Sunday, October 30, 2011

Things We Learn at the Annual Deer Rifle Sight-In 2011

Changes I'd make if it were up to me...

Iron sights would be made of iron...not pot metal or plastic.

Every rifle or shotgun not fitted with a scope would be equipped with an aperture rear sight and a post front sight.

The owner of any gun fitted with see thru scope mounts would be detained while their rifle is fitted with a Weaver rail and medium rings.

People who have heard that red dot sights are the fasheezy would be asked to try them outside the sporting goods store or gunshop on a sunny day before parting with their hard earned cash.

No one would be allowed to purchase any scope cheaper or of lesser quality than a Redfield 2-7x ($150.00).

Red dot sights would be prohibited on 12 ga slug guns.

No one under 21 years of age would be allowed to shoot 12 ga slug guns.

Everyone under 21 shooting a 20 ga slug gun would be issued a PAST Recoil Shield.

Sons and daughters would be given their own 243 rifles instead of being expected to use their dad's 30'06 or their grandpa's open-sighted 30-30.

Young shooters would insist on having fun at the range and the adults who brought them would be pleased to listen.

Each and every Remington 74XX series rifles would be forcibly retired and replaced with Mossberg ATR bolt actions in 243.

The stock of every rifle and shotgun would be cut to the correct length of pull for its shooter and fitted with a Limbsaver recoil pad.

Even grown men would be required to try Remington Managed Recoil or Federal Low Recoil ammunition in their 30'06 rifles...just once.

Anyone insisting that a magnum cartridge is needed to hunt whitetail deer would be subjected to merciless eye rolls and wry smirks.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

More On Violence In The Workplace

As you know, I've been musing on the idea of breaking down the workplace violence data into less alarming yet more useful chunks...

I wouldn't be averse to breaking apart the categories. Doing so would help us put the different elements of the problem in better perspective, allow our profession to develop a variety of effective preventatives, and encourage firms to tailor their responses to their risks.  Let's walk through the numbers while I explain.

Using the BLS final numbers from 2009 we see that “assaults and violent acts” is the second leading cause of death in the workplace but, unbeknownst to many with strong opinions on this topic, this category includes both the 542 homicides and 263 suicides that occurred that year.

TOTAL 4,551
Transportation accidents 1,795
Assaults and violent acts 837
Contact with objects and equipment 741
Falls 645
Exposure to harmful substances or environments 404
Fires and explosions 113
Other events or exposures 16

If we break “homicide” and “suicide” out of assaults and violent acts in 2009 then homicide falls to fourth place and suicide becomes the sixth place hazard.

TOTAL 4,551
Transportation accidents 1,795
Contact with objects and equipment 741
Falls 645
Homicides 542
Exposure to harmful substances or environments 404
Suicides 263
Fires and explosions 113
Other events or exposures 16

According to the BLS between 1997-2010 75% of all workplace homicides are perpetrated by criminals, many while engaged in armed robbery (Type I). The remaining 25% are divided between clients, customers, and patients (7%); coworkers and former coworkers (10%); and family, friends, and associates (8%). Offenders in these categories are Types II, III, and IV, respectively.  If we regroup the 2009 homicides according offender types then the 124 cases of what most people think of when the phrase “workplace violence” is used (or misused) assume their proper place in relation to other workplace hazards.

TOTAL 4,551
Transportation accidents 1,795
Contact with objects and equipment 741
Falls 645
Homicides – Criminal (Type I) 407
Exposure to harmful substances or environments 404
Suicides 263
Homicides – Types II, III, and IV 124
Fires and explosions 113
Other events or exposures 16

Once broken down to this level of granularity I propose the solutions our profession needs to continue to develop at least four in number.  We could break down the homicide into the three remaining types but that does not seem to illuminate any more solutions.

A) Robbery prevention and survival training
B) Police and security officer training, equipment, and procedures
C) Suicide prevention efforts
D) Workplace violence prevention and intervention program

There is still plenty of work for security professionals (and our peers in HR, EHS, and Legal) to do in this area.  All forms of workplace violence - threats, assaults, injuries, homicides, and suicides - remain important issues to address.  We do our profession no service by using the aggregated statistics to motivate our peers, employers, or clients unless the businesses in question are enterprises with known high risk factors. Sooner or later the decision makers will catch those who rely on hyperbole to move their programs forward.


