1 888 989 2800


...or use our Case Request Form online

News

Psychological Injury Claims

February 14th, 2019

Investigating psychological injury claims may appear to be a difficult task when comparing to an individual who has made injury claims.  A Psychological injury claim can include everything from someone who has made claims of memory loss, a traumatic brain injury that results in the function or the performance of an individual.  As professionals, we are attempting to either verify or disprove these claims, which are much tougher then looking for physical illness.  Despite the barriers, the big differentiator is conducting human intelligence, where investigators make discreet contact with individuals who have known the subject before the claims and most importantly afterwards.  Inquiring about the functionality of someone before and after their psychological injury claims can answer several questions.  Certain topics that our investigators will consider are schooling; is their performance decreasing? or even playing sports; how productive are they while playing their sport after the fact? These are the answers that can be telling on how legitimate or credible someone is when making a claim like this.

 Leave investigating psychological injury claims to the experts

As professionals in this industry, we have broadened our horizon from just physical claims and have investigated far more serious things, such as psychological injury claims.  This is not the first time we have dealt with such claims and when we do we are highly knowledgeable in how to proceed with them.  Not to mention, these claims reach as far as how active individuals are with their social media platforms and what the state of their web presence is when making the claim. There are several factors that we as professionals look into and most importantly thoroughly investigate with due diligence. If you need assistance investigating a psychological injury claim, contact the experts at Sherlock Investigations – (855) 989-2500!

Independent Medical Exams and Video Surveillance

February 7th, 2019

IME can assist in video surveillance

 

Whether it is worth running video surveillance on the day of an Independent Medical Exam (IME) or similar event is usually a subject of debate. There are a few important things that can be determined from them, but most importantly it all comes down to the purpose of the investigation. A scheduled appointment provides opportunities to see things in a light that you may not be able to get on any other day.

If there is still a question on where an individual is currently residing, these appointments provide the investigator a rare tool of knowing exactly when and where a subject is going to be. Locating them at this appointment, and then conducting the follow after help to set up every day to come. Medical mileage numbers, care / service providers, and transportation company billing can all be a big help to an investigator too, as there are a number of methods a “ghost” may actually use to show up for the appointment.

If the question is more the legitimacy of the injury and how the subject presents themselves, the IME allows an opportunity to conduct video surveillance on the subject in two lights on the same day; normal daily activity and also the presentation at the IME. It would by no means be unheard of for the investigator to do video surveillance showing a day in which a subject went to work, took kids to school, did grocery shopping, drove themselves around for the day, but then at the same time also required transportation service or momentarily produced a cane or other medical assistive device that is absent the rest of the day.

Provided the subject decides to actually show for the IME and not skip / cancel at the last moment, it’s also a reliable day for guaranteed activity. In some situations, there may not be available budget to run 3 or more days of video surveillance to target a specific claim, so utilizing the first day as one of these appointments can be valuable in terms of getting immediate eyes on a subject and evaluating additional time.

In the end, there is not really anything that can be gathered on an IME date that cannot be seen any other time. They are useful days for guaranteed activity, provided the subject decides they actually want to appear, and the dichotomy between the presentation at the appearance and the remainder of the day can be quite intriguing. If you have an upcoming appointment for one of your subjects and would be interested in us performing video surveillance for you, contact us today! We would be glad to assist.

What it’s like to be a Female Investigator?

February 1st, 2019

Working as an investigator and conducting surveillance for over a decade, one would imagine all the stories you can add to your mental notes to ponder around a bonfire one day.  Working years in the state and federal government, then converting over to the private sector utilizing video cameras to conduct investigations has enhanced my skills. Can working for those various elements as an investigator give you a huge insight on things to expect while working in the field? Yes… I think, right? Well, I am here to tell you, just when you think you’ve seen it all…. try doing all of this being a female investigator!

My disclaimer: I am not saying any male investigator is less interesting, better or worse than any female investigator. What I would like to point out is the mere challenges, discretion, video surveillance and extraordinary circumstances that may allow women to appreciate the overcoming obstacles and tips from working in surveillance.  I am asked many questions from various people when they find out where I work and/or my expertise. A few of the common reactions: “I would’ve never expected you to work in that field” or “you do not look like you work as an investigator” and even “I need you to video spy on my boyfriend”. I would assume they may refer to the thought of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones characters in the 1997 movie Men in Black, all black suits with dark glasses and erasing people’s memory of their alien friends in action. Well, I can’t compete with all that funny entertainment or with a list of policies when a routine circumstance arises.

