 29

Masters 16.7% 09

Doctorate 00.0% 00

Post doctorate 00.0% 00

Other 03.7% 02

D) I am or have been a law enforcement officer and/or a member of the armed services

True 63.0% 34

False 37.0% 20

Other 00.0% 00

E) Your politics

Democrat 18.5% 10

Independent 24.1% 13

Republican 38.9% 21

Libertarian 07.4% 04

Other 11.1% 06


When asked the number of workplace violence murders committed each year in the U.S. 57% of respondents under-estimated. Only one in ten (9.6%) private security professionals correctly answered the question. 32% over-estimated the number. 15% of respondents did not know the answer.

When asked the percentage of workplace violence murders in the U.S. committed by co-workers, former co-workers, clients, family, or friends of the victim 10% of respondents underestimated. Only one in 12 (8.0%) private security professional correctly answered the question. Four out of five (83%) private security professionals over-estimated the percentage of workplace violence murders in the U.S. committed by co-workers, former co-workers, clients, family, or friends of the victim.

This has been explained by others who study the psychology of risk. We tend to overestimate the risk of encountering exotic hazards (airplane crashes) and downplay the frequency of more mundane hazards (car crashes).

Of the demographic traits collected none seemed to correlate with those in error or the few who got the right answers.


As I mentioned in the introduction, this was a crude instrument. I am also no sort of statistician.  The survey represents very small, self-selected sample. The opinions expressed are just that, opinions. But two fact-based questions were asked. The idea that self-selected private security professionals with strong opinions about the risk of workplace violence were unable to accurately describe the magnitude or nature of lethal workplace violence is striking. This may be the result of lack of access to or awareness of the available statistics. Or it may be the consequence of the very human tendency to get it wrong when we conflate our feelings about risk with actually thinking about the real numbers.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011) Revisions to the 2009 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) counts. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011) Occupational homicides by selected characteristics, 1997-2009. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from

UPDATED TO ADD: Some discussion group correspondents ignore cases that challenge what seems to be an article of faith...

"There is no time to waste as we saw in the Columbine and Virginia Tech slayings. Waiting for police response did no good to the countless victims."

Rather, as we saw at Columbine having a sheriff's deputy on site when the shooting started did the the countless victims no good. Why does everyone forget there was an armed school resource officer at Columbine that day? He exchanged gunfire with Harris without effect (his four pistol shots from 60 yards were misses), called for backup, and waited for it to arrive. Should he have been indoors instead of eating lunch in his squad car in the parking lot? Should he have entered the building to press home an attack on Dylan and Klebold? Should he have been better armed and better trained? Given that one cop with a pistol in the wrong spot was not enough to make a difference, how many appropriately armed and equipped personnel in the right spot would have been needed to stop the killing immediately?

1 comment:

  1. You provide some interesting insight based on your poll. I laud you for taking the time and putting forth the effort developing your poll and explaining the results. Although your poll is not scientific, I still find it enlightening.

    It is my opinion, based on my many years in law enforcement, as well a many years in corporate and contract security, that arming security officers will not prevent workplace shootings. I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on the subject of workplace violence, but I will lay claim to the fact that I have developed a number or workplace violence recognition and avoidance programs for the various corporations I have worked for over the last 14 years. One thing stands out with regard to workplace violence...It is better to prevent it, rather than react to it.

    My concerns with using an armed security force, especially a contract force are:
    • Many states fail to have regulatory requirements governing armed or unarmed security officers. I live in Ohio…it has none.
    • Basic training in the use of firearms is obviously paramount, but just as important is appropriate training on statutory law, as well as the use of deadly force and the ramifications attached to its use.
    • Training has to be continuous, not only regarding proficiency with using a firearm, but with the policies and laws governing use of deadly force. Most private contract companies could not afford to do this and most businesses contracting security would not pay for it.
    • The quality of officers hired from an intellectual perspective, which must include complete vetting of the officer from background to psychological testing. After all, that is generally what is required when a police officer is hired…should we expect less from an armed security officer that could take a person’s life?

    I could go on at length, but suffice it to say that many of the armed security officers in most venues throughout the United States, shouldn’t be carrying firearms.

    NYPD did a study in 2010 on ‘Active Shooter’ incidents that have occurred in the U.S., as well as a few that occurred in foreign countries. The study went back to around 1966 and included 281 incidents. Many of the incidents included in the study were workplace violence incidents. In fact one must understand the definition of workplace violence in order to understand what workplace violence really truly is, and unfortunately I have found a number of my security peers with no concept or idea of its meaning.

    Again, good job putting the information together and presenting it. If no one else appreciates your efforts, at least I do.