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Social media as a mechanism to help avert tragedy

January 18, 2020

Contrary to what many believe, perpetrators who commit the most egregious forms of workplace violence DO NOT JUST SNAP. 

 

Contemplation and even planning is generally undertaken before someone crosses the line to commit workplace violence. It is dangerous to subscribe to the myth that a person wakes up one day and decides to take a gun to work to kill people, as this theory wrongfully suggests there is no opportunity for employers to implement proactive strategies, reverse engineer, and even prevent tragedies.

 

In a June 2018 report, the F.B.I. advises that active shooters including school shooters tend to engage in pre-event "leakage of violent intent" prior to entering schools and other workplaces to do harm to innocent people.

 

In other words, they will give strong clues and even flat out talk about what they are planning before actually proceeding.

(A Study of the Pre-Attack Behaviors of Active Shooters in the United States, published June 2018)

 

 

One tool that has been extremely advantageous in identifying possible leakage of violent intent is social media. 

 

In the modern age, social media has become the proverbial office water cooler where individuals may express their rage and other concerning behaviors about work or life in general.

 

For  instance, an individual communicated disturbing inner secrets and outrage on social media for months before killing three co-workers (Terry Sterling 63 pictured below, Victoria Brong 25, and Brian Hayes 47), traumatizing a fourth employee, and taking his own life. All of this happened at work.

 

A measure law enforcement will undertake after tragedy occurs is examine the social media accounts belonging to these perpetrators to evaluate what they did and stated before engaging in violence.

 

(Terry Sterling, with his grandchildren) was shot to death at the Weis Market in Pennsylvania 6/8/17 by a colleague) 

 

 

 

The WVPI recommends that employers be proactive and reverse engineer where social media is concerned to help make workplaces safer. 

 

The Weis Market shooter appears to have left a bevy of clues concerning his anger and rage as well as his deep admiration for the Columbine High School mass murderers on social media - please see the WVPI's 2017 blog here: 

 

https://www.workplaceviolencepreventioninstitute.org/single-post/2017/06/09/PA-employee-posted-many-violent-social-media-messages-before-killing-three-co-workers-and-himself

 

Imagine if those who "saw something" went on to "do something" by reporting these disconcerting communications to authorities. Three innocent people might be alive today.

 

Prevention is the only solution to the growing epidemic that is workplace violence.
 

RECOMMENDATION

 

The WVPI urges all workplaces including schools to develop policies and procedures enabling them to, for instance, invite employees to come forward with any safety concerns, including those published on social media and to fully investigate any and all complaints in a timely and thorough manner. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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