There is nothing routine about working video surveillance! After completing a detective school for law enforcement surveillance, I found that the tips given to make surveillance more convenient did not include a section dedicated for a female investigator. Again, not a male basher at all, I began my career with male trainers. However, video surveillance may involve long hours, a variance in the environment, satisfying curious or paranoid people, undercover roles, etc. With experience in surveillance, I’ve learned a few tips for survival out in the field and love to pass along things I have overcome, big or small.

What it's like to be a female investigator

I am sure many investigators may relate to the common obstacles working out in the field and can share experiences like mine. But, dealing with men out in the field has made the pattern of “thinking outside of the box” unique for me as a female investigator. One nice afternoon as I recorded video footage for a case, a neighbor and his buddies came outside sitting around on the porch and looked my way several times. As my wheels began to turn on how I will respond to them — because I know it’s coming — I checked all my mirrors again, surrounding environment, GPS map of the area, placement/coverup of my video surveillance equipment, and prepared for anything.  One on the guys, that appeared to be the leader of the group — by displaying a cocky stance on the sidewalk with his chest poking out — walked toward my vehicle wobbling side-to-side like he was a penguin and grabbing the groin part of his pant, arrived at my driver’s window to initiate a conversation.  I politely greeted him with a smile, he smiled back, tucked his chest back in while looking toward his buddies and giving them the signal of approval for me being there. After listening to his story of being a rapper, knowing celebrities, and inviting me to meet his friends at his house, I politely declined, gave him a quick story to satisfy my existence in the area and was thankful I didn’t have to stay much longer afterward. The engaging, yet annoying conversation with him helped my cover in the area. I did not look suspicious, threatening, and I appeared be visiting the guy at my window whom claimed he knew everyone in the neighborhood.  It was torture pretending I knew the local rappers he bragged about and him insisting I be a model in his upcoming music videos; all while I had the least amount of eye contact with him in order to maintain my cover, and highly alert for any changes at the house I watched. Finally, I got him to buzz off after a few moments and he didn’t bother me any further.  Afterwards, I had thoughts of wishing I had eaten a burger full of onions for lunch, used pieces of aluminum foil to pretend I had white gold or platinum teeth, or even stepped in my dogs’ poop before work and had the aroma emanating from my car window.  Oh, the stories… and the videos to prove some laughs.

Preparing a cover story or two for use during surveillance in a residential area may make or break a case. Evaluating the totality of circumstances, the demeanor of you/the curious neighbor and the direction of a conversation (or cover) helps to quickly eliminate obstacles to maintain integrity of the surveillance. My years of experience and skill set is embraced by my bosses. It leaves me to do what I am good at and ensures a great service to satisfy clients. Priceless…

Check out the company’s website at www.claimspi.com for more information on how we can be of service to you. Also remember, if it didn’t happen on video, it never happened.

Conducting Surveillance in Seasonal Elements

January 24th, 2019

There is a misconception out there that conducting surveillance is “seasonal” operation. Just because its cold, or rainy, or snowing… people’s lives don’t stop. Groceries still need to be bought, kids still need to get to school, people still need to go to work, and chores still need to be done. Every claim is unique, because every person is unique. Their schedule is theirs, and is built upon family, pets, work, and other responsibilities. 

The real skill lies in determining these patterns of life. Whether through the use of various background checks, social media and internet profile investigations, or the use of stationary surveillance, there are a number of methods in learning and determining those patterns. Those background investigations can help you learn more about where a person has been, the people they have lived with, the vehicles they have owned, and get a well-developed picture of who this person is. In a lot of cases the background investigation is the backbone of how the surveillance is planned.

It’s amazing that so many people still put so much out there on social media. Whether that is regularly checking in at their favorite restaurant every Sunday morning, leaving their geotagging on when taking a selfie and uploading it from the gym locker room, just talking about when and where they are going to be next Saturday morning or talking about their child’s sport schedule and when/where the games are going to be. They’re not things people really take a second to even think about, but when the goal is to locate, observe, and document the daily activities of a given person, its certainly impressive what can be found when you know where to look.

One tool that is becoming increasingly more common, is the implementation of stationary surveillance. A camera can be placed in a give location that can records twenty-four hours consecutively for 2-3-4 or more days depending on the situation. If there is a question as to whether anyone lives at a home, or if the claimed care is even being conducted, that camera is a good method to learn what is actually happening there. It’s also reasonably successful at showing patterns and routines over a certain amount of time and can be super helpful to investigators in determining what day and time to be at a location to start conducting surveillance.

The biggest takeaway from these, is that none of them are seasonally dependent. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sunny summer day, a rainy spring afternoon, or winter morning where you may or may not have a driveway to shovel; lives don’t stop, and daily routines continue. If you have concerns regarding a claim or claimant, whether it be a person’s activity level or more related to the care they are receiving, don’t let the season dissuade you from investigating. We have all the resources necessary at our disposal to dig into things for you and help you get the answers you are looking for.

