Wall Street Journal Publishes VRI Chairman and CEO Howard Safir’s Opinion on Lessons for Law Enforcement From Baltimore

In opining that “Justice must trump politics”, Commissioner Safir sets forth that “Despite recent headlines, cities are no longer in crisis from out-of-control-crime.” and that “This isn’t the time to abandon the tactics that have served so well. But it is time to modify them. This includes “Assertive policing”, “constitutionally compliant stop-and-frisk”, use of technology such as predictive policing software, body cameras and license plate readers to bring “capability and accountability” and “continuing to interrupt the sale of illegal guns, drugs and gang activity—responsible for 80% of crime in this country.”

Commissioner Safir further states that “policing is a calling” where the “men and women who police this country put their lives on the line every day”.

The opinion piece is available online by clicking here: Policing in the Aftermath of Baltimore’s Bungles or page A15 of the May 7th print edition of the Wall Street Journal.



Security: Is It Ever Better to NOT know?

When is it best that no one in an organization – not even those capable of and responsible for maintaining secrets – know a piece of security information?

When obtaining that information is too expensive compared to its value? When such information violates the privacy of an individual or group? When the organization simply has no business in learning such information?

Let’s consider these questions as applied to employee screening, corporate due diligence and facility security to make a very simple but not always practiced point: ignorance is almost never bliss, an ostrich that allows its head to remain in sand simply cannot see.

Employees – prospective and current – are protected by, among other laws and regulations, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Limitations apply less to what information an organization may find and more to the written knowledge and notice it is required to give such employees when using such screening for employment purposes. Is the new employee in purchasing or finance struggling with overwhelming personal debt or bankruptcy? Have a history of fraud? Does a prospective trader have a track record of regulatory violation? The new soccer coach a restraining order? While there is nothing even close to a master database to answer such screening questions (e.g. despite the information age many jurisdictions have NOT digitized their current or past criminal records), “need to know” questions about employee backgrounds have progressively become less expensive and more capable of being thoroughly answered (whether with or without a computer). Likewise for an employee on the job who may leave written, oral and/or digital tracks of activities planned or completed to harm the organization. The key is to balance what’s important to YOUR organization and properly budget what you find out – and how you do it – both before and after an employee is hired.

Applying the same concepts and questions to the purchase of or investment in a business reveals that checking boxes for accounting purposes and/or overly relying on a belief that seller’s ownership and management have been as diligent as your organization would be in screening for and addressing prohibited activity may prevent acquiror/investors from really knowing what’s going on. Controls, audits, compliance and the valuable time spent among management teams building relationships of trust are undeniably important both to advancing and protecting a merged or newly capitalized organization. Equally important is the informed, professionally organized and objective opportunity to dig into the integrity and security soft spots that may harm any or all stakeholders.

Finally let’s apply the questions above to someone who enters your facility. What can and should you know about them? Their authorized purpose and destination? Restraining orders or issues they may have with an individual who works, lives or goes to school at your facility? Nobody likes a long line or cumbersome procedure and that should always be considered for the impression your business leaves with the great majority of people who enter your doors to do no harm. But for those who do, your organization’s ability to detect, deter, delay and deny their ability to do so with effective information management as applied to the door can be the difference between whether or not an incident occurs.

Of course, security information communicated to the wrong people, in the wrong way, at the wrong times becomes at best nuisance and at worst contributes to people and organizations losing lives, property and reputation.

VRI empowers individuals and organizations to develop and communicate useful security information to the right people, in the right way, at the right times.

The Clock is Always Running. What Would You Achieve By Producing Better Evidence Sooner?

The difference between “just in time” and “a day late and a dollar short” is sometimes a matter of seconds, at other times measured in days, weeks, months and years. Knowing which clock is running – and the consequences of its ticking – can be the difference between lives and property lost or saved and money and manpower deployed effectively or squandered.

Consider the active shooter. With such high impact incidents typically lasting only minutes – every second that the attack is denied or delayed, and that an effective response is sped up, is a second where a person is either killed, injured or rescued. The ability of civilians in a school, mall, theater or other public space to move quickly and effectively from danger, and for police to rapidly execute an effective response to an active shooter significantly impacts the number of people who live and die. The quality of planning, training and supporting technology play a direct and obvious role.

Less direct and obvious – but undeniably related to who lives and dies over time – are forensic backlogs. The days, weeks, months and years that a DNA sample, a recovered weapon, a seized hard-drive or a dangerous counterfeit pharmaceutical wait in cue in a backlogged forensic lab are days, weeks, months and years that the murderers, rapists, robbers, burglars and narcotics traffickers who cannot be convicted without such evidence remain at large and repeat their crimes.

As successful as law enforcement nationwide have been at controlling violent and non-violent crime in the last twenty years – using both modern methods and technologies and approaches that involve little or no technology at all – case clearance rates remain stubbornly low for all crimes. From the roughly one in three homicides that go unsolved to the roughly six of seven burglaries where a perpetrator is never indicted, often the critical differentiator in solving a case and taking a criminal off the street is both a department’s ability to produce high quality evidence, AND their ability to do so quickly.The same can be said for the corporate track record in prosecuting fraud – where an estimated seven (7) cents on the dollar simply disappears from shareholder value.

For forensic evidence in the criminal context, when tied to speedy-trial rules or statutes of limitations, the ticking clocks are again direct and obvious. Likewise, identifying the people and circumstances of a crime or civil fraud as early as possible in an investigation can be the difference between a path to indictment being a warm, well-lit trail or one that is cold and closed.

Any unnecessary time it takes for outmoded, outdated technologies and processes – be it an hour here and a day there that adds up to weeks, or a week here and a month there that adds up to years – perpetuates a snowballing problem. At worst such wasted time drives DNA, computer forensic and ballistic labs to be dysfunctional and a “day late and a dollar short” as a standing operating procedure. At best, such labs struggle to handle the highest priority cases as they tread water in constant triage mode. Wherever labs are inefficient (or simply understaffed or equipped), the departments that they serve do not live up to a fraction of their potential in controlling crime. No matter how low the UCR numbers may go, today’s unsolved case is tomorrow’s crime complaint.

The vendor community has no lack of solutions to collect, analyze and present evidence better, faster and cheaper. DNA forensics in the field – long needed and envisioned – has become technically viable and should be rapidly adopted. Having your detectives review seized phones and hard drives with a single login (and, just as importantly, no need to be a “techie”) is now available to departments willing to invest the time and money in mining this evidence for prosecution and intelligence. As with other emerging technologies there’s wheat, chaff and changes in laws, processes and protocols that can be just as important and challenging to adapt as the substance of what the technology actually does.

In any and all cases the critical question isn’t only “what could my department do to control crime and protect the public if we produced better evidence?” but “what could we do if we produced better evidence sooner?”

VRI can help you produce better evidence sooner with both proven and emerging technologies and methods.