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Is an Investigation Always Necessary?

Is an investigation always necessary and the best choice in any given situation?  Was the financial investment and time spent the best decision?  There are times when an investigation is fully warranted no matter the cost and time involved.  Investigations may be required for a number of reasons including, federal or state requirements, industry regulations, insurance carrier requirements, or based on company policy in order to maintain a safe and secure work environment.

With this being said, could there be situations when an investigation is not warranted and/or recommended?  The answer is yes.  There can be situations that occur which can be classified as “nuisance incidents” or minor crimes of opportunity.  In these circumstances, an organization needs to decide if the time spent and investment required to complete an investigation is the best decision.  Could reaffirming or introducing new policies and procedures intended to prevent such incidents from occurring be the most beneficial?  Or, would conducting an investigation, which could identify suspects, but could also reveal deficiencies and/or vulnerabilities within the business operation be the best direction to take?

Before determining if an investigation is necessary, the following factors should be considered:

An organization needs to define what they view as “nuisance incidents” or minor crimes of opportunity.  It will vary from organization to organization and the factors may be tied to a company’s culture, as well as existing policies and procedures.  A few examples of what some organizations may classify as minor incidents can include, taking for personal use office supplies, postage stamps, coins stolen from a desk drawer, or other property removed from an office or common area.

An employer should look at the overall business operation to determine who has access to the area where the incident occurred.  Everyone and anyone could be a suspect including but not limited to, employees, cleaning staff, maintenance personnel, and outside visitors.  Is there a pattern or history of similar incidents?  If yes, an investigation may be necessary.  If no pattern or history exists, it’s possible the incident was a one-time occurrence and could be viewed as a crime of opportunity rather than a premeditated – planned act.  Regardless if the incident is a one-time occurrence or a re-occurring event, details of the incident should be documented.

Understandably, no one within an organization wants to feel victimized and certainly an employer does not want employees who cannot be trusted.  But, sometimes the reactionary emotion after a minor incident has occurred clouds the fact that it may be an isolated event and could have been carried out by anyone.  When the pool of possible suspects is large and there is no history or pattern of similar incidents, the time and financial commitment involved in completing an investigation may be better spent reaffirming and/or introducing new policies and procedures aimed at preventing such acts from occurring.  For example, a company email or memo could address the issue immediately by instructing employees to secure all valuables by locking items in a desk drawer or office.  The impact is immediate whereas an investigation could take days or even weeks to complete.

In summary, when deciding if the cost and time in conducting an investigation is warranted, the above factors should be considered.  If the incident appears to be a one-time occurrence, as opposed to a history or pattern of events, the best solution may be to review existing policies and procedures or introduce new policies to prevent future occurrences.

For further information on how and when to conduct an investigation, please contact INTEGRITY Security Consulting & Investigations.

Contributing Authors:

Ken Carter | President

Beth Sawinski | Director | Client Relations


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