Surveillance Teams and the Battle Hand-Off

January 14th, 2019

Usually in the Military there are not many stand-alone operations (operations that have nothing to do with any other mission). Most missions are a part of something larger that is always trying to be tracked and directed. For instance, your mission may be to transport water to and from a combat zone, but the purpose of your mission is not transporting the water, it is to keep your comrades in the combat zone hydrated. This, like many operational environments can easily be related to surveillance. While working on a surveillance team, you may have the “mission” to check out a few houses, find some license plates, locate a person, document an area, etc. However, those tasks, like delivering water, are not stand-alone missions… and technically speaking, those are reconnaissance tasks, not surveillance.

Surveillance is the act of generating a report based on the reconnaissance operations that were conducted in support of the larger scope of intelligence gathering. Getting back on topic, the reason that surveillance teams were originally broken into rotations was so that a smaller force could surveille a larger force without much support i.e. four soldiers could watch four thousand people on a six-hour rotation. The immediate issue that arose with rotating shifts of dislocated, observation teams was continuity of information. And so, I have finally, finally reached the thesis of my blog: Surveillance Teams and the Battle Hand-off.

Surveillance team

I’m not sure what the continuity of readers is like for my blogs, so: to quickly introduce myself, I will go by JJH for the purposes of this blog. I am a nine-year Army Combat Vet who spent the entirety of his time in the Army as a Forward Observer. In my twilight years (2014-2017) I spent the majority of my time traveling around the U.S and sometimes Europe teaching, coaching, training and mentoring local and foreign militaries / governments to do what I do. It sounds cooler than it was, mostly I just tried to keep officers with 10 minutes of experience from putting out bad information.

The Battle Hand-off is easily one of the most important parts of reconnaissance (recon). Even if, by some luck of the draw, you get to go out on a stand-alone recon mission. You would still write up a report (surveillance) that gets dissected and applied anywhere, in anyway it can be e.g. people involved, geography, cultural stability, time, duration, weather, population density etc. That way there’s a continuity of information that can be built upon in order to maximize efficiency. The manner in which you choose to report is entirely up to the two entities (whether it be a person or a team) that relieve each other. Most of the time, it is very informal. The purpose of it being informal, is so that no information is lost in translation. Only in two other country’s (out of 10 or so that I have worked with) armies have I ever seen the requirement that an informal battle hand-off be recorded (thus creating a formal, non-formal report and ripping the fabric of time and space).

In general, differing levels of required formality in reporting lead to two things: The more formal the report is, the less likely it is something critical is missed, however, it then becomes more likely that opportunities are missed due to the inability to communicate seemingly innocuous details. The inverse is also true that the less formal the report writing, the more likely it is that something critical is missed, however every team member is more likely to have a better common operating picture. Which is a cool phrase that I will use to segue into…

Common Operating Picture (COP) is the term that defines the operational awareness that everyone has of a common, or communal thing. Now I know what you must be thinking, isn’t COP already an acronym I hear every other day that describes a smaller base overseas, a ‘combat out-post’? To that I say: yes, you have. The military, in its infinite wisdom has decided to move towards simplicity and reuse acronyms. I can list about four different things that “M.R.E.” is being used for right now… but I digress.

A COP (Common Operating Picture) is a picture-puzzle that everyone from the recon team, up to the intelligence analyst officers that compile theater-wide surveillance reports, is trying to solve. Each entity involved puts their picture on a puzzle piece and they all get handed up to some general somewhere who then gives it to some private to put together and explain to him. If everyone involved in the recon/surveillance team effort was able to understand what they were doing and why, then that synchronous effort leads to a picture of dogs playing poker, or whatever. However, if everyone involved is not aware of how their piece fits in the larger puzzle, then you would probably just get a Salvador Dali painting, or something. This Common Operating Picture leads to increasing levels of overall efficiency which can build upon itself and become an outrageously effect tool. However, if there are no Battle Hand-offs, it leads to mixed signals and lost opportunities and chaos.

You see, the Battle Hand-off is really the very first form of surveillance in any recon operation. After you recon an area and collect intelligence, whoever relieves you is briefed with your informal surveillance report. If for whatever reason the information is not handed off, then not only does your relief have no idea what their walking into (operationally speaking), but your puzzle piece at the higher levels, become less and less useful. This effect cascades up-hill until eventually all the clocks are melting and no one around you has any idea what is going on… which ironically, is the opposite purpose of surveillance. I could give a hundred examples of how a seemingly insignificant detail got lost and ultimately ruined an operation, but I don’t think it takes much imagination to see my point of view… but I mean when the Scooby-Gang is running back and forth from room to room trying to find a ghost, it wouldn’t take much to just have a conversation in the hallway about the rooms they’ve already been in.

