What advice is important for companies to teach their personnel when it comes to operating during times of social unrest? In the second episode of Kroll’s Security Concepts podcast, our experts Daniel Linskey and Matthew Dumpert leverage their backgrounds in public safety and threat management to discuss how businesses today can ensure the safety of their facilities and personnel.

 

Daniel Linskey is a managing director in Kroll’s Security Risk Management practice and head of our Boston office. As the former superintendent and chief of the Boston Police Department and a 27-year veteran of the force, Dan provided strong leadership through some of the most tragic and contentious events in the city's history, including the Boston Marathon bombings and The Occupy movement.

Matt joined Kroll after a distinguished career as a special agent with the U.S. Department of State. Matt was often stationed abroad at U.S. embassies working on federal investigations, the protection of overseas missions and threat management that may arise in those areas.

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Passages From the Episode

Ensuring the Safety of Facilities and Personnel

“Are there any key pointers based upon your decades of experience, that you would give to businesses as they work to ensure the safety of their facilities and personnel in these times?” – Jeff Kernohan

“Preparation is key. Like in so many things safety and security related, the time for planning, the time to have the discussion about civil unrest, about protest activity, about potential threats to your people and your business, the time to plan for that and the time for those discussions, isn't when you're in an elevated threat environment, it's not when your people are being threatened, it's not when your facility is surrounded, it's not when your neighborhood is inundated with civil unrest, you don't want to be thinking about this for the first time when tensions are high. You want to go into these types of incidences with well-thought-out plans.” – Matthew Dumpert

“Have a plan for if civil unrest manifests in your neighborhood, if you or your business is targeted, if your people are involved or if your brand is invoked in controversial ways. This typically involves a multidisciplinary team; this is not a siloed issue for security. This involves human resources, legal, marketing, public relations, risk management, insurance and the list goes on. This is an important topic that should be talked about ahead of time. The plan should be practiced, then if your business is impacted, you have an airtight, well-thought-out, well-practiced plan on how to deal with the litany of issues that surround civil unrest.” – Matthew Dumpert

“Danny, is there anything from your experience as running a large metropolitan police department that you would be able to give as advice to businesses?” – Jeff Kernohan

“You have to train and prepare for the crisis before it comes to the door; you can't make those decisions that day. Now, it's not about having a perfect plan, because you're never going to be able to prepare for every circumstance, every condition. Planning can’t just involve the senior leaders, the people on the ground charged with implementing a response should also be involved. That should be part of that planning process and part of that exercise team and going through and developing and walking through exercises and seeing and drilling is imperative. When the challenge comes your way, if there are changes to it and things that you have to bring into your thought consideration, you can do that easily because you already have a system in place that for the most part has a response mechanism that's programmed and ready to go.” – Daniel Linskey

The Importance of Information Gathering

“What kind of advice can we give businesses on training their employees for situations involving social unrest?” – Jeff Kernohan

“Make sure that the company, agency or organization is involved in the information gathering business. We have to find out what's going on in and around us that could be of concern for our workers or our employees or our customers. Is there any civil unrest or disorder that's going on? Is there a weather condition that's going to go on? Is there some challenge that impacts our team's safety and personal protection? How we're going to do that, is we've got to be plugged into the stakeholders around us, whether it's local government, municipal government, county government. We've got to be listening to the news feeds, the news sources. We got to engage in social media, and there are certainly numerous methods of technology that can alert you to challenges around you, whether that's an active shooter event, protest or an oncoming weather condition.” – Daniel Linskey

“Having systems that can gather information, and at the same time, have the ability to get that information out to your employees, and making sure that they're aware of what the neighborhood around them can impact their commute to and from. Are there areas the police are concerned about, where there's some disorder going on? Are there areas where there's been crime? College universities do this all the time with the Clery Act, where they report on locations around their campuses, where there is violence so that their students will know. Even if they're not on campus and they are a couple blocks away, the types of challenges may be in that area that they should be concerned for and preparing for. Getting, gathering and evaluating information, and then disseminating it as wide as you can, to the people in your organization is key.” – Daniel Linskey

“In that same vein with information gathering, particularly when we talk about civil unrest and protest activity, it's critically important to understand the background of the groups that are participating. And look oftentimes, especially now we see dozens and dozens of groups and counter-protest groups and advocacy groups engaging in protests and civil unrest. It's important to understand who those groups are, and that takes a bit of sophistication and a bit of understanding and some specialized tools. Understanding who they are, will help you understand whether they're predisposed to violence or whether they typically demonstrate peacefully and disband appropriately.” – Matthew Dumpert

“The power of mob mentality is strong, what you don't want to do is have an employee who's critical to your organization, who has to commute to or from work, who has to either bypass or circumvent protest activity unintentionally or unknowingly get enveloped in it. We want to understand who these groups are so that we can adequately prepare our personnel for what they're likely to see. Especially in recent months, we've seen an acute escalation happened very, very quickly in these protests, where it goes from peaceful demonstration to extreme violence.” – Matthew Dumpert

De-Escalating Potentially Threatening Situations

“That takes me back to The Occupy Boston protest in Boston. People would be commuting into work, and would have to get out of South Station, a huge Metro rail hub. They would have to walk by the Occupy Boston protest location. Some of them had corporate uniforms that they would wear to go to their jobs and those companies had been identified by some of the protestors as people they were angry against for whatever reason. There would be harassment and harangue going on as they were commuting to and from work.” – Daniel Linskey

“Those people have a right to commute to and from work but it was us having a conversation with the management of that company to say, "Look, instead of having your employees wear their uniform to work, is it possible they could carry it in the backpack and change on premise? Or is it possible that when they come out of South Station instead of walking by the encampment, that they go up one street and come around and walk a little bit out of their way." That way they were avoiding the protest, especially when there's known tensions between your company, your employees and the protest group, that's making a stance.” – Daniel Linskey

