At the 2019 PARMA Annual Conference, Kimberly George from Sedgwick and Mark Walls from Safety National hosted a live “Out Front Ideas with Kimberly and Mark” event that featured a panel of risk managers discussing their biggest challenges. The panelists were:
- Michael Alio – County of Orange
- Sergio Cazorla – Baldwin Park USD
- Steven Robles – County of Los Angeles
- Jonathan Shull – California Joint Powers Insurance Authority
The panel discussed a wide variety of topics including:
- Your employees are your front line of defense. This requires constant training for them to identifying suspicious emails that may be an attack to gain entry into your system.
- Larger public entity employers are facing several hundred cyber attacks per week, either via email or trying to hack into their systems.
- Public entities have large amounts of data that hackers want such as social security numbers so they are a frequent target for these attacks.
- As part of a risk assessment it is important to look at the data you are collecting and storing to determine if that information is really needed. Do you need social security numbers on T-ball registration forms?
- Your partners are all essential to your overall cyber security strategy. Often hackers gain access to your system via a third party.
- Your Chief Information Security Officer tends to focus on the hardware and software. As a risk manager you need to look more at the people and your partners.
- It is important to have a policy that explicitly outlines what behaviors are allowed and prohibited. For example, a probation on transporting students in a personal vehicle.
- Your social medial policy should govern interaction between staff and students. The best policy is to limit this interaction as much as possible.
- If you provide email/messaging services through the school, this should include monitoring software to flag potential problem communication. This includes bullying, threats of suicide, or any inappropriate behavior. All staff/student communication should flow through this system for monitoring.
- Department of Family Services workers are very challenged when it comes to identifying potential problems. When there are wrong there are severe consequences. They get sued for removing children from a home, and sued for not removing children from a home. These are very difficult decisions to make.
- There are many risk management challenges that arise from large homeless populations in cities.
- Often times there are people with significant mental health issues that can pose a threat to those around them. This includes students in schools and your general public. Law enforcement usually does not know if they are dealing with a person that has mental health issues when responding to a call.
- There are risks associated with providing services at homeless encampments. These services include housing, mental and physical health services, and hygiene services. While these services are very helpful to the people they serve, they also exposure your public entity to liability claims. This includes something as simple as allowing people to camp overnight on your parking lot. When there have been assaults or injuries, there have been lawsuits brought against property owners that allow homeless encampments.
- There are significant public health challenges with homeless populations. This includes exposure to diseases like TB, exposure to needles, and human excrement. Your workers who are assisting at these encampments are also exposed to these conditions and need to be protected.
- Threat assessment is an important part of any security program. If you do not control entry to your building then you cannot keep known threats from entering. Known threats include people with past confrontation problems (students, residents), workplace violence risks, and people who are under a domestic protection order. When threats are know you need to have flags built into your building security system to keep them out.
- Training is essential and the importance of this cannot be overestimated. Train on what to do if there is an active shooter incident or an unwanted building intruder.
- Cross functional collaborate is important. Your staff should be working with law enforcement in establishing your security plans.
- Juries around the nation are increasingly hostile to public entity employers.
- There has been a shift in the way judges instruct juries to increase the likelihood that there is a judgement against the public entity. For example, if a police officer fires six shots at someone each shot will be considered a separate event. If the third shot was technically fatal, additional shots could be considered excessive. This is in spite of the fact that the person shot could still be acting aggressively even though they have receive a fatal wound.
- Using mock juries can be a valuable tool to see how something will play out in a trial.
- Plaintiff attorneys often resist early settlement of cases on a nuisance value because they want to run up additional attorney fees.
- An important consideration with any jury trial is the public perception of that trial. Will future jury pools be tainted because of a bad case.
- Try to settle if practical. Jury trials are too unpredictable and risky.