To signal the outro of this blog, I will summarize by saying that if you are involved in any form of rotating surveillance and do not have some way to build off your teammates success or failures, you are doing yourself a great disservice. Synchronicity cannot be achieved without a directed unity of effort, and Battle Hand-offs are at the root of unity of effort. When you are on a surveillance team for a long period of time and have disjointed rotations, it is easy to forget that you are a part of a team. This leads to losing the perceived worth of a Battle Hand-off because of the disconnection from the team. At that point, there is no surveillance team, just multiple individuals trying to accomplish the same thing, separately. At that point, the concept of a team even becomes a hindrance because you have introduced a dissonance from reality for those people who are now both on, and not on a team. And at that point: chaos. Nobody likes chaos; do a Battle Hand-off.

PS. The “Picture-Puzzle” of surveillance was a metaphor, they never actually let us play with puzzles.

 

Thanks

JJH

The Personality Battlefield – Avoiding Mines in Insurance Fraud Investigations

December 4th, 2018

A Study Review on Insurance Fraud

by Samantha Castillo

Insurance Fraud Investigations

 

When working insurance fraud cases, our company addresses a wide range of targets, from preachers to convicted criminals. Current research, “The Dark Triad and Willingness to Commit Insurance Fraud” suggests that certain people are more likely to commit insurance fraud based upon dark personality traits (Modic et al, 2018). While it is typically not our job to make determinations about a person’s character based on our impressions or observations, we do need to take our own precautions. Each case carries its own weight and we have to be prepared in advance for any potential conflicts that may arrive whilst performing field work.

Modic et al explored the possibility that psychopathy, Machiavellianism and narcissism are linked to the increased likelihood of committing insurance fraud. These three traits comprise a “dark triad” and are distinct but overlapping constructs, which help in explaining a variety of behaviors typically viewed as unethical, blameworthy, deceitful, manipulative or self-centered (Modic et al, 2018). As investigators, we spend most of our time in close proximity to or interacting with our subjects in the field. A crucial part of preparing for these interactions or observations is to conduct a survey of the target’s (or subject’s) criminal history and past indiscretions; creating a basis for the level of aggressiveness that we can put forth.

By producing an environment where participants could make simulated insurance claims, Modic et al hailed results by two methods. The first method introduced items for claim without any circumstances around how the items were damaged. The second introduced another layer to the equation, whereas the item was damaged while the claimant was drunk, angry or it was damaged purely by accident.  The study created a baseline for fibbing with the first method and then went a step further by introducing the monetary incentives and situational factors (Modic et al, 2018). When the results of their study were evaluated, Modic et al found that the dark triad of traits has an impact on one’s likeliness to commit insurance fraud, more so the traits as a whole construct are more influential than the individual traits themselves.

What does this mean for insurance fraud investigations though? It cannot be concluded that all people that participate in fraudulent claims perpetually have one or all of those three dark traits, but we can use the possibility that a trait was present at the time of the claim. According to Modic et al, it is possible that situations that elicit anger or frustration increase the likelihood of fraudulent behavior, especially in individuals with high psychopathy (2018). The majority of the insurance claims that we see stem from an accident that caused supposed great physical or emotional damage to the claimant. It would be daft to not assume that the situation involves an element of anger or frustration.

High level claims that involve large monetary payouts, can many times carry an elaborate production from the claimant. Trying to catch a target in this production is the riskiest part of an investigator’s task. We want to get that target both using and not using that brace, crutches, or wheelchair. When we interview them, we want to ask questions that will provoke answers that stand out as controversial to any prior statements or claims they have made. But in doing this, what happens when you finally catch someone in a lie? How will they react?

These questions reiterate the importance of getting to know your subject’s temperament. Arrest and conviction records, social media, driving records, marriage and divorce records, child support or custody records, bankruptcy and foreclosure records, eviction records, police reports, and  prior interactions with other agencies; all of these things can be sorted through in order to build a profile and action plan for investigators in the field. The last thing that is wanted is for an investigator to find themselves in a position of danger or to wind up ruining a case. The goal should always be to maximize our opportunity! Ultimately, each step we take as investigators should not be impromptu and learning to make informed decisions is what it’s all about.

 

References

Modic et al., Cogent Psychology (2018), 5: 1469579 https://doi.org/10.1080/23311908.2018.1469579

Casualty Surveillance on Back Friday

November 23rd, 2018

Conducting Casualty Surveillance on Black Friday

BLACK FRIDAY!!!  What a wonderful, and opportunistic, time to run casualty surveillance on all those claim files…right???  I used to think so.

