This is the third in a four-part Hillard Heintze series on the top trends in 2017 we expect to see driving best practices and priorities across the U.S. and the world in four areas: security risk management; workplace violence prevention and threat assessment; investigations; and law enforcement program improvement. This post is focused on workplace violence prevention and threat assessment.

Workplace Violence 2017 Trends

As we start 2017, we anticipate continued growth in demand for (1) identifying threats to management and employees, (2) investigating these, (3) controlling the risk through threat management and, most broadly, (4) enhancing workplace violence prevention at a program level. In fact, in 2016, demand for our support in these services expanded so strongly, driven by our expanding list of long-term contracts with enterprises and major federal agencies, that we carved these out and established a fourth practice at Hillard Heintze.

Here is our perspective on the five top trends we see impacting a growing focus in the United States – in both the public and private sectors – in this vital area.

Trend #1: Incidents of Targeted Violence Will Increase with Devastating Consequences for Many

Last year’s headlines have barely faded from our recollection. The Pulse nightclub massacre. The killing of singer Christina Grimmie as she signed autographs for fans just two days earlier. The Uber driver in Kalamazoo. The targeting of participants in a backyard barbecue by two shooters in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. The ambush and killing of five Dallas police officers. The Ohio State University knife attack.

The list of targeted violence attacks in 2016 – from active shooters that take one life to mass killings that take many – was long. And it has started up already for this year with comparable events nearly every single day. We expect that to continue in 2017. According to CNN, a study of active shooter incidents from 2000 to 2013 determined that incidents in businesses and schools represent 7 out of 10 active shootings. We believe that all over the country, just like others have in recent years, thousands of organizations that up to now haven’t yet taken a formal step toward preventing and preparing to respond to these terrible acts, will do so.

Trend #2: Awareness Will Rise Among Managers and Administrators That Targeted Violence Prevention Requiring a Multi-Disciplinary Threat Assessment Approach

Even if directors of security today aren’t themselves experts in threat assessment, many more recognize than did in the past that a traditional law enforcement response is only effective after violence has occurred and – in the case of active shooter events, which are typically over despite prompt law enforcement response to prevent casualties. We believe this growing awareness of the challenges of prevention itself will continue to grow in 2017 as key leaders across various functions and departments within organizations learn that threat assessment and how to identify, investigate and manage an individual with the potential for violence requires input from experts and leaders in many different disciplines. Most importantly, these include key decision-makers in the security, HR and legal department, as well as supervisors who represent the “first line of defense” in monitoring and detecting behaviors of concern within a workforce. But we also see growing evidence that companies are also acknowledging the vital role played by mental health liaisons, labor unions and external entities particularly with respect to forensic and clinical psychology, open-source threat monitoring, and social media investigations and intelligence.

Trend #3:  Workforce Radicalization Will Emerge as a Key Component of Targeted Workplace Violence Prevention

In 2016, we highlighted radicalization within the workforce as an emerging issue for employers throughout the United States – and presented extensively on this at major events sponsored by industry leading associations such as the International Security Management Association (ISMA), the National Association of Security Companies (NASCO) and ASIS International (formerly the American Society for Industrial Security).

One of the key challenges that HR heads, security executives and corporate counsel – and arguably every executive in the C-suite – will confront more frequently in 2017 is the risk of radicalization in the workplace and the critical need to discern between constitutionally protected free speech on issues such as religious beliefs, gun rights, right-to-life, racism, animal rights, ultra-right or ultra-left activism, and environmental activism versus violent extremism. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, violent extremism is defined as “encouraging, condoning, justifying, or supporting the commission of a violent act to achieve political, ideological, religious, social, or economic goals.” View our presentation to ASIS International here.

Trend #4: Electronic Harassment and Cyberbullying Will Increase – and Spur Demand for Social Media Monitoring, Investigations and Intelligence

During 2016, Hillard Heintze presented on this issue at the ASIS International 62nd Annual Seminar and Exhibits in Orlando, Florida and published several Hillard Heintze 360° Insight executive briefings on related challenges. We see this trend continuing in 2017 as organizations and individuals seek information and counsel on how to counter the risks associated with online intimidation and humiliation, stalking and sexual predation and threats of violence. While most harassing behavior online is merely annoying, in some cases, it can be dangerous to both children and adults, men and women, employees and executives and even the reputations of individuals and corporations. Knowing when to flag this kind of aggressiveness as unacceptable – and what to do if and when it persists and escalates – can help mitigate its serious physical and mental effects on the victim. We anticipate that, in 2017, many more businesses and their corporate security teams than in prior years will initiate ongoing or event-driven open-source and social media monitoring, investigation and analysis activities. We also expect to see continued growth in demand for related support such as employee security training, workplace violence needs assessment, development of in-house or external threat assessment teams and ad hoc recourse, when investigations identify potential threats of violence, of forensic and clinical psychological analysis.

Trend #5: Predictive Analytics, as a Threat and Violence Risk Management Tool, Will Be Aggressively Marketed to Law Enforcement

The year 2016 was a tragic one for law enforcement as civil and racial unrest in some cases emerged as motivational factors for harming our police officers. In 2017, we believe that predictive analytics – and the ability to provide a police officer with real-time data to assess the violent risk of their environment – will be used more extensively as a cost effective tool to provide enhanced security awareness for our men and women in blue.

For example, in one city, as officers respond to calls, the software automatically runs the address. The searches return the names of residents and scans them against a range of publicly available data including crime statistics. Our firm fully endorses enhanced information sharing systems for police departments. It is imperative that a police officer responding to a potentially violent situation has the latest information and technology.

However, many vendors selling software for predictive analytics, will not share their algorithms which they consider to be proprietary and a “trade secret.” We caution police departments on this practice. Sound empirical research on violence needs to be the basis for any risk assessment. Any equation derived from empirically researched risk factors needs to be sufficiently sensitive to minimize the number of false negatives on law-abiding citizens. In other words, where a person lives does not necessarily mean he or she is a law-breaker.

Many entities will be working diligently in 2017 to prevent any abuse of demographic profiling by using predictive analytics that have not been fully vetted. All entities – civil liberties groups, communities, federal state and local law enforcement and the U.S. intelligence community – have a moral obligation to provide the police officer with accurate information to protect their lives and those of our citizens, but overreliance on violence risk scores for first responders can lead to false positives. These diverse stakeholders have a moral obligation to weigh in on this critically important issue.

View more of our Top Trends in 2017 Blogs

For more insights and perspectives on “Top Trends in 2017” we anticipate, click the following links: security risk management; law enforcement consulting, and investigations.