Jury Awards $38.5 Million In Workplace Violence Negligence

38.5 million awarded in punitive damages for workplace violence negligence

The families of two women killed by a co-worker at a northeast Philadelphia Kraft Foods plant 4½ years ago were awarded $38.5 million in punitive damages from a security guard firm on Monday.

Attorney Shanin Specter said in a statement that the verdict sends a message that company guards “can’t simply run away in the middle of the crisis. They actually have to act like security guards.”

While Attorney Specter’s words could not ring more true, we must remember that it is also true that effective security precautions begin long before a physical altercation.

For far too long preventing workplace violence has meant nothing more than emplacing an armed guard at your front door, but time and time again, history has shown us that this approach does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to prevent the problem.  Preventing workplace violence requires a practical awareness of a growing concern, and the best protective intelligence has always come from an effective threat assessment and management program.

Someone won’t see everything, but everything is seen by someone.

In the aftermath of workplace violence, colleagues and co-workers in each case stated that they observed several pre-incident indicators, but considered them insignificant or just “weird” behavior. Even today, many office workers do not have a practical understanding of what a pre-incident indicator looks like, let alone have an effective reporting process to submit their concerns. The truth is that while someone may not see everything, everything is seen by someone. Just like in a dramatic detective story, it’s that seemingly insignificant piece of information that makes all the difference. An effective threat assessment process is just like a detective trying to solve a puzzle. Each little piece helps to make the bigger picture possible.

Employees may feel that reporting such concerning or “odd” behavior to the attention of their manager or supervisor is frowned upon as “ratting” or have anxiety over being labeled as “paranoid.” The reality is that reporting such potentially dangerous behavior is in the best interest of everyone.

Threat assessment is a time and information based process. Only when these identifiable behaviors are reported can scenarios be identified and assessed BEFORE they impact safety, productivity, and livelihood.

Visit here to learn more about how you can help prevent workplace violence.


Spencer Coursen is the President of Coursen Security Group. He is an expert security advisor, threat assessment consultant, and protective strategist who is dedicated to reducing risk and preventing violence. His systems and strategies help corporations, non-profit organizations, schools, and at-risk public figures ensure the certainty of safety for all involved.




 @SpencerCoursen / @CoursenSecurity



Protective Intelligence In Action | Spencer Coursen

Protective Intelligence is the process for collecting and assessing information about persons who have interest, motivation, intention and practical capability to do harm.

The following is a real-world example of how effective protective intelligence helped to reduce risk and prevent violence:

“Wally” had been coming into work at 9am and leaving at 5pm for the past few years, so it flagged as unusual when a random audit of his key card activity showed that he had been arriving several hours earlier these past few weeks. A deeper look into his key log revealed that the month prior he had been staying later – well after everyone had left. Another review of the locations where Wally had used his keycard to gain entry showed that he had regularly entered into parts of the building he had no reason to be. Some of them were areas of sensitive research and development. A red flag was raised.

A week later, a human resources audit raised another: Wally had been passed over for a promotion three months earlier. A decision was made to pull-up Wally’s internet activity. His online history showed he had been engaging in some browsing and social media communications that could only be described as “unfavorable.”  An investigation and threat assessment was authorized.

While it’s true that there is no particular “offender” profile, observable behaviors such as the expression of a grievance, acquiring of weapons, research on how to breach security protocols, conducting surveillance, and developing a plan, are all predatory behaviors common among those who intend to initiate a targeted attack. 

There are five important factors to keep in mind when it comes to the safety and security of an organization:

1. Those who wish to do harm do not just “snap.” Targeted violence is the result of an identifiable and observable process of thinking and behavior that when identified, assessed, and managed has been proven to prevent violent outcome.

2. Violent offenders do not make direct threats toward their intended target…but they do express their intent to others they believe will be agreeable, supportive or even sympathetic to the ideas that they can “do something” to resolve their grievance. The expression of these grievances increasingly takes place via social media.

3. On the pathway to violence, those who wish to do harm must first engage in some form of research and planning to determine the likelihood of success for their intended action. 

A key component to to bringing a threat assessment case toward peaceful resolve is identifying the subject’s attack-related behavior. These are the self-identifying patterns on the pathway to violence that include research, planning, weapon acquisition, training, and logistical considerations. The research and planning phase provides the best protective intelligence to determine if the subject poses a realistic threat that is likely to escalate into violence. This phase also offers the most observable monitoring of the time, money, and effort, being invested in the subjects willingness to do harm. This phase is crucial in determining if the offender will continue on the path toward violence or if they will transfer their ideation toward a more easily accessible target.