Here is a brief history of the circus that is commonly referred to as, “Black Friday”.  The earliest iteration of a similar sort of “Black Friday” phrase is from the early 1950s.  This was not used in a positive sense; instead it was how Philadelphia police referred to the massive crowds the day after Thanksgiving that would appear for shopping and tourism, often in advance of the Army-Navy college football game which was often hosted in Philly.  It was also, early on, used briefly to describe the day after Thanksgiving in terms of employees calling in sick at work so they could have a four-day weekend.  The idea of the day after Thanksgiving being a massive day for holiday shopping has never been lost on retailers…

So… what about the casualty surveillance aspect?

What needs to be kept in mind here is that the day after Thanksgiving, that “Black Friday” for eager shoppers looking for door buster deals, has grown, ridiculously!!  It’s no longer a single day, starting at midnight, anymore, where we could easily target a mid-evening casualty surveillance to obtain video evidence of claimants driving, shopping and carrying heavy items, potentially.  I’ve recently seen, and heard, a number of advertisements making claim of “Black Friday all week!”, “Black Friday starting at 2 p.m. on Thursday!” OR “Black Friday starts NOW!”.  (The latter was during a college football game on Saturday!)  All of a sudden, it makes sense to run surveillance on a claimant starting the Monday morning of Thanksgiving and giving it as much time, money and resources available up to, and through, “Black Friday”!  But wait!!  Let’s not forget “Cyber Monday”…

“Cyber Monday” is a marketing term for the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. The term “Cyber Monday” was created by marketing companies to persuade people to shop online, beginning in 2005.  This was meant to help combat late night shopping, extensively long lines and the running, pushing and shoving to obtain that one item you intended to waste your Friday evening attempting to purchase.  This online shopping spree also offers many, many deals to consumers, without the pains of dealing with the doorbuster mobs of aggressive shoppers!  So… who wouldn’t want to stay home and enjoy the same types of deals from the luxury of their laptops, tablets and cell phones?

In review, when determining the best time to target a claimant for casualty surveillance surrounding “Black Friday”…well…there is no definite equation.  There is no “special sauce”.  There is no real element that screams “do surveillance NOW!” during this shopping carnival, aside from having those brilliant claimants that keep their social media pages current, VERY current!  Casualty surveillance surrounding this upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, and all the bargain shopping, comes down to this:  Setting this mousetrap is a crap shoot!  Do we start at 9:00 A.M. the Saturday before to catch those deals?  Do we start at noon on Thanksgiving, banking on the notion that your claimants will leave family dinner and football for some early Black Friday shopping?  How about the old traditional shopping that day after our holiday feast in hopes that your claimant might be out for the midnight shopping run??

I’ve been asked, by many clients, my personal thoughts regarding casualty surveillance on Back Friday.  Bottom line is this:  all we can really do is analyze any social media postings, determine the possible stores demographically that MAY be visited and then hope for a little luck.  With all the options available now to help avoid the public on that dreaded day after Thanksgiving, I simply suggest keeping with an individual’s routine that week.

Where does the Difference Lie Between Private Investigators and Police Officers?

November 2nd, 2018

By: Samantha Castillo

It is often assumed that the roles of private investigators and police officers are interchangeable, with the key difference being that one operates solo and the other is part of an organization. This assumption is very far from actuality. Police officers hold entirely different powers and often are called into action when there is already evidence of a crime. Private investigators on the other hand, are limited in their authority and are more likely to be utilized to gather proof that a crime exists.

The skill set of both professions are where comparisons can really be drawn. The ability to conduct research in a legal manner in order to compile a profile for a subject or suspect is a key part of either position. Take that and compile it with in-field tactics and safety, and you have established a basis for conducting investigations and collecting evidence. So why does there seem to be disconnect between the two professions and their cooperation with each other? Logically, it would appear that there is a complimentary relationship between the job functions and the sequence of events in an investigation. But in real life, the day to day interactions between the two professions are minimal, strained or non-existent.

The private sector is composed of a vast variety of individuals, disproving the common misconception that all private investigators are former police. While many of our staff have police experience (sworn and civilian), as well as military experience there are some that began their careers in the private sector. Potentially, that may provide one reason for the disconnect with the professions, the private sector’s superficial lack of homogeneity.
Another reason for the dissonance may come from the imagery that is assigned to private investigators through the media and pop culture. Unfortunately, subpar investigators are given the limelight for their poor decision making and illegal investigation methods. This in turn makes it appear that private investigators are lacking accountability and are not to be trusted.  On the flip side, a private investigator’s ability to solve a case before the police is bad PR for a police department, further discouraging them from working alongside us.