Fatal occupational injuries, comparison of 2009 preliminary and updated, selected characteristics

Using percentages from Occupational homicides by selected characteristics, 1997-2010

Photo credit: Sam Mugraby at Photos8

Monday, October 24, 2011

Half A Loaf Is Better Than None

I guess...

According to ASIS:

This Standard provides an overview of policies, processes, and protocols that organizations can adopt to help identify and prevent threatening behavior and violence affecting the workplace, and to better address and resolve threats and violence that have actually occurred. This Standard describes the personnel within organizations who typically become involved in prevention and intervention efforts; outlines a proactive organizational approach to workplace violence focused on prevention and early intervention; and proposes ways in which an organization can better detect, investigate, manage, and - whenever possible - resolve behavior that has generated concerns for workplace safety from violence. The Standard also describes the implementation of a Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention Program, and protocols for effective incident management and resolution.

I've been looking forward to the results of this collaboration so I read the standard with enthusiasm.  Having done so I've come away with half a loaf, so to speak.

The Good News:

The new ANSI national standard was put together by many of the top names in the business and does a solid job outlining a corporate response to threats and violence by coworkers and former coworkers (Type III), and family members, friends, and associates (Type IV). It emphasizes the value of a cross-disciplinary team and a broad-spectrum response when assessing and responding to threats within the business.  To the degree that this sort of violence is what most people, employers, and the news media think of when they hear the term "workplace violence" the standard is a move in the right direction.

The Bad News:

Unfortunately, the new ANSI national standard pays but the briefest of lip service to violence perpetrated by criminals – especially during robberies (Type I) or clients, customers, and patients (Type II). Violence by criminals accounts for 75% of all homicides at work. Violence by patients in health care and social services, especially in mental health setting, accounts for the bulk of injuries to employees (and until recently has long been the only category of workplace violence subject to specific OSHA regulation). By not addressing the prevention of or response to these issues in any way the new standard ignores the majority of the problem of workplace violence.

No mention of suicide:

The standard does not even mention the word, let alone examine the idea that some troubled employees end their lives at work.  The 263 suicides in 2009 represent roughly a third of all workplace deaths due to "assault and violent acts."  There are twice as many suicides at work as there are Type II, III, and IV deaths combined.  Why the silence?

I look forward to learning more about why it played out this way and if there is any hope the standard will be broadened to address all aspects of workplace violence.

UPDATE: I corresponded with a friend and peer who served on one of the standard's development committees.  He agreed Type I was left hanging, but makes a good case that Type II offenders can be addressed using this model.  When I think on it further the behaviors exhibited by many clients and customers can be a lot like Type III violence.  Still, attacks and injuries in the health care setting - especially in custodial units - remains more like Type I violence.  My friend was pleased the standard turned out as well as it did on the first pass given the size and scope of the project, three associations in the mix, strict standards criteria, hundreds of participants, and four years of development.  Fair enough.

Radical Red Potato Salad

A good friend of ours brought a delightful potato salad to Labor Day dinner...

As you might guess he's been busy at the Occupy event here in the Twin Cities, but I finally got him to toe the line, return to his desk, put his nose to the grindstone, and submit to my recipe request.  So, without further delay, here is the Eclectic Breakfast's first recipe post:

Below is the very confidential potato salad recipe. Keep it secret. Keep it safe.



- 6 medium red potatoes (better red than dead)

- 1/3 cup olive oil (liberated)

- 1 cup feta cheese (crumbled, as in "the vestiges of capitalism crumble into ruin")

- 2 tablespoons garlic powder (unless you're inviting the bourgeoisie parasite to dinner)

- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or just soured red wine, if you're a peasant)

- 2 tablespoons dill (generously)

- 1/2 cup scallion (optional, I didn't have any at the time)

- 6 diced black olives or 6 slices roasted red bellpepper (also optional, did not have any at the time, what with the war on and all)

- salt and pepper (freshly ground under a jackboot)


1. Put the potatoes in hot water and let them sweat. 18-20 minutes ought to suffice before they give in.

2. Chop, press, crumble, and otherwise "re-educate" whatever other ingredients are at hand.

3. Let the potatoes cool again. Once all that agitation is out of their systems, dice them into 3/4-inch cubes. You will find their resistance has lessened.