It is important to keep in mind that to the violent offender, likelihood of success is the most significant factor in the decision to move forward with their intended action.

This is one of the predominant factors as to why schools are so frequently targeted by their own students and why workplace violence offenders attack their own offices. The offenders know these locations well. They know the terrain. They know the active-shooter response plan. They know the layout of the structures. They know what the security response is likely to involve. They know how effectively access control is regulated, and they are able carry out a “dry run” rehearsal without raising much suspicion.

4.There is a difference between a threat which has been made and those who pose a threat. 

Of the two, posed threats are of greater concern. For the most part, those who verbally express threats have made a conscious decision to employ fear and intimidation rather than violence. Those who pose a threat are of a much greater concern as their self-identifying behavior is consistent with actions that are commonly associated with violent outcome.

Think of it in terms of driving in traffic. The person who yells and screams bloody murder as you merge into their lane is expressing a threat, but otherwise poses no harm. Conversely, the person who clenches the wheel, grinds their teeth, and stares at you intently as they start following you home is exhibiting predatory behavior that poses a threat.

In an organizational setting, the difference between expressed threats and posed threats is especially common in scenarios involving “bomb threats.” The purpose of a bomb threat is to instill fear, panic, and disruption – not to physically destroy their target. If the intent was to physically harm their target, they would not call in the threat. A would-be-offender who is able to acquire the materials, build the bomb, secretly gets the bomb inside their target area, emplacing the device, and then successfully escapes after without incident would not go through all of that hard work only to undo it all with a phone call.

5. Effective Threat Assessment is about a “Totality of Circumstance.”

This means the focus should be more on the concerning patterns of behavior that occur over the course of space and time rather than the assessment of a specific incident in the context of a singular occurrence. 

In the case of Wally, the protective intelligence process was able to identify behavior patterns, internet activity, and social media postings that made it clear that he posed a realistic threat to the safety and security of his colleagues. It was not a singular inconsistency that was the greatest cause of concern, so much as it was that there were multiple inconsistencies observed over space and time.

For Wally, his attack ideation was born from a grievance that stemmed from a series of destabilizing personal life issues which included not getting the promotion he felt he was entitled. Fortunately, Wally’s underlying issues of anxiety and depression were issues mental health professionals were well trained to handle and his case was able to be managed toward peaceful resolve.

But what if there had been no process in place?  Would it have resulted the way we have seen too many similar scenarios unfold? The ability for any organization to effectively collect protective intelligence information is of critical importance to preventing greater concerns. In this example, Wally was able to get the help he needed, but had he been left unchecked, there was little doubt his intended actions would have been catastrophic to the company and his colleagues.

Protective Intelligence has far reaching applications, not just in helping to prevent targeted violence, but also in helping to prevent, industrial espionage, policy violations, harassment, stalking, disruptive practices to productivity, and unfavorable social media activity.

After the incident with Wally, the organization made appropriate enhancements to their internal security program. By compartmentalizing the more sensitive areas of the office, they were able to restructure access control from “free to roam the store once inside the door” to one more grounded in an “authorized personnel only” approach. They also implemented anonymous peer-assessments into the performance reviews of their employees, and increased the frequency of audits for both departmental and personnel practices.

The assessment and monitoring of behavior patterns is not a new practice.  Similar techniques have been utilized by investors for years to chart the market trends of central banks and financial institutions. Comparable methodologies are used by the military to identify destabilizing geopolitical realities which often precede terror concerns. Only recently has the everyday use of digital and technological applications in the workplace allowed for the human resource process to to effectively reduce risk and prevent violence.

We as a society can no longer afford to operate in a world where we simply hope that nothing will happen, and then solely rely on the response of others to save us once something does. Doing nothing is a choice. Today’s schools, business, and organizational practices require a preventative approach to safety, and the best preventative policy begins with an effective protective intelligence program.


Spencer Coursen is a nationally recognized threat management expert who has an exceptional record of success in the assessment, management, and resolution of threats, domestic and global security operations, investigations, policy authorship, and protective strategy.

Spencer Coursen | Threat Management Expert | Washington, DC

Realistic, Safety-Inspired Workouts

Woman Runs Stairs In Realistic Safety Inspired Workouts by Spencer Coursen for Safety Made Simple

Did you know that being fit will not only help you live a happier and healthier life, but is also a significant factor in helping you stay safe? It’s true!

When selecting a target for an inter-personal attack, criminals assess risk and target the weakest, not the strongest among us. The physical condition and confidence emanating from an individual in good shape is often your first line of defense protecting you from personal aggression.