The question now is – how can we improve these relationships for the future of policing and the private sector? The benefit of a mutual relationship has to be realized by both parties. Here are some examples of what that relationship can look like:

Difference Between Private Investigators and Police Officers-         Police departments can use the advantage of multi-jurisdictional reach that PIs possess.

-         Underfunded and understaffed departments can benefit by working alongside PIs that are hired by external entities to work the same case, perhaps bringing a different perspective or new leads.

-         PIs can also help with internal affairs in the police department such as internal investigations and background checks, items that will tie up officers and staff that could otherwise be utilized better elsewhere.

-         PIs can use the aid of police when conducting surveillance and field operations in criminal cases, providing a safety net for particularly dangerous case situations.

-         Rapport with local departments can provide police perspectives on cases that PIs often work, such as auto accidents.

Considering each other as a resource, rather than a hindrance, will lessen the parallelism of our careers and accomplish more in the end game.

How Military Surveillance Techniques and Civilian Surveillance Correlate – Part 3

October 19th, 2018

I’m going to go ahead and start by pointing out that the OODA Loop is one of the most over-used and under-understood concepts ever postulated. It is often boiled down to the sum of its most easily understood parts akin to me telling you that the movie “Fight Club” is just about a Fight Club. Anyways, I will do my best not to bore you to death in the explanation phase of this blog. Rather, I will give a brief overview and some history, then get into how it works. I strongly encourage you to think of this as a primer and if this intrigues you, to read more (from a more qualified author) on John Boyd and his philosophy of strategy.

John Boyd (1927-1997) was a badass. He literally revolutionized everything he ever got involved in. A fighter pilot in the Army and then the Air Force (when the Air Force was created in 1947), his lasting strategic and scientific contributions to the military cannot be understated. In the Air-Force, John Boyd wrote the first manual on Combat, Aerial Maneuvers (which is extremely scientific, drawing profoundly on concepts from thermodynamics) and heavily aided in the architecture of the F16/F15 and A10. As an Honorary Marine (as of 2014, there were less than 100 Honorary Marines total), his work in land-based maneuver concepts is still used today and, by the Army, his work in Land Force Strategy is still used today (I went through a planning course in June of 2017 where we learned about Land Force Strategy and he is still cited as a primary contributor). Keep in mind, this is still a gross, under-appreciative accounting of his contributions to the specific branches of the military. Suffice to say the man fundamentally and radically changed the military forever…and for me, now as a private investigator, how I use it in Civilian Surveillance.

John Boyd’s most famous contribution to society is without a doubt the OODA Loop. This concept is utilized in a remarkably widespread manner, including being an investigator doing civilian surveillance. The OODA Loop is most easily explained as a cognizant recognition of the most basic process of decision-making that all humans undertake. Or, in layman’s terms: the dude basically weaponized the scientific method. By understanding, then deliberately (instead of instinctively) moving through our, evolutionary based decision-making cycle, John Boyd figured out a way to think better. Yes, I said it, and I meant it: think, better; that’s how revolutionary this concept was/is.

Ok I’ll get on with it, then I’ll explain why I bored you to death with the two acronyms I predicated this entry on.

OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.

It is an OODA “Loop”, because when you complete the process, you are continually repeating the process until it becomes more likely than not, that it will be successful (just like the scientific method). We all do this, consciously or sub-consciously. Humans are fundamentally designed to look for patterns (Fair warning, I’m going to be throwing a lot of “absolute-sounding-statements” out here like this. You can fact-check me if you want, trust me I’ve done my research on this topic). From a practical, evolutionary standpoint, it affords our brain two modalities of thinking: The High-Road and the Low-Road.

The Low-Road is best described as when you’re driving home in your car from work, singing your favorite song and then you realize you’ve already made it home, without being able to fully remember how you got there. What has happened, is that you’ve driven home from work so many times, your brain recognizes the pattern and doesn’t need to put as much energy into repeating it. The High-Road is best described as… well the opposite of the Low-Road; you engage in some (usually new) activity where an incredible amount of critical and creative thinking is required to solve a problem. The correlation between these two methods of thinking, is that when you repetitively engage in a similar High-Road thought process, it eventually becomes a Low-Road process. Thus, that process becomes easier to progress through and therefore you can finish it faster, more efficient and it even becomes more pliable in relation to its application into various, other, similar situations i.e. you get good at swinging a bat, therefore your ability to swing a bat also increases.

Thus, if you can understand and prepare yourself for common aspects of your decision-making process before you must engage in them, you can actually hack your brain into progressing through new problems faster. For example, if you say, were to find yourself in a situation where you might need to think defensively, then coming up with a broad acronym for understanding key factors in defensive strategy might come in handy. For example, if you’ve already oriented (prepared) yourself to potential factors like Observation, Cover and/or Concealment, Obstacles, Key Terrain Features and Avenues of Approach, then when it comes time to solve a problem involving these things, you’ll actually be able to do so faster (A huge part of the OODA Loop is how fast you can complete the “loop”).

