Helping the Good Guys Win: Dealing With Police When Your Company Is a Victim of Employees Stealing
By Kent Perkins, P.I., Senior Executive Investigator and Managing Partner Diversified Risk Management, Inc.
It can be very beneficial in theft matters to solicit the help of Law Enforcement. Successful prosecution acts as a deterrent to future theft. Having a criminal conviction against an ex-employee is an excellent way to mitigate the possibility of litigation for wrongful termination. The courts in most areas do a very good job of ordering and collecting restitution which, in most cases, allows you to recover not only your direct losses but also indirect expenses for reasonable attorneys’ fees, forensic accounting and your Private Investigator’s services when your suspect is successfully prosecuted.
Many, many times we’ve heard from clients, “We want you to investigate a theft. It has to have been an ‘inside job’; we called the cops, but they won’t do anything!”
There are several reasons why the police often hesitate to respond in the way you wish. If you better understood the challenges and concerns of the police, and adjusted your approach accordingly, you could have much better results.
Following are some things you need to know:
THE POLICE AND THE D.A. ARE NOT NECESSARILY HAPPY PARTNERS.
Cops are primarily interested in arrest records and lowering local crime statistics, while District Attorneys and Deputy D.A.’s are primarily interested in conviction records. While that may not seem like much of a conflict on the surface, it really is; it’s a conflict that can stall the response you get from the police. Like it or not, politics is a grim reality. District Attorneys have to run for re-election every few years. The main focus of a D.A.’s campaign is always his or her conviction record. If a D.A. can boast a 98% conviction rate, it may seem as though “bad guys don’t have a chance in this jurisdiction.” Unfortunately, it’s quite the contrary. Fear within the D.A.’s Office for losing cases and thus marring excellent conviction records causes many crimes to go unpunished!
Before a police officer can actively devote time to your case, he has to know his adversaries at the D.A.’s office - - - and, unfortunately, that’s the way they seem to see one another - - - will be unable to reject your case due to “lack of overwhelming proof.”
Very often, the police know exactly who committed crimes and would probably be glad to arrest the persons responsible, but are stopped cold in their tracks because the D.A. requires devastating proof. Hand the police a well-articulated and simple case they can prove, and you’ll get a much better response.
COPS RECEIVE PRAISE AND PROMOTIONS FOR LOWERING CRIME STATS. THE SOLUTION IS OFTEN “NO REPORT, NO CRIME.”
The Police are under constant pressure from their leaders to lower crime statistics in their assigned regions. Therefore, they are greatly motivated to reject your case if there is any way possible to “kick it off” to another jurisdiction. An example of this is if you had a package shipped from your warehouse in Commerce, California via Primo Parcel Service, bound for a customer in Phoenix, Arizona, and the package was apparently opened somewhere between your wrapping room in the shipping and receiving department of your company and the customer’s dock; some of the goods were stolen. Your own records show you shipped 4 sets of expensive headphones, and the customer called to tell you the package only contained one such set when it was received. You then call the local Commerce, California police department to report the theft. They send out a car; the officer promptly tells you to file your case with Phoenix, Arizona, washing his hands of the matter and not even taking a report. “You had the full shipment here in Commerce when it started. Everything was fine here in Commerce. It was discovered stolen in Phoenix, Arizona, so it’s not our jurisdiction; sorry.”
You call Phoenix cops, they tell you to file the case in Commerce. When you tell them you’ve already tried that, they tell you to contact Primo Parcel Service, make an insurance claim with them and let their insurance carrier make a police report.
You call Primo Parcel Service in Los Angeles and they tell you they can’t do anything without a police report; they suggest that, since it was successfully scanned through their shipping system all the way from your dock to your customer’s dock, and signed for at the other end in Phoenix, that their insurance carrier is not involved. And if you think the cargo was somehow stolen in transit, you should call the FBI because it traveled across state lines.
Great idea! You call the FBI, and they inform you their minimum threshold for crimes involving shipments is a million dollars; this prohibits their devoting any resources to solving theft cases when the loss is less than that. Echoing a voice from the past, they direct you to the Commerce, California police. However, you still haven’t ruled out several possibilities: theft on your shipping dock, theft by a Primo Parcel Service employee, or theft by someone at your customer’s receiving area. It can get very, very frustrating.
The net result is, unless there are exigent circumstances, you’re almost forced to investigate your own case to a conclusion and develop at least some form of adequate proof before even calling the police.
COMPLICATION PRODUCES AVERSION: KEEP IT SIMPLE.
The sad truth is, cops don’t have much time for you. I’ve met burglary detectives in big cities like Los Angeles who show me desks overflowing with case files, with new files constantly stacked atop old ones. Some cops get 20 to 30 new cases each day! With 8, 10 or even 12-hour shifts, how can they investigate so many cases? The real, little-known answer is that they can’t. Most cases never get properly “worked” in many cities, and most criminals go free as a result.
You can assure your case gets the attention it needs by “cutting to the chase,” making it as easy as possible for police to quickly understand your case, take it in as an active police matter and to complete their important legwork. In most instances, it’s best to actually do much of that work for them: unless it’s a true emergency, you should take the time to lay out very clearly for the police the “corpus” or “body” of the crime.