Emergencies are a lot like broken elevators; they typically occur when least expected and when we’re most ill-prepared to deal with them. As a result, too many of us have found ourselves winded and sore after having to muster intense physical exertion at an unexpected time.

My good friends and celebrity trainers at Fitness and Fuel LA often find their clients are more motivated in workouts when they tailor their mastery of certain exercises to the specific workouts of their professional athletes’ respective positions. Taking a page from their playbook, Whitney and Byron were happy to recommend a few practical exercises that have realistic and functional application for enhancing personal safety in our everyday lives.

As you go about your day, take a moment to notice your surroundings and the physical obstacles you may encounter if faced with the unexpected. You can then draw from these obstacles for inspiration when creating your fitness plan. It helps to think about how an exercise might be able to help you in a real-world emergency scenario.

For Example:

  • Live/work on a top floor? Elevators are one of the first things to fail in emergencies. Whenever time permits, opt for the stairs vs. elevator. Instead of the elliptical machine, consider adding exercises like stadium runs, hill sprints or the ‘ole stair master to your workout.
  • Live in an earthquake zone? Pushups and bench presses should be a part of your fitness routine. The more total weight you can move, the more easily you’d be able to push fallen objects off you. Pec-strength doubles for pushing away a would-be attacker.
  • Should you ever need to barricade a door and/or keep it pushed closed, squats and shoulder presses will serve you well in this emergency.
  • Ever been stuck in an elevator? Box jumps and pull-ups will help you reach the ceiling escape panel.
  • Don’t forget cardio: especially sprints!  In today’s school and business environment, a 10K run to safety may not be likely, but having to run as fast as you can down a hallway, out an exit, or across the street to escape falling debris or a would-be attacker is very realistic. On a track or football field: Sprint straightaways and jog/walk the curves to recover. Juice up your treadmill session with interval sets: sprint 15 seconds, drop speed to recover 30 seconds, repeat 5 times. Recover 2-3 minutes and do it again.

Short on time? Whitney and Byron recommend an intense circuit of functional exercises such as pushups, planks, burpees, crunches and lunges, which when performed to failure can certainly work up a sweat!

Don’t forget to identify a few Safe Havens along the routes you take everyday and whenever you are away from home. Whenever going for a walk, jog or run in support of your fitness goals, pick routes where such escape/safety venues are accessible. Remember that grocery stores, restaurants and pharmacies are just as likely to offer help as the local police station and firehouse.


Spencer Coursen is the President of Coursen Security Group. He is an expert security consultant, threat assessment advisor, and protective strategist who is dedicated to reducing risk and preventing violence. His systems and strategies help corporations, non-profit organizations, schools, and at-risk public figures ensure the certainty of safety for all involved.




@SpencerCoursen / @CoursenSecurity


Ten International Travel Safety Tips

As summer approaches, and your vacation plans begin to take shape, it’s important to prepare for both fun and safety in equal measure – especially if your travel plans will take you abroad.

Safe international travel is all about using good common sense. While some of the world’s more historic locations may not be in the safest parts of the world right now, it is still possible to plan a fun, memorable, and safe trip with the appropriate amount of planning. Baghdad may not be the most hospitable location right now, but it is still possible to find a few good places to get a great ice-cream cone or some fresh hummus without putting yourself in any kind of extreme danger. I’ve been blessed with the good fortune of having traveled to 163 different countries, and I’ve experienced something beautiful and memorable in all of them.

Still, there is something to be said for traveling smart. These ten tips will start you off on the right foot.

