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Non-profit helps corporations identify potentially violent employees

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The murders of a TV crew are bringing new attention to a non-profit association that is helping businesses identify employees who may become violent. 

The unthinkable happened last week as photographer Adam Ward and reporter Alison Parker were murdered on live TV - their killer, a disgruntled former employee who used to work with them. Former FBI profiler Dr. Mary Ellen O'Toole says the gunman, Vester Flanagan, meets the definition of what she calls a dangerous "injustice collector." 

"They are a perpetual victim. An injustice collector will accept no responsibility for any of the problems they have in their life, they blame other people, but even more importantly than that, if you sat down with a real genuine injustice collector and said look you're simply not taking any responsibility in any of your life situations, they wouldn't get it, it would not sink through to them that they could at any level be at fault, even a little bit," O'Toole said.  

O'Toole is also a member of a non-profit association that is now helping corporations and universities deal with employees like Flanagan.

"You could be kicking the problem outside the door and just exacerbating what is already a dangerous employee," O'Toole said.

That's where the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals comes in. The president of that non-profit group, Chuck Tobin, says the association can be a good resource for businesses who want to prevent workplace violence. Some are even hiring security, mental health and human resources professionals to evaluate or monitor employees they're concerned about before and after they get fired. 

"When we approach the potential termination of that individual, understanding how to release them in a way that doesn't have them target the corporation is an important strategy, and then beyond that termination time there may be trigger points in their life that may take them to what we call the pathway towards violence," Tobin said. "A lot of it is about understanding their environment, what makes them tick, and how we can make sure that they are less likely to target, I guess, the organization or anyone else."  

O'Toole says co-workers should remember if you see something say something, and if you spot characteristics of an injustice collector you should report it. 

"When people see that type of behavior at work, they want to make sure that they're concerns are made known to the human resources department or to their management," O'Toole says.

Tobin says the biggest problem they're seeing is employees don't know who to talk to when they're faced with a problematic, or potentially violent worker, and they also don't know what to say in that scenario or what to look out for. Tobin adds that a substantial number of businesses want to hire professionals to help evaluate or monitor workers in response to an incident. Tobin says they would rather see those businesses call them before an incident or firing takes place as a proactive precaution, not as a reactive one. It's something he says is more effective in preventing workplace violence.

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