4. Toss the potatoes with the olive oil and add the garlic salt. Allow them to return to "room temperature," as capitalist commentators call it; we prefer to call this process "mingling with the objective conditions."

5. Add feta and the optional scallions. Drizzle with vinegar. Add dill, salt, and pepper, and toss gently, just to show it who's boss.

6. Allow to rest for at least an hour. This way, the flavors mingle and can appreciate the full extent of your mercy.

7. Add an optional garnish (yuppie poseurs only).

Enjoy - but not too much, or else we'll accuse you of not sacrificing enough to the Party. And for Engel's sake, scrape your plate, there are starving marginalized children in Africa! ... and Asia ... and Europe ... and the Americas.

Photo credit Photos8

Friday, October 21, 2011

May You Live In Interesting Times

Where do the Occupiers of Wall Street and the Tea Party hope to go?

Mark Chubb's post Economic Terrorism at Homeland Security Watch is worth a read.  The article discusses his efforts to contextualize the Occupy Wall Street movement.  In doing so Chubb expresses concern that the Geneva Center for Security Policy has a rather inclusive description of "economic terrorism."

"Contrary to 'economic warfare' which is undertaken by states against other states, 'economic terrorism' would be undertaken by transnational or non-state actors. This could entail varied, coordinated and sophisticated or massive destabilizing actions in order to disrupt the economic and financial stability of a state, a group of states or a society (such as market oriented western societies) for ideological or religious motives. These actions, if undertaken, may be violent or not. They could have either immediate effects or carry psychological effects which in turn have economic consequences."

While the GCSP is "not the boss of us," to my ears this self-serving definition sounds much more like the actions of firms on Wall Street than it does its peaceably assembled occupiers.  By the way, at first I didn't know if the GCSP had disavowed this view or merely deleted its source document from their website.  A careful reading of the 2005 original suggests they meant primarily to discuss the ability of "real" transnational terror actors to cause economic disruption, but we must be careful not to grant those in power the ability to summarily protect themselves and their cronies from we citizens.  Thank you Internet Wayback Machine.

If ever peaceful assembly, petitioning for redress of grievances, and even civil disobedience or nonviolent resistance meet the criteria of terrorism we need to take a long hard look at who is writing the definition.  As we are reminded in Dr. King's Letter From Birmingham Jail "We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was 'legal' and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was 'illegal.'"  [Godwin's Law: Score!]

Is insurrection the solution the Wall Street Occupation or the Tea Party have in mind? I don't think so, but the Guy Fawkes masks and "blood of tyrants and patriots" t-shirts worn by some teabaggers give one pause. And who precisely are graduates of the Appleseed project planning to fight?  There is always the risk that the steady drum beat of divisive and violent rhetoric will eventually entice some other Timothy McVeigh to impose his vision of action on the debate. It would certainly be nice to find a way to turn down the heat while continuing a fruitful dialogue. In the mean time Congress and Wall Street seem to be conducting business as usual.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

No Cage Match for Craig and Dawkins

Sometimes the courage of one's convictions is not enough...

Premier Christian Radio is sponsoring The Reasonable Faith Tour with William Lane Craig.  Craig will speaking and debating at seven venues in the UK this month, the 17th through the 26th of October, 2011.  The organizers made much of inviting Richard Dawkins to debate their man.  Dawkins declined for several reasons, some of them stated, others which may be inferred.  Premier has made much of Dawkins refusal to defend his version of the atheist view, even purchasing some tongue in cheek bus adverts, which will recall some atheist bus ads of years past.

Dawkins supporters have rallied round their idol in support of his nominally principled stand.

Fans of William Lane Craig (WLC) are happy to believe that Dawkin's refusal to debate their idol speaks to the weakness of the atheist position.

Truth be told, it's probably best for Dawkins that they did not meet in rhetorical combat.  Face to face, in a structured debate, locked in to a narrowly defined topic, WLC would mop the floor with Dawkins. Dawkins ought to be brave enough to admit he’s refused to meet WLC in the arena for fear of being beaten on style.  Dawkin’s might have reminded his base that he’s a scientist, not a performer.  Better to admit that WLC is a skilled debater and that the format of the debate would not allow Dawkins to attack WLC’s nasty views on genocide, misogyny, and divine command theory.