  1. Get yourself a Country Assessment Report that provides the most up-to-date information related to your area of travel and register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
  1. Identify “safe havens” anytime you are outside of your hotel and establish locations for your colleagues to regroup if you should get separated, like the restaurant where you had lunch, or where you stopped to buy that bottle of water. Know where to go and know how to get there.
  1. Know who to call if in trouble. Have the phone numbers of the US Embassy 24-hour hotline pre-programmed into your phone and be sure to test the numbers. Sometimes the international dialing codes can be tricky and you don’t want to be figuring out if you need the +1 before the number when you’re in the middle of an emergency. Another best practice is to learn where the Embassy is located and confirm that you know how to get there. This means which door is for you as an American — NOT where everyone else is going to apply for a visa. Just ask the friendly U.S. Marines — they know the area well and are always willing to help.
  1. Be careful of what you eat and drink when outside of the hotel. As a general rule, if it’s an empty restaurant, it’s not worth the risk. Ask your hotel concierge, or consult online reviews like Yelp for help. The food cart is NOT your friend.
  1. Don’t bring attention to yourself. Avoid showing off your expensive jewelry or your wad of cash. Try to use your credit cards as much as possible and only have enough cash for tips. Have money set aside for tips ($1 and $5 only) in a “tip” pocket. If you pull out a roll of $50s and hand the guy 2 dollars, be prepared to do some haggling. Fair warning.
  1. Call your mobile phone company. Be wary of overseas roaming charges on your mobile devices. Contact your mobile provider before you leave to get the specifics on your international talk and data plans. Hotels will often have the ability to rent you a local phone. Calling cards are always a good idea too, but buy them here at home, as many of the offers overseas are scams. It’s worthwhile to use the free Wi-Fi in the local coffee houses to communicate with loved ones back home via email.
  1. Safeguard your passport. If you are traveling to any developing nation, leave your passport locked away in your hotel safe and carry a laminated color-copy of your passport instead. If you’re ever asked to show ID you won’t have to worry about it being taken and held ransom for “donations.”
  1. Know the best insurance options. Overseas medical insurance isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. In many countries, out-of-pocket expense for routine medical care (prescriptions, stitches, emergency dental, and x-rays) will be cheaper than the co-pay for using your insurance back home.
  1. Use your resources. Talk to friends who have been there in the past, utilize the hotel concierge, read the embassy home page, google safety tips for the area you’re going to visit, educate yourself on exchange rates and overseas ATM fees, and read up on the local news.
  1. Trust your gut. If something feels “wrong” walk away. Your unwillingness to offend should never be greater than your willingness to defend. You’ll never see any of these people ever again, so don’t concern yourself with being rude. Safety first!

One last thing. Take more photos…you’ll wish you had later.


Spencer Coursen is the President of Coursen Security Group. He is an expert security consultant, threat assessment advisor, and protective strategist who is dedicated to reducing risk and preventing violence. His systems and strategies help corporations, non-profit organizations, schools, and at-risk public figures ensure the certainty of safety for all involved.




@SpencerCoursen / @CoursenSecurity


Secret Service Smart To Ask For Replica ‘White House’

White House

The White House is arguably the most recognizable and sought after target in the world. Therefore, it makes no sense for such a high-profile and globally significant venue to provide those dedicated to it’s protection with nothing more than a cracked parking lot, a chain link fence, and a few bike racks with which to train. The uproar should not be that Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy is asking for a new $8 Million White House Facility, but rather that he has to ask for one in the first place.

Understandably, asking for money is a lot like telling a good joke: It’s all about timing, and it’s no secret that the Service has had some bad press lately. But while many considered last week’s budget review an ill-advised time for Clancy to ask Congress for more money, he was clear to articulate why:

“Right now, we train on a parking lot, basically… We put up a makeshift fence and walk off the distance between the fence at the White House and the actual house itself. We don’t have the bushes, we don’t have the fountains, we don’t get a realistic look at the White House… It’s important to have a true replica of the White House so we can do a better job of this integrated training between our uniform division officers, our agents and our tactical teams. The Secret Service currently uses a rudimentary, not-to-scale simulation of the north grounds of the White House, using bike barricades to act as the fencing. There are no structures, vehicle gates, lighting or other aids to enhance the training simulations.” – Joseph Clancy, Director, USSS

Home Court Advantage

Professional sports teams practice where they play. Unfortunately, the public posture, ever-present media, and downtown location of the White House makes it an unrealistic venue for the Secret Service to train. This is especially true for K-9, air/drone defense, and counter-sniper units. There is a direct correlation between realistic training and effective response. In the event of a real attack, training on a replica of the White House would decrease response times, and lessen the chances of innocent bystanders being injured during tactical engagement. A too-scale replica of the White House would allow for complex scenarios to be acted out with live actors to simulate the hundreds of persons in/around the White House at any given time in order to reduce risk and prevent violence.

Modular Modifications:

A modular replica would allow for the Secret Service to constantly adapt, evolve, and improve upon the systems and strategies already in place. The ability to test new ways of doing things exists on an easily modified replica that you just can’t do on the real thing. Want to try out a higher fence?  Just simulate it on the replica to see how it would affect things like counter-sniper line-of-site, telecommunication interference, drone deterrence, and even public relation aesthetic concerns

Want to test new counter-intrusion technologies? A replica facility would allow for testing far from the public’s watchful eye and under much more realistic conditions that take into account the unique challenges that the White House tourist attraction and urban environment represent.

