A reliable methodology for assessing security

Why a court-approved methodology for expert witnesses can fit with your security program


Can a facility's security manager, or a security consultant or expert reliably assess a facility or operation's security? Certainly a forensic methodology exists to assist them in doing so retrospectively after an incident has occurred and a lawsuit filed. However, the same methodology can be used by a facility manager to assess those issues a court may look at in the future.

In 1993 the U. S. Supreme Court addressed the issue of "junk science" being presented by experts at trials. In doing so, the court issued guidelines for the admissibility of future scientific testimony, and confirmed the judge's role as "gatekeeper". That case was Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc.

The thrust of the court's opinion was that even if the expert was otherwise qualified by training, education and experience, his or her testimony had to be arrived at by a method that produced "reliable" results. If not, the court could reject it. In a subsequent case in 1999 the court expanded the Daubert ruling to include all expert testimony, scientific or otherwise.

In 2000 the International Association of Professional Security Consultants (IAPSC), of which I am a member, developed and published its "Forensic Methodology". Using that methodology, IAPSC members and others called upon to act as consultants and testifying experts in premises security cases in litigation, could reliably assess the security issues of the case. That forensic methodology can be downloaded from the IAPSC at the following link: www.iapsc.org/uploaded_documents/bp2.doc (MS word document format).

In September 2007, I was serving as the defendant's expert in a case in federal court in Kentucky. The case involved the stabbing death of a young man at a shopping mall. Shortly before trial, the plaintiff's attorney filed a "Daubert" motion with the court seeking to exclude my testimony as not being derived using a reliable methodology. The judge, in a very detailed memorandum opinion, after first explaining why otherwise preliminarily qualified security experts had failed to have their opinions admitted in other cases, detailed the steps I took in this case using the forensic methodology and, most importantly, found the IAPSC methodology to be "reliable" under Daubert.

That methodology can be used retrospectively by any qualified security professional applying their training, education and experience to the facts of the case. Security managers can use the methodology to prospectively assess their facility or security program now, by simply ignoring sources of information that would only be available after an incident has occurred, such as a police report of an incident, witness statements or depositions, etc.

The IAPSC is currently updating the methodology, and the updated version will be released on the IAPSC website within the next few months.

About the author: Ralph Witherspoon, CPP, CSC, is president of Witherspoon Security Consulting, where he provides management and liability consulting on security and loss prevention issues in addition to expert witness and forensic security services. Prior to opening his security consulting practice, Witherspoon served at a senior level in the corporate security department of Standard Oil/British Petroleum. He is a member of the International Association of Professional Security Consultants (IAPSC) where he serves on the board of directors, and ASIS International. He can be reached via Witherspoon Security Consulting.