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Guide To Investigate

by msecadm4921

Security Investigations – A Professional?s Guide, by Larry G Nicholson

Security Investigations – A Professional?s Guide, by Larry G Nicholson (235 pages, Butterworth Heinemann, www.bh.com, 0-7506-7147-5)

Larry G Nicholson says on his first page that he wanted to give new security professionals a guide to follow to help them achieve their aim of becoming good investigators – and he has succeeded. He kicks off by pointing out the attributes of an investigator – and puts curiosity towards the top of the list. The private sector investigator should have qualities that compensate for the fact that a private sector organisation does not have law enforcement powers. Some of the investigator?s needs are: highly developed powers of observation, writing skills, the ability to take to strangers and work unsupervised, open-mindedness, good recall, patience, and the ability to gather evidence impartially. Oh, and you should act ethically and seek the truth, even if the client may not like what you find; and when you are doing surveillance you should blend in, think quickly, observe, and sit out the sheer boredom of watching a place while nothing happens. These days, it?s not so much a case of wearing an overcoat like Humphrey Bogart, but of sifting through data, often on the internet, looking for the unusual and suspicious.
Some equipment
Larry Nicholson lists the equipment that an investigator should possess: ?a camera with film (people do forget), additional lighting equipment, tape measure and ruler, rubber gloves, metal tweezers, clear plastic (varying) bags, indelible marking pens, evidence form stickers, plastic evidence containers with seals, and a magnifying glass?. As the list suggests, investigation is all about attention to detail, to satisfy the client, and all sides in a civil or criminal case. In the chaper on ?the interviewing process?, attention to detail means realising that an employee who wants to report on fellow staff will not be comfortable openly going to the security office in working hours, and arranging furniture so that the ?subject? (the neutral word for people subject to an investigation) can leave unimpeded at any time. Larry Nicholson?s tips about conducting an interview in a friendly yet firm manner from the start could stand true for any manager?s interview with staff. Preparation matters. ?Listening is the most neglected communication skill of any interviewer,? he writes – one of many sensible phrases. Here?s another: ?The average person speaks 135 words per minute, but the brain can process up to 500 words per minute.? Listening is not just about being passive; it takes an effort – and as that last sentence proves, the brain does have the spare capacity to understand the non-verbal messages sent by the interviewee (body language, intensity of emotion, blinking).
Made in America
It is an American book: Larry Nicholson PhD currently teaches lae enforcement management to the FBI, and does vulnerability assessments worldwide for Sandia National Laboratories. Thus the 23 pages of where to search for information is only of interest to Americans. The chapter on ?basic surveillance techniques?, by contrast, applies as much to the UK as the US, explaining as it does how to conduct covert and overt surveillance, and the various ways of doing both, whether on foot – static or mobile – or in vehicles. Another part-chapter that anyone can read with profit concerns ?observation skills? – ?the mental effort necessary to recognise, analyse, and relate the parts of our surroundings, and to interpret the patterns and relationships present?. It?s about being aware of all your senses, being alert to colours, the passage of time, speeds and distances. Larry Nicholson says that sight is the most accurate snes (you can spot a friend at 300 feet, an unfamiliar person at 90); hearing is the most objective sense – though sounds can be interpreted erroneously; the sense of touch is limited and not well developed; smell and taste are unreliable. Psychologists believe that 85 per cent of what is learned is gained through the use of sight, 13 per cent through hearing, and the remaining two per cent through touch, smell and taste.? And remember: an incomplete but accurate description of an individual is better than a complete but inaccurate description: details of a tattoo are better than a general description. And what if someone suspects they are being watched? (It does happen.) ?Never stare at the subject … Always follow the subject from the waist down.?
Worth a thousand words
As Larry Nicholsonrightly says, a picture is worth a thousand words, and can document a case ideally. The chapter ?basic photography and video? is up to date enough to have a section on digital photography. If you are familiar with financial and lifestyle investigations, due diligence, and theft and deception offences (all covered in this book), but computers bewilder you, the chapter on ?specialised investigations? has a useful couple of pages of general interest on computer crime and fraud. For example, did you know that the medium to large computer system typically has upwards of 25 million individual instructions in its operating systems? Even the people who make the system cannot fully understand it all. Hence security violations, and members of an organisation in ?positions of extraordinary privilege with respect to information stored on computer systems?. Some of the suggestions for carrying out specialised investigations – arson, for instance – only apply to the USA.
Employment checks
Vetting is a thorny issue in the UK and US, and will stay contentious in the UK even if the private security industry is regulated by the state. The author has much of sense to say about pre-employment investigation, such as asking neighbours in person about a potential employee rather than the referees. The author goes so far as to write: ?Letters of reference are often useless, since they will not contain any derogatory information and do not present an accurate picture of the applicant.? Social affiliations matter – the author gives the US case of a ?right to life? believer gaining a job as a nurse in an abortion clinic, only to sabotage it, while the UK equivalent would be an animal rights activist and a meat factory. The author covers the old perennials employee theft, and drugs and alcohol abouse, clearly and unhysterically. With drugs abuse, however, the Americans have gone further down the road of testing staff, making use of different federal and state laws in the US. As for sexual harassment, the author lists another consultant?s 11 ?nevers? – such as ?never dismiss an accusation? – that are worth keeping in mind. As the author points out, employees justify theft or fraud with excuses such as ?the company does not care, and I deserve this?; an aggressive investigation will quickly send a message to employees that the company does in fact care very much. There?s a chapter on legal issues, but it?s best not taking it as gospel simply because US law is not the same as UK.

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