All that said, a written debate between these two figureheads, refereed by strict editors, and delivered in book format, would sell like hotcakes to both camps.

Dr. Rachie Reports

Dr. Rachael Dunlop is doing honourable battle with the forces of darkness...

Dr. Dunlop is a well-known voice of reason in the public health debate in Australia, which is experiencing an epidemic of whooping cough courtesy of anti-vax idiocy.   In 9 Vaccination Myths Busted By Science she lays out the latest science in opposition to the unreason espoused by those who wish to reverse two centuries of medical progress.  Herd immunity is the responsibility of every able member of the herd.  The death of the very weak and the very young is the alternative.  No more children need die of communicable diseases, if only the anti-vaxers would catch a case of reality.

This Is Going To Be Fun

Just as soon as it rise to the top of my reading queue...

This evening I had a few spare minutes and a Barnes & Noble gift card burning a hole in my pocket so Robert N. Bellah's Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age followed me home.I know, I know, there are many other books already on my 2011 reading list, so this may become a 2012 read, but maybe not...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

Art is Critical to the History of Our Humanity

And that history just got three times longer...

Image credit Science/AAAS

The time at which we humans began to produce art marks an important step in our evolution.  Art represents the use of symbolic communication.  Symbolic communication in turn indicates a significant change in the way we think.  Other markers for this change in our brains include language, music, dance, and religion.  Anatomically modern humans (Homo Sapiens) did not always exhibit these traits, thus we may infer they lacked the underlying neurobiology to support them.  Our current way of interpreting and interacting with the world is something that happened on the fly as our brains changed, perhaps even suddently.

This new issue of Science contains an article describing the discovery at Blombos Cave in South Africa of tools and supplies for making red ochre, one of the oldest pigments used for cave art and body painting.  Human art has been found in caves as much as 30,000 years old, but what makes this discovery important is that archaeologists date the Blombos find to 100,000 years old.  Blombos suggests we have been fully human three times longer than previously thought.

Here's the citation:

Henshilwood, C.S., F. d’Errico, K.L. van Niekerk, Y. Coquinot, Z. Jacobs, S.-E. Lauritzen, M. Menu and R. GarcĂ­a-Moreno. 2011. A 100,000-year-old ochre-processing workshop at Blombos Cave, South Africa. Science 334:219-222.

On a very cool related note: In the Rouffignac cave system in France archeologists have found evidence that some 13,000 year old finger flutes - parallel lines drawn on soft cave walls with ones fingers - were drawn by children of both genders, some as young as toddlers.  What's more the lines were too straight for kids to have done themselves suggesting adults guided their efforts.  Some markings were too high for children to have reached; they would have been lifted to let them make their mark.  Cave art is thought to have held tremendous religious significance so the idea that children were taught to cave paint by caring adults has something interesting to say about paleolithic society.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The 100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World

According to the Harvard Business Review...

NOTE: Apparently the passing of Steve Jobs caused the news accumulators to pull this article - in which everyone's favorite Apple CEO featured prominently - from the archives.  I didn't notice the January 2010 publication date until I went looking for the full text of the original.  Oops.

The HBR has a several articles describing a couple ways to measure a CEO's effectiveness.  I didn't go beyond the pay wall so I've not read the entire article, but apparently their methodology was to measure the CEOs' impact on share price and capitalization over their tenure - 4 to 16 years - instead of the financial industry's usual definition of long-term - three years.  So, if we choose to measure CEO success in terms of total shareholder return and change in market capitalization over their tenure then these are apparently the top dogs.

What would happen if these powerful leaders were measured on their companies' impact on all of humanity? How about the health effects of the products sold (one of the top 50 leads a tobacco company)?  The impact on communities adjacent to the properties being mined or drilled (several are energy companies)?   Whether or not the company operates under the protection of an oligarchic regime?  How many lobbied for protectionist exceptions to free markets and fair trade?  What role did any of them play in our recent financial meltdowns and market crashes?  How many off-shored employment or their tax liabilities?  Do their products alleviate human suffering or contribute to it?  What of employee satisfaction, wages, benefits, and working conditions?  What is the rate of work-related illnesses, injuries and fatalities at these firms?  What is the role of women and minorities in the company?  What changes in the educational, economic, and social status of their employees have they contributed to?  What of their litigation history?  What is the environmental impact of production and use of the product or service?  What is their carbon footprint?  Do they offer a closed loop waste stream?  I suspect this list might go on and on.

