Effective damage control starts with the policies that govern your business operations. While it is vitally important to direct the flow of information you do not, however, have to assume the role of control freak to accomplish this task. This article will briefly describe the two types of damage control most commonly encountered in the pyrotechnics industry during the course of a law enforcement investigation.
Generally, the line between an inspection and an investigation is clear and obvious. In a previous article* it was suggested that one employee be assigned to oversee the inspection process undertaken by the various agencies that regulate your operations. Similarly, only one employee should be designated as the individual responsible for communicating with law enforcement investigators during an investigation. This employee could be the lead technician at the display site or, as the case may be, the company compliance officer at the facility.
Having only one employee assigned, essentially as a gatekeeper, serves the important purpose of having your version of events remain consistent; although it is entirely understandable that, as time elapses, important facts may diverge from initial impressions. This gatekeeper also provides investigators with a predictable and, presumably, reliable source of contact. It is not uncommon for this employee to participate (together with the company attorney) in the process of scheduling the production of employee-witnesses to investigators. As always, a user-friendly individual is highly recommended for this sensitive assignment.
By strictly controlling from the outset the number of sources of information available to investigators you effectively control the flow of information released to them. In this context of damage control, the less said, the better.
While less is more when your business is communicating with investigators during the course of an investigation, more is more when talking with your lawyer during the investigation. Whether your initial decision to withhold information is the product of natural human hesitancies regarding the disclosure of bad news, or sinister motive, no benefit is to be served by withholding negative information from the company attorney. The fact that your attorney is obligated to keep all conversations in strictest confidence provides a strong incentive to disclose all information. Not just information that the company deems material, but also information that may lead your attorney to discover material information.
In conclusion, directing the flow of information is critical to effective damage control. To the extent feasible, limit information furnished directly to investigators while, at the same time, release all available information to the company attorney as soon as possible.
* The Key to Hassle Free Inspections, Fireworks Business, June ’03.