Have a new administration coming in that wants to change things around? Is there construction scheduled to be performed? A modular replica would allow the Secret Service to realistically replicate the challenges of change in order to enhance the level of security provided before the real-world changes took place.

A Small Price To Pay For Protection

To put $8 million in perspective, the cost for operating Air Force One is approximately $200,000 an hour – that’s a $2 million round-trip from DC to LA.  President Obama’s June 17-19, 2013, trip to Belfast alone cost $7,921,638.66

In other words, 4 round-trips to LA is equivalent to years of tactical training enhancement. It’s not hard to think of a better or more relevant investment in order to keep the First Family and our national interests protected.

Could Director Clancy have had better timing? Absolutely. Yet, hard truths rarely ever come at time of our choosing.


Spencer Coursen is the President of Coursen Security Group. He is an expert security advisor, threat assessment consultant, and protective strategist who is dedicated to reducing risk and preventing violence. His systems and strategies help corporations, non-profit organizations, schools, and at-risk public figures ensure the certainty of safety for all involved.




 @SpencerCoursen / @CoursenSecurity


Location-Based Social Discovery Solutions

Geofeedia Title Image | Coursen Security Group | Social Data Solutions | Spencer Coursen

At a recent conference for law enforcement and security professionals, Geofeedia made a game-changing presentation that in the end left participants talking about little else.

Geofeedia has invented a method for aggregating social media across Facebook, Twitter, Yik Yak, Picasa, Flickr, Instagram, YouTube and other social media sources by exact locations in real-time. The technology allows a user to set a virtual perimeter around a place as small as a building and pull all of the social media content coming from within it. This breakthrough technology for filtering social content by location is covered by at least 10 US patents.

For years, there has been a great debate between the the legitimate processes of effective response vs. the preferred practice of preventative measure. Some debates echo the halls of time forever, but every once in a while a practical solution presents itself that allows both sides to emerge victorious. Enter Geofeedia. A social media discovery solution that can seamlessly blend real-time intelligence and insight with actionable assessment and analysis.

Geofeedia empowers corporate security and private protection teams with a practical resource that can be used across a vast array of everyday concern. Things like; situational awareness, business continuity, counterfeit detection and supply chain visibility, executive protection, critical infrastructure monitoring, disaster response and crisis management, event security management, and even protest awareness.

Twenty years ago, the biggest digital concern to business was ensuring they were Y2K compliant. Ten years ago, “social media engagement” was as obscure a topic as Bitcoin was yesterday. But today, a company doing business without understanding the inherent value of social media is as antiquated as a vehicle being made without seat belts. Social media engagement is now the tie that binds, and if you want to remain relevant, you don’t want to be the only organization without something as standard as a hammer in your toolkit.

After all, everyone has a hammer. Little old ladies use them to hang photos of their grandkids. Dads use the them to fix things up around the house. Mechanics use them to maintain equipment. Builders use them to make the plans on a page a reality. But regardless of circumstance or scenario, everyone at some point is going to both need and use a hammer. Geofeedia has the social media range of a ten pound sledge or small ball pein.

Whatever you want to do is up to you.

Limitless Potential on a Non-Invasive Platform

The fact of the matter is that we can no longer afford to live in a world where we simply hope that nothing will happen, and then solely rely on the first responders to save us once something does. Today’s safety requires our participation. For far too long, over-arching security measures have done nothing more than vacillate between hyper-vigilance and complacency. Safety lies in the middle – a byproduct of awareness and preparation.

Geofeedia offers the ideal middle-ground solution.

Private security professionals could use this as another preventative measure to thwart the behaviors of stalkers, elementary schools could monitor the social media activity of registered sex offenders, and police departments could monitor the “safe-zones” of domestic violence survivors to ensure that violent offenders were remaining TRO compliant. The applications for enhancing everyday safety are limited only by the imagination. In an era of Snowden-concern, Geofeedia affords a way to effectively assess self-identifying activity, rather than promote the invasive efforts of big-brother intrusion.

It’s The Little Things That Matter Most

The true cost of anything lies in inherent value. You buy a fire extinguisher and it hangs on the wall – forever collecting dust until a day that hopefully never comes. Emergencies and crisis scenarios are uncommon occurrences, but when they do, you want to be prepared. Geofeedia is something you will use everyday. A service you can trust will work, because unlike the fire extinguisher on the wall, Geofeedia provides reliable solutions to everyday concerns.

Interested in learning more about what Geofeedia can do for you?

Visit Geofeedia.com to request a demo!


Security Expert Spencer Coursen specializes in threat assessment protective intelligence and vulnerability reduction. Coursen Security Group Logo.