There are plenty of ways to measure excellence. Total shareholder return and change in market capitalization are but two.  So long as we measure success the same old way we should expect to receive the same old results.  Perhaps this effort is a step in the direction of recognizing true long term success, or at least restoring the meaning of the phrase "long term," but at first blush it seems to reinforce the legitimacy of the "What have you done for me this quarter?" hamster wheel publicly traded companies have no choice but to tread.

Minor Update: I did find a complete copy of the article and it did not differ in tone or substance from the free preview.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Proceed With Caution

When Using Powerful Terms and Important Statistics...

Security professionals are peers to many across our businesses, all the more so with those who concentrate on environmental, health, and safety. EHS Today is a popular trade journal supporting that segment of the business. As I read "Workplace Violence Claims the Lives of Two Workers Every Day” by Laura Walter in the October 2011 issue I became concerned that the headline and the text conflated terms and incorrectly applied statistics used to describe workplace violence. I sent an email to Sandy Smith, editor of EHS Today, making the following observations.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2009 there were 837 workplace fatalities resulting from "assaults and violent acts," a category which included 542 homicides and 263 suicides that year. The claim that "Workplace Violence Claims the Lives of Two Workers Every Day" is only true if we include workplace suicides. That there are half as many suicides as there are murders in the workplace is a story I have not seen examined in any trade journal, but Ms. Walter discussed only "disgruntled employees" in her piece.

Based on averages of data recorded from 1997-2010, of the 542 homicides at work in the U.S. in 2009 75% can be attributed to killings during robberies and other criminal acts. Offenders in such cases are categorized by the FBI as Type I. The remaining 25% are divided between clients and patients (7%), coworkers and former coworkers (10%), and family and friends (8%). Offenders in these categories are Types II, III, and IV, respectively.

Referring to the aggregate number while discussing only Type III homicides perpetrated by "disgruntled employees” overstates the frequency of what most American think of when they hear the term "workplace violence” by a factor of fifteen. This sort of overstatement is not unusual in news reporting, but I propose we will have an easier time addressing these important issues if the debate is not contaminated with inflammatory rhetoric.

I’ve been told by a wise peer "I don't think employees are really concerned about the [workplace violence] perpetrator's classification." I couldn't agree more, especially when the violence is in progress. I know I sound too clinical while poking and prodding at our understanding of these issues. For me the value of understanding the nature of these offenders, their needs in some cases, their motivations in others, and their methods, is to help us prepare to detect, deter, prevent, or defeat them.

I was pleased to receive a prompt and detailed reply from Sandy Smith, editor of EHS Today. Ms. Smith defended Ms. Walter's article, suggesting that the statistic was provided by Dr. Barton. That the headline came from the mouth of Dr. Barton had occurred to me, but I expect professional journalists to dig beneath authoritative pronouncements for more of the story. More importantly, Ms. Smith pointed out that the aggregated number represents a lot a tragedy, regardless how the statistics break out. With that sentiment I am in complete agreement. The 837 violent deaths at work in 2009 are well over the two deaths per day offered in the headline.

I remain concerned that we distract employees, employers, and our communities from the larger (and perhaps more tractable) problems of robbery/homicide and workplace suicide when we let the media reinforce the faulty notion that deadly violence at the hands of disgruntled coworkers is common. I have seen too many security professionals - especially those of us selling products, services, or books - misuse statistics like these to promote a response based on fear rather than sober analysis.

After such an analysis we come up with some important facts to consider. In descending order of frequency:

• Robbery/homicide is a risk to cab drivers and retail personnel, especially at night. Robbery prevention calls for facilities improvements, physical security measures, changes to business practices, and employee training. The prevention of on-duty killings of law enforcement and security personnel calls for specialized safety training and personal protective equipment unlike that provided to employees engaged in non-enforcement work.

• Suicide in the workplace suicide is an extremely complex issue that calls for attention from management, our peers in Human Resources, the Employee Assistance Program, and insurers.

