LP Magazine

SEP-OCT 2017

LP magazine publishes articles for loss prevention, asset protection, and retail professionals covering shrinkage, investigations, shoplifting, internal theft, fraud, technology, best practices, and career development.

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■ What if the subject wants to delay the interview to a later date or time? ■ What if the subject explains away the evidence available to the investigator? The questions might seem endless, but the prepared investigator can often anticipate the most likely problem areas and develop a plan of action or a strategy that can be employed if needed. Ask What the Fact Giver Wants to Know Another stumbling block for an investigator is assuming he knows what the fact giver, human resources, or management wants to know about. Don't assume. Ask. While it might seem straightforward, what areas should be covered during an interview? It never hurts to ask the decision makers involved in the investigation. The information needs of the different parties can be varied and often far afield from one another. The director of human resources might be interested in the various trainings the individual received and whether they understood them. They might also want to establish that the person knew what they were doing was wrong and in violation of the organization's policies. Someone from operations might be interested in the procedures currently in place and management adherence to them at the subject's location. Legal, on the other hand, might have other information needs from the investigator since they will be responsible for defending the organization's decisions or potentially litigating civil or criminal actions. There's nothing worse than the investigator returning from interviews only to discover they didn't ask the right questions or explore areas of particular interest, which didn't occur to them at the time. The failure to inquire was really a failure to plan the interviews and to account for the needs and interests of the other parties involved. Know What Must Be Proved The investigator must have a clear idea of what must be proven to establish a case to terminate employment or prosecute. In a criminal case, this relates to the elements of the crime set out by statute, while a policy violation may not be as detailed. For example, in a theft case the investigator must prove the ownership of the property. This can be done using company documents such as a purchase order, which establishes the organization's ownership of the asset. If the ownership of the merchandise is in question, then the criminal charge might be the theft of lost or mislaid property. Second, the investigator must prove the individual had the intent to permanently deprive the organization of its asset. This intent might be established by video, documents, witnesses, interviews, or some combination of these and other investigative findings. An organization's policies are generally not set by statute but rather the company's employee handbook. The handbook covers a variety of areas relating to employment, benefits, safety, and expectations relating to employee behavior. Typically, violation of a company policy can result in anything from a verbal reprimand up to and including termination of an associate's employment. The ultimate penalty decision will be made based on the investigative findings and the employee's explanations regarding the facts established in the investigation. One of the more common violations in a retail setting is related to the discount policy. Many organizations will offer employees an opportunity to purchase company product at a discount, which may extend to certain family members or others as set by the policy. If an investigator revealed the investigative findings to an employee establishing the individual's violation of the discount policy, then the associate might be able to just say, "I didn't know the policy." HR might view this as a training issue rather than an act of dishonesty by the associate. The issue then becomes a failure by the investigator to establish the employee's intent to purposefully violate the policy. If the investigator had the associate tell his understanding of the policy, HR would now know whether the act was a training issue or an attempt to defraud the company. In other situations, a violation of policy might be tempered by the general practices of the facility. While an associate might be acting outside of policy, there may be legitimate reasons why he or she is doing so. On occasion, we have conducted investigations that exonerated employees' rule violations. In one instance, the employees had been directed by the general manager to ignore safety rules to speed production and shipping at the facility. The investigative interviews corroborated the general manager's directives and established his intent to violate policy while mitigating the employees' violation of policy. This resulted in retraining the associates at the facility in current safety protocols and termination of the general manager for his blatant disregard for his employees' safety. It is critical for the investigator to know what must be proved in any investigation so that a clear decision can be made on the facts of the case. At the same time, knowing the information needs of the various parties involved in the decision-making process can make the eventual finding easier and more satisfying for all involved. Finally, having the evidence of the individual's intent and guilt limits the likelihood of future litigation or complaints of mistreatment by the subject. We will continue our lessons from the room in our next column. If you have any lessons you would like to share, send us a note, and we will try to include them in our future articles. continued from page 12 Another stumbling block for an investigator is assuming he knows what the fact giver, human resources, or management wants to know about. Don't assume. Ask. 14 SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2017 | LOSSPREVENTIONMEDIA.COM

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