The company investigator was contacted about a cash theft at one of their Texas locations. Several thousands of dollars were missing. The location unit manager, district and regional manager all felt it was the responsibility of an employee named Gary, who had access to the cash. Gary had been very unhappy and uncooperative at work. He had recently been counseled for a performance issue. After the counseling, he became more irritable and the tension was high.
It’s normal for an investigator to gather opinions on who co-workers believe is responsible for thefts. At times, a person suspected is the one responsible. It’s always an interesting dynamic when these questions are posed. Many are reluctant to share their opinion for fear of suggesting a ‘false allegation.’ Others do not wish to be labeled as a snitch, no matter what the stakes are. The cooperative who legitimately have an opinion, will offer up a name or names for the organization’s benefit. Others who do have an opinion, may deny it and take it to their grave.
In a separate case the same investigator questioned a co-worker, who denied having an opinion on the theft of high dollar equipment. The co-worker in this case was not suspected of involvement; however, when asked for an opinion, his nervous system overtook him. No, it was not simply a display of body language. A combination of factors led the investigator to believe deception was present. The investigator gave it a rest and later re-interviewed the co-worker. This time, the co-worker offered up a very strong opinion. As a result, helpful details were provided. Coincidentally, the details corroborated evidence gathered and the responsible party was identified.
Opinions on who may be responsible for theft are just that. It would be irresponsible and reckless to label someone in a negative light, without cause. But upon further questioning we may learn why someone is suspected. Then, we can probe further. A person’s intuition is at times based on observed actions, which can lead to the discovery of evidence.
In our Texas cash theft case, things weren’t looking good for Gary. As the company investigator began to question him, he observed the same angry demeanor others had mentioned. It was easy to understand why he was not liked. While angry, he was not necessarily uncooperative and answered all the questions. The investigator shared his view with the upper management team, that Gary was likely not involved. They all thought the investigator was wrong and loudly proclaimed so. The investigator let out a sigh and commented how amazing it was, that their company had so many criminologists on board. The comments were not appreciated.
Unlike Gary, another employee we’ll call ‘Bryan’ was not so helpful when questioned. Bryan also had access to the missing cash. Bryan had used his alarm code to enter the unit after everyone had left for the night. It was the following morning when the cash was discovered missing. What Bryan didn’t realize is that his alarm code was unique to him. At many other locations in the same company, that was NOT the case. Bryan thought everyone had the same code. He had miscalculated.
An Atlanta based security company says that they often come across organizations that assign the same alarm code to employees. “Still today, out of simplicity and ease, business’s practice assigning one general alarm code to everyone. When we conduct a security survey, we meticulously scrutinize activity and code assignments.”
Fortunately for Gary, his moodiness was overlooked. The company investigator focused on the total evidence. Once Bryan’s after hour entry was brought to light, along with other evidence, most of the upper management team was apologetic. One holdout later apologized, in an obscure way.
Gary was cleared. Bryan was referred for prosecution. The situation was a reminder on many fronts. It was a reinforcement to remain unbiased in workplace investigations. The upper management team learned they were not criminologists, began to appreciate the company investigator and hopefully, will no longer rush to judgment.