• Workplace homicides perpetrated by coworkers and former coworkers; clients and patients; or family, friends, and other associates is what most people (and the news media) think of when they hear the phrase “workplace violence.” Yet, even combined, these three categories account for the smallest fraction of workplace deaths and murders. If we focus on solutions for this issue to the exclusion of others we will ignore the great majority of workplace deaths due to “assaults and violent acts.”

Here are a couple more facts to consider. First, despite the media drumbeat to the contrary, workplace homicide has been declining steadily over the past 18 years and is only 50% what it was when the BLS began tracking in 1992. Second, when we focus only on fatalities we risk losing track of the impact of 22,720 lost time injuries resulting from nonfatal assaults and violent acts. Third, workplace suicides appear to be on the rise.

Imagine the impact security and EHS professionals might have if we insist this problem be understood in its true complexity and approached as a set of issues requiring a variety of solutions applied across disciplines. We have much work to do. Let’s be certain we’re using our finite resources where they can do the most good.


Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Health Care & Social Service Workers - OSHA Publication 3148 (2004)

Homicide: Occupational homicides by selected characteristics, 1997-2010

Number and percent distribution of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work1 by event or exposure leading to injury or illness and number of days away from work, private industry, 2009

Recommendations for Workplace Violence Prevention Programs in Late-Night Retail Establishments - OSHA Publication 3153 (1998)

Revisions to the 2009 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) counts

Workplace Violence, 1993-2009 National Crime Victimization Survey and the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries

UPDATE: As of 18 October 2011 an edited version of this post has been published at the EHS Today Out Loud blog.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Workplace Violence, National and Local

I'm going to have to find something positive to post about one of these days; for now, not so much...

There was a notorious workplace violence incident in California Wednesday morning (5 October 2011) that resulted in a community-wide manhunt that ended with the death of the suspect, Shareef Allman, Thursday morning. The site of the incident - Lehigh Hanson's Permanente Cement Plant - is a landmark in the hills above the South Bay city of Cupertino. Three persons were killed, seven were wounded, and the gunman was killed by the police after a 22 hour search. I encourage you to read the details of this case as it illustrates the complexity of connecting the dots in advance of violence (it's easy to do after the incident). There was a history of domestic violence (which does not always occur in these cases).  There were comments made to family members describing inappropriate use of military-style weapons.  There were long standing grievances at work.  Pay attention also to the idea that the perpetrator deliberately blocked exit routes before he began shooting.  We will learn more over time about how many different warning signs Allman was leaking up the fatal day. 

If your coworkers, family members, or friends make statements or engage in behaviors that concern you tell your employer or local police IMMEDIATELY.

Not all such cases make the national news. Sometimes disagreements, harassment, and stalking escalate to fatal violence. It doesn't always happen, but it can happen anywhere, even in the land of "Minnesota Nice." Stephanie Jaeb Maxam, an executive at U.S. Bank, was killed by her ex-husband Monday evening (3 October 2011) in the parking lot of the Parkdale Plaza at 1660 Highway 100 South, just a few short blocks south of us in St. Louis Park, MN. The only suspect, David Maxam, was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  They were divorced in 2006.  Intimate partner violence can happen anywhere to anybody.  While it may be human nature to turn away from arguments between strangers in public places; we may be the only ones who notice and take action in time.
If you know of anyone who is struggling with intimate partner violence offer to help them reach out to organizations such as Tubman or The Hotline IMMEDIATELY.

Robert Patrick Graves shot himself in his car in front of coworkers after being terminated by his employer in the Minneapolis suburb of Burnsville, MN, Thursday 29 September 2011. Family and friends report he was struggling with depression. I wonder how many of them knew he possessed a firearm. According to the BLS while the workplace homicide rate is near an all time low, workplace suicides have never been higher. Suicide at work is also a risk factor for homicide at work. Security, safety, and HR professionals need to remain alert for signs that employees are suffering from untreated depression.

If you know anyone who is dealing with depression or other suicide risk factors help them find assistance with groups such as SAVE or IMMEDIATELY.

There was an officer-involved shooting 22 September 2011 on Highway 394 west of downtown Minneapolis.  Katherine Gordon apparently brandished a pistol during a traffic stop and was shot in self defense by a Golden Valley Police Officer.  Ms. Gordon had previously complained of delusions and had attempted to find mental health treatment on several occasions before the deadly incident.

