On Monday, April 10, 2017 at approximately 10:30AM, fifty-three-year-old Cedric Anderson walked into a San Bernardino classroom and open fired, killing his estranged wife, Karen Smith and an 8-year-old student. A 9-year-old was also wounded in the melee. According to a report on the CNN website, Anderson, during the shooting, reloaded what appeared to be a .357 caliber handgun, before killing himself. The report also documented that Anderson had a history of violent behavior in that he had been charged in the past with brandishing a handgun and was the subject of previous temporary restraining orders by other women.
The reason I wanted to discuss this specific incident was not to assign blame on anyone other than Anderson for the tragedy that occurred that morning. I also don’t want to “Monday morning quarterback” the school for their policies although they should, and I’m assuming will, take a very hard look at their visitor policies moving forward. But this incident, although according to the CNN report was unforeseen by anyone, quite possibly could have been avoided. This essay is meant only to provide a recommendation for not only schools but all businesses to follow when adopting and implementing their workplace violence prevention programs.
Domestic violence in America has a far-reaching effect on many people, not only for those who are immediately involved. Victims of domestic violence feel many different emotions; humiliation, embarrassment, guilt, anger, sadness, depression, seclusion, etc., none of which is good. Many times, it’s difficult for the victim to reach out for help or even escape the violent relationship. Many find it difficult to talk about their abusive relationships with others. The last thing they want to do is tell their employer, but that’s exactly what they should be doing not only for their own safety, but for the safety of others in the workplace.
As part of the workplace violence prevention training that I provide to employees, I always tell them that the company has no desire to delve into the personal relationships of its employees. What happens in the home is not necessarily the business of the company so long as it does not affect the work environment. However, when those issues, such as domestic violence, finds its way into the workplace, it is incumbent that the company know about the issue so that it can take appropriate measures to protect not only the employee subjected to the violent relationship but all employees.
There are many things you can do to protect yourself from an aggressor such as moving to a different location, using a friend’s car, changing where you go to socialize however, the one thing you can’t do is change where you work. After all, you still must pay the bills.
The aggressor may not be able to find you after hours but most times they know exactly where you work, what time you arrive and depart and may even know exactly where you park your car or the location of your desk.
Therefore, I always tell employees, if you are involved in a domestic violence incident, let your supervisor know. Should the aggressor arrive at the facility, they can be denied entrance into the building. They should be asked to leave and if they refuse, the police should be contacted immediately, especially if there is a restraining order in place. A person bent on causing harm to an employee will not allow anyone to stand in their way. Should someone attempt to come between them and their intended target, most likely others will be injured or even killed. This policy stops the aggressor from gaining access to the building and helps posture the company to provide for the safety and security of the intended victim and the other employees who may be caught up in the incident such as the two small children at this school.
Employers have a moral, ethical, and legal responsibility to ensure the safety of all employees while on the work site. But unless they are aware of the actual dangers, they have lost the battle before it has even begun. It is so important that if you are involved in a relationship that has or could turn violent, you let your supervisor know so that appropriate precautions can be taken on your behalf and on the behalf of all the employees and friends with whom you work.
At Black Tree we mourn for those lost and pray for their families, the survivors and for the speedy recovery of the small child wounded in this tragic event.
Dale is the Chief Operating Officer at Black Tree LLC, a company dedicated to empowering others through training in situational awareness and weapons handling. If you would like to learn more about Black Tree or sign up for a course of instruction, please visit the Black Tree web site at www.blacktreeexperience.com