The Case for an Expanded Workplace Violence Typology: Improving Threat Detection Capabilities

By Steve Crimando

Current incidents of extremist violence at home and abroad demonstrate the need for an expansion of existing OSHA’s workplace violence typology. For more than two decades the standard model of workplace violence has included:
  • Type I: Violence occurring during the commission of another crime, such as a robbery or trespassing, by a subject with no legitimate business relationship with the targeted organization or employees;
  • Type II: Violence perpetrated by a client, customer or patient of an organization or employee during the routine delivery of services;
  • Type III: Co-worker-to-co-worker/supervisor violence perpetrated by a current or former employee; and
  • Type IV: Intimate partner or domestic violence that follows an employee from home to the workplace.

With attacks at armed forces recruiting offices in Chattanooga, Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris, the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, and the Department of Public Health event in San Bernardino in mind, it is increasingly clear that there is an important intersection between workplace violence and terrorism.

The most frequently attacked type of targets in the United States between 1970 and 2012 were business targets. [i]

Terrorism obviously is a potential source of violence in the workplace and one typically not included in standard models of workplace violence awareness prevention and training.

The current threat environment suggests an expansion of OSHA’s four-type model to include at fifth type, ideological violence, is needed. Type V workplace violence includes those attacks directed at an organization, its employees and/or properties for religious, ideological or political reasons. In such instances the actor or actors have targeted the organization because of what they do or what they represent. In Type V violence the perpetrators are “true believers” who feel justified in the use of violence by their radical belief system. In addition to acts of violence inspired or directed by international terrorist groups, domestic terrorism from extremist in anti-government, environmental or animal rights groups also fall into this category. In each of the attacks mentioned above, employees were attacked by extremists in their place of work.

The expanded typology inclusive of Type V workplace violence acknowledges that workplace violence and terrorism are not mutually exclusive.

Based upon OHSA’s classic four-type model, workplace violence prevention programs typically provided by employers focus on the “warning signs” of workplace violence and specific risk indicators, such as that the person of concern was a “loner.” Research into the pre-incident behaviors of mass shooters and homegrown violence extremists (HVE) suggests that there are unique warning behaviors of this type of violence that are not completely consistent with conventional warning signs of workplace violence.

Eight warning behaviors associated with mass shooting incidents have been identified (J. Reid Meloy, et al. 2012)   and the Eight Signs of Terrorism (NJ Office of Homeland Security & Preparedness) have been widely published[ii]. Warning Behaviors are acute and dynamic correlates of risk. They are serve as accelerants of potential violence. of risk. The Warning  Behaviors are patterns of behavior rather than individual risk factors. For example, one of the eight known warning behaviors is “Identification.” This includes any behavior that indicates a psychological desire to be a “pseudo-commando”[iii] [iv], have a“warrior mentality,”[v], closely associate with weapons or other military or law enforcement paraphernalia, identify with previous attackers or assassins, or identify oneself as an agent to advance a particular cause or belief system. This style of attacker is portrayed in the “Run, Hide, Fight” active shooter training video developed by the Houston Mayor’s Office. The attacker in the video is dressed in black fatigues, a black shirt, sporting a close-cropped hair style and wearing a style of sunglasses popular in law enforcement and military circles. In his first in-person court appearance following the attack on the Planned Parenthood Center in Colorado Springs, the gunman proclaimed, “I am a warrior for the babies;” a position consistent with the identification warning behavior.[vi]

By training the employees and supervisors to recognize and report not just the classic warning signs of Types I through IV workplace violence, but Type V violence which may be characterized by different warning behaviors, as well as the signs of terrorism, employers can improve their chances for early recognition and intervention in acts of violence from HVE’s and terrorist organizations. A fifth type of workplace violence is a necessary addition to OSHA’s model to reflect our current reality.

About the Author
Steve Crimando is the Principal at Behavioral Science Applications. He is an internationally-recognized expert in the prevention, response and recovery from active shooter incidents. He has developed workplace violence prevention and active shooter response programs for government agencies, healthcare systems and educational institutions, as well as multinational corporations. Mr. Crimando has published many articles and book chapters, and serves as an expert to the media and the courts in the area of active shooter intervention. He has provided high-level active shooter response training programs to professional and academic audiences in business, military and first responder organizations. Steve can be reached at the NY Metro area offices of Behavioral Science Applications at 888.404.6177 Ext. 3 or steve@behavioralscienceapps.com.

References:

  • [i]: Terrorist Attacks in the U.S. between 1970 and 2012: Data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD). National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). START Research Highlights. January 2014.
  • [ii]: Meloy, J.R., (2011). The role of warning behaviors in threat assessment: An exploration and suggested typology. Behavioral Science and the Law,  30: 256–279.
  • [iii]: Dietz, P. E. (1986). Mass, serial, and sensational homicides. Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine,62, 477–491.
  • [iv]: Knoll, J. (2010). The “pseudocommando” mass murderer: Part I, the psychology of revenge and obliteration. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 38, 87–94.
  • [v]:Hempel, A., Meloy, J. R., & Richards, T. (1999). Offender and offense characteristics of a nonrandom sample of mass murderers. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 27, 213–225.
  • [vi]: ‘I’m a warrior for the babies’ Planned Parenthood suspect declares in court.” The Washington Post, December 10, 2015. Last accessed online on April 8, 2016 at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/12/10/im-a-warrior-for-the-babies-planned-parenthood-suspect-declares-in-court/