“We saw exactly that manifest overseas in some of my experiences as well, where you had a large group of protestors or demonstrators protesting peacefully, but then if they recognize somebody who is affiliated in my experience with U.S. government or friendly government elements, they would then focus some of their attention on those individuals. And those individuals at the time may not have had the skills or the knowledge to deal and de-escalate. We need to safeguard our employees from each protest, each geographic location. The exact address of your facility could change the guidance that you give to your employees.” – Matthew Dumpert

“The example of putting their uniform in their backpack is an excellent example of the little things that can safeguard our people. What we see, and I'll go back to that mob mentality because we've seen it be harmful in so many cases, is it only takes a small number of individuals to incite an escalation in a crowd. What you find is good people doing things they otherwise wouldn't. People who go to protests with good intentions, with the intention to remain peaceful, and then there's a friction point, or there's an escalation, and all of the sudden, people who are otherwise good and law-abiding engage in things that they otherwise wouldn't.” – Matthew Dumpert

“I call that feeding the fire, Matt. We see that in protests where once you see somebody start burning the first object, there's like a primal instinct that people feel like they've got to feed the campfire. They will start looking for other things to burn even though that was never in their mindset. We have to talk to our clients who are running facilities. People show up, they want to protest, and you find yourself with your lobby with 60 protestors, with bullhorn screaming and yelling. You can talk with them, you can work with them, you can negotiate with them, you want to make sure you've got plans to try and contain them so they're not getting into your location. Make sure you're keeping your employees safe. Remember sometimes the best thing you can do is sometimes to ignore them; time is on your side and is your friend.” – Daniel Linskey

“I had a protest at City Hall when I was in charge of security there, and I had 60 protestors, and at five o'clock, City Hall is closed and they're all trespassing. There was a political leader there who was wanting me to put him in handcuffs and had brought three or four television crews with him. At 5:00 p.m., he said, "What are you going to do now?" And I said, "Well Sir, the water fountain is over there and there's a restroom right down the hall for anyone." I turned the lights off and left. And they were dumbfounded, "What do you mean, you're not going to arrest us?" And they wanted that shot that would embarrass, that point it was the government, it was the administration of the city, they were trying to embarrass, and we didn't give it to them. And oftentimes, if we're patient and have plans in place and contingency plans, sometimes allowing protests and letting them go on, they will burn out, the energy leaves and they go on without any violence without any further altercation.” – Daniel Linskey

“That really requires a honed experience and set of skills. If an organization has that organically within their ranks, that's excellent. Somebody who has those capabilities to maintain a cool mind, to operate well under pressure, to engage with people and with groups who are in direct opposition. I urge people, if you can identify somebody within your ranks, they might be the forefront, they might be the lead person to engage with protest groups or with demonstrators, but it's critically important that that person really have those skills. And if you don't have that within your organization, you should be looking for help, someone on call, someone on retainer that can come in and help you manage these situations because that type of patience takes a really honed skill and acumen." – Matthew Dumpert

Preventative and Reactionary Planning

“As it comes down to what we're finding with our work that we're doing with our clients, do you have any takeaways from specific cases that you have worked, where we've had to deal with businesses trying to respond after the fact, after they've already got themselves in the middle of a protest situation and caused them a lot of issues?” – Jeff Kernohan

“Fortunately, a lot of our clients have been forward-thinking and have brought us in, and others in, to do work beforehand, to help them with the training and preparation. Calling us ahead of time saying, "We hear from the local authorities that this particular challenge is going to go on in and around our facility, we're wondering what your thoughts are?" And we've been able to help them figure out, do they change their access control programs? Do they staff up their security? Is it a visible security presence? Is it a plain clothes security presence? Is there information they can give to their employees? Are there remote work conditions that can be set up so that people aren't coming into the plant or the facility?” – Daniel Linskey

“Most of the time we've been able to deal with it proactively. When clients have gotten into problems, for me, has been brand damage, where they didn't realize that something was going on; they were being targeted by groups that were protesting something. By the time they realize it, it was already going viral and it was too late. Then you're trying to put the genie back in the bottle. So, I can tell you getting out, especially if there's a media issue and a brand reputational issue, especially if you've made a mistake and saying, "Look, we're sorry that happened. We own the mistake. And here's what we're going to do to fix it." If people realize that your company is human, that they're going to make mistakes and they own them, they're more forgiving and they're less likely to engage in violence and continued brand reputational harm than folks who are just not doing anything. Sticking your head in the sand and sticking their finger in the wind and hoping it's going to work out that way.” – Daniel Linskey

“The cases that I'm brought into, whether they are preventative planning or reactionary after an incident has taken place. I'm really inspired. Most of our clients, if not all, their biggest concerns are the threats to their people. And when you take those preventative steps that Danny talked about, when we have a plan, when we discuss these things and we have physical technical and operational security elements all working together, the by-product of that is that people feel better taken care of, their morale increases and productivity increases. I'm really inspired by the way that many of our clients, whether it's in the prior preventative planning phase or in the aftermath of an incident. I'm inspired by the fact that they focus on people first.” – Matthew Dumpert

“Our clients have been phenomenal, and their safety and security teams have been phenomenal at making sure people feel comfortable. Oftentimes, going above and beyond what they need to do. Unfortunately, clients who don't do that are the ones who wind up with problems that play out in the front page of newspapers and on 24-hour TV cycles across the globe, because they're not thinking about people and if people feel that their health, safety, wellness in confidence in care, they will support you more as you move forward to these issues.” – Daniel Linskey

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