If anyone you know is reporting command hallucinations get them to a doctor or the emergency room. If they possess a firearm do whatever it takes to secure it.  If you can't get the help they need call your county social services hotline.  Do it now and be prepared to be persistent.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Was It Angels?

Or Jeremiah Fogle's puny pistol?

The Reverend William Boss, returned to work at the Greater Faith Christian Center Church in Lakeland, Florida, last Sunday, two weeks after Jeremiah Fogle, former deacon at the church, shot him in the head while he knelt in prayer.  Doctors report the bullet from Fogle's .32 caliber (a rather small cartridge which has been more or less obsolete since the invention of penicillin) revolver failed to penetrate Boss's skull even though the shot was delivered at almost contact distance.  Boss says his surviving being shot in the head was a miracle. 

"Ain't no doubt heaven opened up; it was some angels that were faster than a bullet," Boss said to his congregation.

Too bad the angels didn't arrive in time to stop the bullet before it struck Boss in the head.  Too bad the angels didn't make Fogle miss altogether, or make his gun misfire, or make him stumble and drop it down a storm drain as he walked to the church.  Most of all, it's too bad there were no angels inclined to save Theresa Fogle when Jeremiah Fogle gunned her down in their home a block from the church.

In grimly related news: Fogle's older brother Collis is a Chaplain to the Highlands County Sheriff's Department.  One paragraph in a brief news story leapt off the page at me.

"He said he knew nothing about the circumstances around his brother's shooting another wife, Diane Fogle, at their home in July 1986. At the time, the couple lived across the street from the Rev. Fogle."

I do so look forward to learning how this Jeremiah Fogle's life got so badly out of hand, why no one seems to have seen any of it coming, and (just maybe) why being Christian had so little impact on the lives of those involved in this horrible drama.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For

While the prospect of school shootings is horrifying over-reaction is not a solution...

In his opinion piece titled Mining Student Data Could Save Lives, Lieutenant Michael Morris of the University Police at California State University-Channel Islands thinks data mining university networks is a possible preventative to a Virginia Tech sort of scenario.

My reply to The Chronicle of Higher Education reads as follows:

Dear Lt. Morris,

I am pleased your opinion piece is just that – opinion – because if it were your department’s policy your institution would have a variety of ethical, legal, and technical hurdles to surmount. Your ideas around data mining for mental health data should have been labeled with some serious yet rudimentary caveats.

“It is a form of behavioral surveillance, and it can be used to predict, with amazing accuracy, the propensity for a person's future behavior.“

Please cite the research that demonstrates the effectiveness of data mining for the prevention of workplace and school violence.

“Although university administrators may resist the idea of passive behavioral surveillance of the campus community because of privacy considerations, the truth is that society has been systematically forfeiting its rights to online privacy…”

Individuals may choose to share personal information with service providers but that does not mean all citizens (or college students) have surrendered their constitutionally guaranteed rights (1st, 4th, 5th, and 6th amendments for starters).

“…his sweating hands firmly clutched the grips of the twin Glock 22 pistols he had ordered online.”

“…shopped online for high-powered firearms…”

While it’s tempting to lead with a lurid example they are more effective absent factual errors. As you well know, while a person might shop for firearms on-line they are purchased in highly regulated face to face transactions. In the case of handguns they cannot be purchased by persons under 21 years of age. What’s more, California citizens are further protected by a state ban on high capacity magazines.

“An important distinction would have to be made between violations of the law and violations of campus policy, and established guidelines would have to be followed to ensure the student's rights to due process.”

What shall your department do with all the other contraband you encounter during this electronic dragnet? File sharing, use of bootleg software, and possession of illegal pornography all represent violations of the law. Can you, as a law enforcement officer, overlook such items in the interest of pursuing a health and safety interest? After that, how do you propose to winnow through all the false positives to get at the potentially serious cases? Finally, given that homicidal ideation rarely results in deadly action on what grounds will your department pursue investigation, corrective action, suspension, dismissal, or involuntary treatment for thought crimes?

Gratefully workplace and school shootings are very rare. When potential cases are brought to the attention of law enforcement professionals like yourself your community can count on you to make use of every lawful means to prevent harm. Please look into the many ethical, legal, and technical impediments to your current concept. Reasoned discourse on this important topic is of great value to all. Thank you for putting your opinions out there.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Armor Bearers?

