Today is a very sad day in America! Yesterday, in San Bernardino, California, in what initially started out as a health department holiday party, turned into a horrendous bloodbath. Once this shooting massacre ended, authorities found 14 innocent victims dead and another 21 seriously injured. Witnesses said at least two masked shooters were responsible for the carnage left behind. Others reported that the shooters fled in a black SUV. A few hours later, a tip led police to a home approximately 10 miles from the shooting scene, and as police approached the house in question, the suspect black SUV was observed leaving the area, a chase ensued, and after a brief shootout between the alleged shooters and law enforcement, the two suspects, a man and his wife, were shot and killed. As for the motives behind this tragedy, at the time of this writing, they are unknown; law enforcement’s investigation is far from over.
Surely, we all know by now that a number of politicians from both sides were quick to jump on this catastrophe in an effort to promote their gun control positions. My intention in writing this blog is not to voice support for any such position. My purpose is to hopefully, offer some “school-of-hard-knocks” advice to government officials, law enforcement and the media that may help to avert such a tragedy from happening in the future. In order to make my point, I shall first provide a brief background:
- Last night and again today, I found the news media exploding with alleged reports claiming that the suspects’ premises was a “bomb-making factory,” neighbors observing lots of foot traffic and package deliveries, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, allegations of suspicious neighbors declining to make their suspicions known and report the suspects out of fear of being accused of “racial profiling”.
If I had the opportunity to speak with each of those neighbors, I would be particularly interested in finding out specifically what caused them not to report their suspicions, and what could have been done to get each to rethink that decision.
Now, let us do a little hindsight: Remember, approximately two and one-half months ago (September 14, 2015) when that student who brought his hand-assembled clock to school and by day’s end, he had been suspended from school, handcuffed by law enforcement and turned over to juvenile authorities.
The negative attention and likely embarrassment brought upon the teacher, school and law enforcement appeared overwhelming. The President of the United States, numerous other dignitaries, celebrities and social media supporters publicly made known their strong support of the student. The President even had him as a guest at the White House. On the other side, the Police Chief said, the clock looked “suspicious in nature.” He denied the teen had been profiled because he was Muslim. The Chief further stated, “We live in an age where you can’t take things like that to school. Of course we’ve seen across our country horrific things happen. We have to err on the side of caution; the reaction would’ve been the same regardless,”
Next, let’s travel even further back; say at least four or five years ago. FEMA, along with the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security were calling upon residents to reports their suspicions. One of those public awareness campaign’s slogan was, “If You See Something, Say Something”.
Today, let me start off by saying that I am a huge supporter of major public awareness campaigns such as, “If You See Something, Say Something”. Now back to that alleged statement indicating that suspicious neighbors declined to make their suspicions known and report the suspects out of fear of being accused of “racial profiling”, I need to make known what I know about getting people to step forward and report criminal acts: During the 1960s, I was a member of a small retail security group who developed a “secret method” strategy for employees and others to use when reporting their concerns and suspicions. This nationwide program proved highly successful and is used by all types of businesses, even today. Over the years and during our research and actual apprehension phases, we learned much about what was necessary in order to get honest personnel to come forth and report acts of dishonesty. Topping our list of what would make individuals hesitant in coming forth was their fear of retaliation. Secondly, embarrassment or peer-pressure was another important factor; brought about by the way the investigation was handled, and thirdly, simply not wanting to get involved.
As you can see, the negative publicity against those who came forth on September 14th has caused a great deal of potential irrecoverable harm in getting future concerned citizens to make known their suspicions. The tide of not coming forth and/or failing to report suspicions or concerns must be reversed. With that said, from the President of the United States on down, the message, “If You See Something, Say Something” must be regularly delivered and people encouraged to come forth without any fear of retribution or embarrassment.
If we are to err . . . make it on the side of caution!