The security week that was: 02/18/11 (When LP engages)

When do you engage?

Four Walmart employees were fired last month for engaging with a shoplifter. The story is as follows: Store loss prevention employees recognized shoplifting when a man concealed a laptop and attempted to leave the store. They apprehended him and took him to the interrogation room. The man produced a weapon in the room and took an assistant store manager hostage. The three LP employees present were quick acting, and wrestled the gun away from the man, freed the hostage and were able to detain the suspect. I imagine they felt like heros, and rightfully so! Then they were all subsequently fired (even the hostage was fired) because Walmart's policy is that employees should disengage and let the criminal do what he wants if he pulls a weapon.

The general attitude from the loss prevention community is that the employees did the right thing by disarming the hostage taker and freeing the hostage themselves, but Walmart is fervently defending the firing of its workers. What would you do?

Most (but not all) members of our Loss Prevention Forums are saying that in these cases you have to think about self-preservation before the three-ring binder. Here are some quotes from our members (see the full discussion thread):

- "Survival trumps being a good worker drone that died in the line of LP duty."

- "They got fired because they put themselves in unnecessary danger."

- "I have been in the same situation and was faced with the same split second decision as the WalMart LP staff. My thought at the time was, I'm coming out of this alive, and would take the same action today - no matter what the company policy was."

- "God was watching these LPO's that day; they did the right thing and disarmed the subject."

- "This is sad for the APAs who were terminated, but it is a sign the Market Asset Protection manager did not back them up on this."

There is a huge disagreement over what security and loss prevention workers should do today? Should they purely be on "observe and report" duty? If so, why do we call them security workers and not "Professional Note Takers"? In our society, we seem to have been chained by the legalities of three-ring binders on business policy and forget that there is a human element. The three-ring binder written by Walmart's risk management team forgets that the employee-hostage can be a friend, a neighbor who lives in the same town, the guy you eat lunch with every day. If there was a possibility to help, and we didn't stand up for that person's survival, I'd say our human value is no more than the value of a three-ring binder. And three-ring binders sell for between $3.50 and $5.97 at Walmart today.

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