There was a shooting at the Greater Faith Christian Center Church in Lakeland, Florida, last Sunday

The attacker, Jeremiah Fogle - who was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of one of his six former wives - had just murdered his seventh wife in their home.  Before killing her he apparently made her compose a lengthy confession of infidelity.  He left an open bible near the body. Fogle - who had served as a deacon in the church before having a falling out with the leadership - then walked a block to the church.  He strode into the sanctuary and opened fire.  He wounded the pastor (gravely) and assistant pastor (less so) before being wrestled to the floor and disarmed.  The men who tackled Fogle were later described as "Armor Bearers."  Seems some especially important church pastors select members of their flock to serve as armor bearers.

"What the heck is an armor bearer?" I said to myself.  Actually, I know what armor bearers were, but what has the archaic phrase got to do with a little church in Middle of Nowhere, Florida?  The term "armor bearer" once described an attendant who carried an Old Testament military leader’s fighting gear until he needed it. At other times he fought alongside his boss, to the death in more than a few cases.

More than a few bible heroes had armor bearers: Jonathan (1 Samuel 14), Abimelech (Judges 9:53-54), Saul (1 Samuel 31:4), Elijah (2 Kings 3:11), and Moses (Joshua 1).  No less than David himself may have been the bible's most famous armor bearer (1 Samuel 16:21).  Jesus of Nazareth does not seem to have had any armor bearers, but after his departure his apostles selected Stephen to wait on them (Acts 6).  So, a pastor who appoints armor bearers might be accused of equating himself with the likes of Saul, Moses, or the Apostles, but not Jesus.  I could make some sort of snarky comment here, but I won't.

According to a variety of church websites and religious forums in some churches armor bearer carries the pastor’s bible and in some cases they carry firearms.  This Bronze Age concept has spawned a cottage industry.  There are books, blogs, training courses, websites, and providers of services. 

Judging from a random assortment of forums there are many people who find their pastor’s armor bearers intimidating.  Why is that?  Well, varied descriptions of the appointment, roles, responsibilities, and personal attributes speak to self aggrandizement, a cult of personality, and a preacher who thinks himself more important than the message.

Among this particular branch of the faithful there is much talk of spiritual warfare.  

"Much of Christianity today is cowering before the enemy with our entire spiritual arsenal stripped from us because we have compromised ourselves before our enemies of the faith.  What is needed today are new heroes of the faith who are willing to do great exploits by taking great risks in faith to insure the victories that are needed."

Call me a weak reed if you must, but when I hear armed bodyguards talking about their protectees as though they are Old Testament prophets and secular society, church dissidents, and would-be assassins as the personal representatives of Satan I get a serious chill.

According to the book "God’s Armor Bearer," by Terry Nance, an Armor Bearer must:

Provide strength for the leader
Have a deep-down sense of respect for the leader, and acceptance for and tolerance of, the leader’s personality and their way of doing things
Instinctively understand the leader’s thoughts
Walk in agreement with and submission to the leader
Make the advancement of the leader the most important goal
Possess endless strength so as to thrust, press and force their way onward without giving way under harsh treatment
Follow directives immediately and correctly
Be a support to the leader
Be an effective communicator
Have a disposition that will eagerly gain victories for the leader
Have the ability to minister strength and courage to the leader

Talk about a recipe for delusions of grandeur, of biblical proportions no less.  Still, if all this were only about preacher's egos, surrounding oneself with yes men, or imagining oneself a Solomon my reservations would be mostly academic.  The problem is that assassins are created by their cultures and communities.  Madness is made worse by unhealthy surroundings.  And sometimes the person you piss off is a bigger whacko than you, and a convicted killer to boot.  Dynamics that create in group/out group distinctions, perceived inequity, discomfort, fear, a sense of helplessness, or an abusive or toxic work (or worship) environment can confound attempts to manage a workplace violence threat. 

We don’t have any reason to believe such issues apply to this case (Fogle was a former deacon not an armor bearer), but then we don't yet know much about the power relationships at Greater Faith Christian Center Church. I expect we will learn more about this sad case.  I predict - unhappily - that it will prove even uglier than it currently appears.