Ok, ok, ok I’ll explain the cycle.

 

O – Observe.

In order to begin the cycle, you must first observe a problem, potential or certain. This sounds simple, but like the rest of this deal, I promise it goes deep. The observation of a problem is more than just a physical observation of say, some dude coming at you with a knife. In order to completely observe a problem, you have to undertake many, many steps. In fact, John Boyd would argue that due to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and the necessity for universal application of scientific laws, it is impossible to completely “observe” anything… but that’s a little too deep for this blog. Let’s just settle with: you have to understand you have a problem in the first place. You might physically see a problem, but that doesn’t always mean you recognize that it is one. I suppose the simplest comparison here would be a drug addict not admitting that they have a problem. Even in the case of “some dude coming at you with a knife”, the “dude” might be a chef and he’s coming to cut your dinner, he might be a dude coming at you with a knife to cut you free because you’ve been capture, he might… you get my point. Objectively understanding the situation you find yourself in, is easily just as important as physically observing a problem.

 

O – Orient

This is the most complicated step of the entire process. In the scientific method, its parallel is the “hypothesis” step. This is where you figure out what’s going on. The way we as humans instinctively fathom what is happening now, is by basing it off what has happened to us previously. So, I guess we’ll keep going with the “dude coming at you with a knife” situation (yes, I realize it’s a pretty weak trope). So a dude is coming at you with a knife, you observe that the dude is wearing a white coat, a poofy hat and is holding a fork in his other hand. You recognize the knife as a chef’s knife and you instinctively use your previous life experiences to rapidly orient yourself to the fact that he is going to try to cut your dinner for you (because you’re apparently rich and eat at restaurants where the chef’s cut your food for you… I don’t know, work with me here). From this example we can theoretically extrapolate variations in the scenario and begin to understand the consequential loss of speed in the decision-making process that would occur from unfamiliar situations. However, again, if you were to have broadly, conceptually prepared for a “dude coming at you with a knife” (say by committing an applicable acronym to your Low-Road memory) then you wouldn’t suffer a loss of speed in your orientation to the situation.

One of the key factors here is the Analysis of the factors of the situation and the Synthesis of a solution. John Boyd based entire books off of the concept of “Analysis and Synthesis”, so I’m not even going to try to get into it. I recommend googling “Analysis and Synthesis Snowmobile example”.

 

D – Decide

From “Orient” it gets simpler, not easier mind you, but more straight-forward. You’ve observed a problem, you’ve oriented yourself to the situation (analyzed the factors and synthesized potential solutions) and then you simply decide the best answer for the situation. “Simply” being the key word here. Without belaboring this: the decision you make should be based off the solution you want i.e. you shouldn’t choose a decision based off a one-step action. You should decide on a solution based upon a continuous path you want to go down.

 

A – Act

And then, clearly, you have to actually do what you’ve decided to do. In this phase, action is predicated upon the understanding that you have completed only one loop. In any new, complex conflict wherein you are searching for an elegant, precise, efficient solution, you will undoubtedly not get it right the first time. Edison went through his loop hundreds of times before he invented the light-bulb. The big takeaway here is that you need to act based on the understanding that your action will have a reaction/consequence. The observation and orientation to this leads us down two paths: Competition and Science.

In Science, the application is purely academic. The understanding of your OODA Loop can allow for the refinement of your application of the scientific method, which allows you to alter your experiment in such a way that garnishes the result you’re looking for.

Competition goes much, much deeper. This is where my explanation of John Boyd “weaponizing the scientific method” can be appreciated. When you understand that all humans undergo the same basic, looping, decision making process, you can begin to start manipulating it to garnish a desired outcome. When you understand that your action will force the competition to Observe your actions then Orient themselves to you, Decide then Act, (and visa versa) you can begin to “get inside your opponent’s OODA Loop” and once you have done that, in John Boyd’s opinion, you have already won. Thus, any way you can increase the speed and flexibility in which you complete, and are able to complete, your loop, is an advantage you gain over your opponent. To chop it up in Private Investigator terms, if you observe that when your subject leaves their residence that they will have to go either left or right, you can orient yourself to both possibilities. Then, when it comes time for your subject to decide what to do, you will already be a step ahead of them, vis-à-vis the Decision step of the OODA Loop. Thus, you are now “inside” their loop and therefore the decision of “left or right” will not beat you… it seems obvious, but in its simplicity, it is profound.

