Why Police Avoid Workplace Investigations and Why That's a Good Thing

Getting to the truth can be easier without the handcuffs

Posted by Dawn Lomer in Brand Protection, Corporate Security, Ethics & Compliance, Health & Safety, Human Resources, SIU & OIG on July 20th, 2011

Getting law enforcement involved in workplace investigations can be an uphill battle. They have Madoffs to chase, multi-million-dollar fraud rings to crack and Ponzi schemes to unveil. Investigating internal frauds, embezzlements and data breaches is low on the priority list when there are bigger and higher-profile cases to crack.

In addition, internal investigations are generally difficult cases to prove, says Greg Caldwell, an expert investigator and president of White Hat Solutions Corporate Investigations and Security Consulting.

“Usually, unless you have someone gift-wrapped, corporate investigations has the confessions, has the evidence, has a signed statement, police don’t want to get involved. They don’t have the time to come in and investigate a white collar crime against your company,” says Caldwell.

Criminals Got a Raise

As the spoils of the average financial crime reach higher and higher levels, it becomes even less efficient for the FBI to become involved in smaller workplace investigations.

The felony threshold in most jurisdictions has risen over the past ten to 15 years, to keep pace with the rising losses. Today, it’s well into the millions.

“The criminals got a raise,” says Caldwell. “So if you’re not missing five million dollars, the FBI isn’t going to get involved. There are too many Madoffs of the world, serious financial crimes, that take up 100 per cent of their time. Whether you’re a small mom and pop shop or a large organization, it’s very difficult to get law enforcement involved at the investigation stage.”

The Silver Lining

But keeping law enforcement out can work in your favor when you’re trying to get the facts, explains Caldwell.

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“If you do call law enforcement early on and you let them know you’re going to investigate this and you will be turning over the results… you have just become an agent of law enforcement,” he says. It can effectively handcuff the investigation.

Once that happens, the questions you ask must be suitably changed so as not to entrap someone into making statements that could go against their fifth amendment rights. “Then you can’t get someone to confess without advising them of their rights.”

This can hamper your chances of getting a confession, so the initial phase of a corporate investigation may go much more smoothly when treated as an internal investigation without law enforcement.

At the same time, many subjects of workplace investigations are under the impression, thanks to television, that they don’t have to talk to investigators, says Caldwell. However, most employee manuals suggest that cooperation with security and investigations is a part of the employment agreement.

Catch More Flies with Honey

Getting to the truth and wrapping up the case with a confession from the guilty party is the main aim of any investigation, whether or not law enforcement participates.

“The most important thing when you bring somebody in, whether it’s for an interview or an investigation, is that their dignity be maintained,” says Caldwell. “You get a lot more cooperation with someone who believes that you have some respect for them.”


Dawn Lomer
Dawn Lomer

Managing Editor

Dawn Lomer is the managing editor at i-Sight Software and a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). She writes about topics related to workplace investigations, ethics and compliance, data security and e-discovery, and hosts i-Sight webinars.

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