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Justice for all.

I KNEW WHOEVER WAS STEALING money and property from locked offices in a locked building had to be in possession of keys - no signs of breaking and entering or tool marks existed, just missing currency and property. The preliminary steps of my investigation produced approximately 20 possible suspects.

After reviewing the situation with my supervisor, surveillance by a time-lapse video recorder was installed to identify the intruder. The tape would show us not only the perpetrator but also the time and date. Four days after the installation of the camera, we had our office thief on film removing money from a locked desk after passing through two locked doors.

I remember the anguish and pain I felt when reviewing the film and seeing my close personal friend in the act of breaking the law. He had worked for the hospital for many years and held a position of trust. We had developed a strong relationship over the five years I had known him. He appeared to be a devoted father and husband. I knew the evidence I held would terminate his employment at the hospital, and the hospital policy would require prosecution. A police record could make it difficult for him to find a new job.

Had I been a member of a large police organization, I might have deferred the task to someone else, but in this case that was not possible. I was the sole investigative officer and the only one trained in interrogation. I would have to review the years my friend was employed by the hospital, checking past case files to determine if he might have been involved in other thefts. Management requested I inform my friend that he was no longer employed and would be prosecuted for his action.

The two days before the interrogation were filled with soul-searching. I kept picturing the statue of Justice holding the balance scales. She wears a blindfold to imply that justice must be blind. I also reviewed my copy of the investigator's code of ethics that I hold as a standard in my profession-"I will never permit my personal feelings, prejudices, animosities, or friendships to influence my decisions. I will enforce the law without fear or favor." I knew what I had to do-I had to deal with my friend as I would any other suspect.

Three days later, I sat across from him, not as his friend, but as a professional interrogator. My responsibility was to persuade him to tell me of other crimes he might have been involved in and if he still held property belonging to our employer. I knew if I showed him any favoritism, I would not feel good about dealing with other people in the future.

OPPORTUNITIES EXIST FOR AN INvestigator to show courtesy and consideration to the accused, and since I had done that with others I felt good about extending them to my friend. We discussed the problems of starting over, finding new employment, breaking the news to his family members, and asking their forgiveness. My friend expressed relief at having the truth come out. He was beginning to become a compulsive thief and the addiction to steal was taking over his life. When it was all over, the burden was taken from my shoulders. I had been true to my profession, my employer, and myself. I extended my support to my friend by offering advice and encouragement. In the end he thanked me and expressed understanding and respect for the position I had taken. Not once did he suggest that for the sake of our friendship I compromise my ethics.

When I filed charges at the city prosecutor's office on behalf of my employer, I talked to an investigator. I confided in him that the person I was filing against was a personal friend and how painful the situation was. He said he understood perfectly-he had 30 years' experience in the police department and had on occasion investigated fellow officers for wrongdoing. While he always felt uncomfortable, he believed his professional duty was something he could not ignore and must be carried out.

An institutional investigator is more likely to have to face the situation of prosecuting a friend than a private investigator or law enforcement officer. We all form attachments to the people we see each day, even if we do not work directly with them - and the longer we work together, the stronger the bond becomes. The thought had occurred to me that even though there are 1,800 employees in my company, the world gets very small when you all work in the same building.

I would admonish all who enforce the law to prepare themselves for that eventuality-that no matter what the situation and no matter who the suspect, you will do your job like the enigmatic statue of Justice who, while blindfolded, holds in balance the scales of fairness.

About the Author . . . Roger J. Cannon is the investigations officer for the Immanuel Medical Center in Omaha, NE. He is a member of ASIS.
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Title Annotation:investigations officer put to the test when he discovered his friend stealing from their employer
Author:Cannon, Roger J.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Mar 1, 1990
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