One of the most important jobs of an investigator is to establish a pattern of facts. Multiple witnesses reporting the same sequence of events bolsters confidence in the accuracy of the claim. Finding the same error at multiple locations establishes an agency-wide challenge. And multiple instances of the same behavior help establish an intent to commit fraud or misconduct.
That last one is one of the most valuable tools in an investigator’s toolkit. Many individual actions can be explained away as a misunderstanding or a mistake. But investigators are adept at establishing a pattern where one person is accused of similar behavior over a period of years or even decades. While the pattern may go unnoticed due to a change of managers or departments, a report to an Inspector General’s office can lead to an investigation that establishes that pattern.
The most important tool for establishing a fact pattern is the mindset of an investigator. The best investigators are instinctively driven to gather as much knowledge about a situation as possible. During the course of investigations and interviews, they often hear allegations of similar behavior in that person’s past. As that behavior is substantiated and a pattern of improper behavior is established, confidence in the investigator’s assessment rises.
The next best tool, however, is a system that can make patterns easier to recognize. Case management systems should bring to the forefront when two or more historical allegations share things in common, whether that is a subject, a location or even a tool being used in the misconduct. While investigators are certainly meticulous enough to find this data and put it together themselves, a “self-searching” system can save countless hours of work, allowing them to focus on the facts of the cases rather than the linkages that connect them.
Here are two examples of an IG building a fact pattern that established bad behavior.
1. Los Angeles county officials recently banned pepper spray in juvenile detention halls beginning next year. The county’s Office of Inspector General established a pattern of pepper spray usage in situations where it wasn’t warranted, traumatizing kids and doing damage to their relationships with the officers who are supposed to help them become better citizens. In some cases, the kids were being “passively non-compliant” and were sprayed punitively.
2. In a particularly uncomfortable situation, the Department of Defense Inspector General last year published a report which determined a senior member in the IG office had a history of sexual misconduct against multiple other members of the team spanning at least six years. When confronted with the facts, he denied them and claimed he was being framed by the employees. He was forced into retirement, but retained all of his benefits despite the misbehavior.
Cases like these are among the best opportunities for investigators to demonstrate their value, in part because investigations unravel a series of related but previously unconnected facts that make it impossible to explain away bad behavior. If your case management system isn’t helping you as you work to connect the dots in cases like these, it might be time to consider a new one!
To learn how CMTS can help your agency close cases more efficiently, call us at 855-636-5361 or email us at Team_CMTS@SecureCaseManagement.com.