 

Throughout my research, the big takeaway for me, is that objective, conscientious understanding of our actions leads to a refinement in our over-arching, decision-making modality, which ultimately leads to improvement in most aspects of life

I need you to keep in mind that this is a four-page, ramshackle explanation of one of the most comprehensive concepts there is. John Boyd used every form of published science, philosophy and strategy he could get his hands on and head around, then applied it into improving how we fundamentally solve problems. Even if you aren’t trying to use your noodle to this degree, just the exposure of some of the basic concepts in this strategic philosophy can greatly benefit you in every day life. I strongly encourage you to research the works of John Boyd further; it’s rawrsome.

 

Thanks

-          JJH

How Military Surveillance Techniques and Civilian Surveillance Correlate – Part 2

September 10th, 2018

This next entry will be a continuance of the previous entry highlighting two of the most important acronyms utilized in the army during surveillance operations and how I incorporate them into civilian surveillance: SLCTOP and OCOKA. In the last entry, we covered SLCTOP (Security, Location, Targets, Observation and Position Improvement). In this entry we will cover OCOKA and its implementation in the operational environment.

In retrospect, I probably should have detailed my goals for explaining two acronyms in the spectrum of the decision-making process. I am planning on remedying this by Quentin Terrantino’ing my outline and writing a prologue. Anyway, lets get into it.

 

 OCOKA (pronounced “Oh-Coke-Uh”)

Observation – Cover and/or Concealment – Obstacles – Key Terrain Features – Avenues of Approach

 

We begin with “Observation” there is obvious cross over here with SLCTOP and rightfully so. Observation is the foundation of pretty much all operations in that situational awareness, the assessment of the situation, the synthesis of problem solving in these situations etc. all comes from first, observation. In this context, “Observation” is used quite literally in the way of “how much can you see from where you are” and “can you see enough from where you are?” This use of observation is concomitant with security in SLCTOP as well in that, if you can’t see enough to be safe, you should probably move.

Next is “Cover and Concealment”. It is important to distinguish the dichotomy between the two, so we will have a common departure point. All cover is concealment, not all concealment is cover. This is the important take away here: concealment will hide you, cover will protect you. In the realm of civilian based surveillance, this is an interesting dynamic in that concealment can be as simple as the anonymity of society around you. In other words, in contrast to being in a combat zone, in the civilian world, just being a seemingly unassuming person can be considered “concealment”. It is equally important to consistently consider and assess your options and utilization of cover “hiding yourself” and concealment “utilizing anonymity” in civilian based surveillance as it is in military use (where cover is protection and concealment is obscuration).

Obstacles” are always considered and utilized in two ways regardless of the implementation of OCOKA. The first is as an obstacle to you, the second is as an obstacle to the enemy/target/subject. In this way, you can establish your observation posts so that, in the event of a rapid egress, the encumbrance of obstacles will be minimized i.e. traffic, stop lights, pedestrians. Likewise, you can observe potential obstacles that the subject will have to circumvent i.e. traffic, stop lights, pedestrians. And orient yourself accordingly. (You’ll notice I replicated the obstacles to both you and your subject. This is not always the case, but the point is to differentiate between obstacles to you, the subject, and the crossover that often occurs wherein you both share obstacles.)

Key Terrain Features is best described as unmovable landmarks that area easily identified and used for spatial orientation. This correlates deeply with situational awareness. For a Private Investigator doing civilian surveillance, the quick and accurate orientation to your operational environment is often paramount. The utilization of Key Terrain Features is a valuable trick for rapidly acquiring your relative location. Some examples include:

  • Major road orientation i.e. in Michigan, Mile roads run East and West
  • The sun (although it moves, it predictably rises and sets in the East and West)
  • Major city buildings in an urban environment

In the military, Avenues of Approach is primarily used for defensive posturing in a combat environment. However, I believe it is fairly obvious how orienting yourself to potential avenues of approach (roads, sidewalks, bike paths, doorways, parking lot/structure entrances/exits etc.) is something that should be measured in civilian surveillance as well. Avenues of approach is best defined as you and your subject’s potential routes of travel. The awareness and preparation for primary, secondary, tertiary etc. routes of travel can be the difference between getting the shot you need for your case, and watching your subject drive off into the sunset. In its application, the investigator should consider any potential routes the subject will take from most likely to least likely, and then orient accordingly.

So that’s another acronym. I’m sure by now you’re thinking “cool, an army dude is explaining acronyms” and believe me, I understand that its been a little dry so far. I can’t promise it won’t continue to be dry, but I can assure you that the next entry will explain why and how these acronyms can actually help you manipulate time itself in the application of your decision-making process.

Next time we’ll get into the OODA loop and I’ll try to bring this ship full circle. Believe me, it’s pretty cool… if you’re into that kinda thing.

 

Thanks – JJH