COPS ARE NOT INTERESTED IN FINANCIAL DISPUTES; AVOID MAKING YOUR CRIME LOOK LIKE A CIVIL MATTER.
When reporting case involving employees stealing, it’s important to know the definition of theft in your state. Theft is usually defined as “Taking of one’s property by another with intention to permanently deprive.” Don’t bother calling the police if you checked out a heli-arc welding machine to your company mechanic for a private job he was doing at his house, when he decided to quit his job and apparently just keep the welder. He signed it out, so there may be an argument as to whether or not he intended to permanently deprive the company of the welding machine. It’s unclear whether he promised it would be returned on a certain date, so you may have a civil matter instead of a crime. The cops will tell you to take him to small claims court….and no theft case will be taken.
To avoid this rejection, eliminate the possibility of your criminal case being viewed as a civil matter (unless it really is one, of course.)
If you have the luxury of time, and an instant police response is not essential to the success of the case, you should write a complete narrative about the crime before you even call the police. Include the last time the item was accounted for, and list the witness who can attest to that. Then include the first time the item was determined to have been missing, and explain who discovered the loss and list that witness by name. Prepare the police a complete journal of events, in chronological order, in plain, simple English. List your witnesses and give each witness’s full name, position in the company or relationship to the crime, date of birth, Driver’s License number, a telephone contact number and address. This saves the police asking for all that information, and they appreciate it. Give the police the serial numbers of any serialized items stolen. Print out all pertinent inventory control data and show it as an exhibit attached to your narrative. Find the receipt for lost items if they were purchased instead of manufactured, to establish the victim’s losses in simple “black and white.” Show the police that the person intended to permanently deprive the company of the embezzled funds, or the stolen items. The more you do up front, the less the police will have to work on solving your case, and the more likely your case will stay at the top of the heap until it ends in a successful arrest and conviction.
When you call the police, it’s best to have “all your ducks in a row.” If you need to call on outside professional help in establishing that proof, whether it’s a Forensic Accountant, Labor and Employment Counsel, a Private Investigator or some combination of the above, it’s probably a great investment, in the long run.
Always remember that cops aren’t bill collectors. They’re only interested in enforcing the law when it’s clear a crime has occurred. Don’t make their job confusing by alluding that your main motive in going after the perpetrator is to get your money back. If you are able to truthfully do so, tell the police your company policy is to fervently prosecute all criminal matters when the company is a victim, to support the Police Department in its efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice under all circumstances.
MAKE YOUR INITIAL CONTACT WITH THE POLICE - A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE FOR BOTH
Let’s say you own a small business in Corona del Mar, California, and you discover an apparent embezzlement via the expense account of a sales representative. When you try to question your suspect employee, he refuses to talk to you and just quits his job, instead. You continue pouring over his records for several days thereafter. The evidence is mounting; he double-billed and falsified receipts for reimbursement. You know he’s now working for your main competitor across town. You might call the police and say, “Hi; I have something to report. We had a guy that used to work here who may have taken some liberties with his expense account, and it looks like he might owe us a few thousand dollars.” Do not expect to have a police car arrive any time soon.
The way you articulate the problem has a great deal to do with the police response.
Take a moment and script exactly what you’re going to say, well before even dialing the police. Make it clear and compelling.
It may end up sounding like this: “Hello, I’m Joe Swift, a manager with Gulf Component Corporation, and we’ve just conducted an internal audit which shows the crime of Grand Theft Embezzlement of not less than $3,554 occurred here within the past month. There may be more, but we have documentation and substantial proof of intentional theft of at least that amount, and we also have proof showing it was done by our former Sales Rep. We have copies of bank records and cancelled checks showing the embezzled funds went into the suspect’s bank account. We have all the original documentation that was fraudulently presented for payment here, and we’ve followed the trail of money, so there’s no question about who did it, or the suspect’s intent to defraud us. We have all of the suspect’s identification information and, in fact, we even know where he’s working. We need a report taken immediately so your officers can apprehend the suspect; he’s just across town at this time. Our address is 4244 East Columbia Circle, here in your jurisdiction within the city limits of Corona del Mar. I’ll be in the main lobby, waiting for the officers when they arrive.”
The difference in response is palpable.
How To Deal With Police When Reporting Employees Stealing
In conclusion, give the cops a break. Remember they’re understaffed and overworked, and often motivated through no fault of their own to “sweep your case under the rug.” Simplify your communication with the police, articulate your case clearly, know the applicable criminal laws, and make sure they can’t reject your case due to jurisdictional issues nor describe it as a civil matter before it’s even given a Police Report number.
If you have questions regarding your firm’s own floundering criminal case, whether or not it’s already been reported to the police, contact your legal counsel or your professional private investigator specializing in workplace criminal matters, and apply these winning principles to prosecution of the crime.
About the Author
Kent Perkins is a Corporate Investigator at Diversified Risk Management Inc, Los Angeles, a full-service investigation firm specializing in labor and employment related investigations and risk mitigation consulting services. Mr. Perkins can be reached at +800.810.9508 or by email.