NCIS is conducting field briefings for Marines and sailors about what they can do to prevent workplace violence. (Mike Morones / Staff)
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Special agents at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service want you to consider this scenario:
A gunny in your unit is going through a divorce. He’s going to lose his kids, the alimony bill is coming and these stressors in his personal life are starting to spill over to work. It’s clear to you his anger is building up, he’s acting out of character, and he’s taking things out on his Marines. You think his anger could lead to violence. What do you do?
“Step up and report it,” said Kate Shields, a supervisory special agent for the National Security Directorate at NCIS. “It is your responsibility to help protect your workforce, protect your colleagues and protect your country. It’s easy to look the other way. It takes an incredible amount of courage and commitment to actually step up and tell somebody you’re concerned.”
Throughout this month, NCIS is conducting field briefings for Marines and sailors about what they can do to prevent workplace violence.
While NCIS doesn’t specifically track workplace violence, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that about 1.7 million U.S. workers are victims of assault while on the job each year.
Agents hope Marines can do their part to steer their comrades off “the pathway from idea to action.”
“People are the first line of defense,” said Sarah Griffin, NCIS special agent with the Threat Management Unit. “If our people aren’t paying attention, it’s a lot harder to protect us.”
The hard part is convincing Marines that turning a blind eye is dangerous and reporting suspicious behavior does not make you a rat. In many cases, agents said, your actions may well prevent someone from committing a crime down the road. “Just because someone does the right thing and makes the report doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to jam up somebody’s career or get them in trouble,” Shields said.
How do you know if someone is a threat? NCIS highlights a number of behaviors, including: making threats, aggressive actions like bullying or stalking, uncontrollable temper, uncharacteristic isolation, fascination with weapons, stealing, substance abuse, frequent arguments and sudden changes in behavior.
If you know someone exhibiting some of these signs, what should you do? You can report this to your chain of command, seek counsel from a chaplain or medical officials, or communicate directly with law enforcement and security officials, agents said. If you wish to remain anonymous, you can text NCIS or reach it via a smartphone app. Visit www.ncis.navy.mil for details.
If it’s too late, and you find yourself in an unsafe situation with a co-worker, NCIS offers this advice: Don’t argue with the person. Leave the area immediately and contact security. Try to contact authorities without the person noticing and, if necessary, signal to a co-worker you need help.