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Course 720 - Preventing Workplace Violence

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Workplace Security Issues

Law enforcement and security departments should be involved in all stages of the planning process in an effective workplace violence prevention program. They can play an active role in prevention, intervention, and response to threatening situations, in addition to their traditional role of responding to actual incidents of physical violence. This section will provide general ideas and considerations that can help the company planning group gain an understanding of some of the law enforcement/security issues such as jurisdiction. It is also intended to help those Federal departments that do not have in-house security or law enforcement identify the appropriate organizations that can assist them.

Security Planning

Depending on the company, location of the department, and the type of incident or situation, jurisdiction may vary. The company's own law enforcement organization, the Federal Protective Service (FPS), or Federal, state, or local law enforcement, or a combination of these, may have jurisdiction. There also may be gaps in law enforcement coverage when issues of workplace violence arise. These gaps can be closed if the company planning group (which would include any in-house security organization) works with the various law enforcement organizations in setting up workplace violence programs. The following are some suggestions for involving law enforcement in company efforts to prevent workplace violence.


The company planning group should identify which Federal or local law enforcement company or companies have responsibility for its worksite. For example, the FPS is the primary law enforcement service for responding to incidents in Federal facilities under the charge and control of the General Services Administration (GSA) as an owned or leased facility. FPS typically locates its departments in areas where there is a high concentration of Federal employees and is capable of providing timely responses to GSA owned or leased facilities in these areas. For immediate responses to GSA owned or leased facilities in rural areas and/or areas with a small Federal presence, law enforcement officials from local jurisdictions should be Contacted.

Some companies have in-house security and/or law enforcement organizations. Others have contracts with private security firms. It is not always clear who has jurisdiction, and who should be Contacted when the need arises.

Sometimes meeting with the local police chief, county sheriff, or state police is necessary to establish a plan or procedure regarding law enforcement response in the event of potential violence or hostile incidents. Sometimes new building agreements will be necessary or contracts will have to be modified. In remote locations, arrangements can be made for local police to handle certain situations until the appropriate Federal law enforcement officials arrive.

Liaison with law enforcement agencies

The company planning group, and later the incident response team, should maintain open and continuous liaison with those law enforcement companies responsible for their worksite. This would entail having periodic meetings to discuss the company's concerns. Without these Contacts, lines of communication can break down and misunderstandings could arise. It is during these Contacts that the company can obtain the names and telephone numbers of law enforcement personnel to be called upon should the need arise. Planning groups in companies that already have established liaisons should work through these established liaisons to avoid confusion.

Know in advance which Federal or local law enforcement company or companies have jurisdiction over your worksite. Involve them early in the planning process.

Law Enforcement and Security Assistance

During the planning phase, law enforcement/security departments can:

  • Identify types of situations they can address and when and how they should be notified of an incident;
  • Indicate whether their departments have arrest authority;
  • Identify their jurisdictional restrictions and alternative law enforcement companies that may be able to provide assistance;
  • Identify threat assessment professionals who can assist the company in its efforts to protect threatened employees;
  • Advise on what evidence is necessary and how it can be collected or recorded, so that law enforcement can assess the information and decide what action to take, if appropriate;
  • Explain anti-stalking laws applicable in the company's jurisdiction and how and when to obtain restraining orders;
  • Suggest security measures to be taken for specific situations, such as in cases where Employee Assistance Program counselors or other mental health professionals warn the company that an individual has made a threat against an company employee; and
  • Arrange for supervisor/employee briefings or training on specific workplace violence issues such as:
    • Personal safety and security measures;
    • Types of incidents to report to law enforcement/security;
    • Types of measures law enforcement/security may take to protect employees during a violent incident, e. g., explanations of what it means to secure the area, secure the perimeter, and preserve evidence;
    • Suggestions on how to react to an armed attacker;
    • Suggestions for dealing with angry customers or clients;
    • Suspicious packages;
    • Bomb threats;
    • Hostage situations; and
    • Telephone harassment and threats.

When potentially violent situations arise, law enforcement/security departments can work with the incident response team to:

  • Provide an assessment of the information available to determine whether law enforcement intervention is immediately necessary; for example, whether a criminal investigation is appropriate and whether a threat assessment professional should be consulted;
  • Identify what plan of action they deem appropriate; and
  • Determine who will gather what types of evidence.