Jezebel published an article ridiculing the training session they received from an official of the Department of Homeland Security for a workplace shooting because it was politically incorrect.
The article, titled “A Homeland Security Official Came to Warn Us About Workplace Shootings and Political Correctness,” details the active shooter training that was organized by Gizmodo Media Group’s parent company, Univision. As part of the training, Kevin Peterson, an official from the Department of Homeland Security, was sent to the Gizmodo offices to instruct employees on how best to handle an active shooter situation. However, some employees were not impressed with the training that Peterson provided.
The article provided headings for some of Peterson’s suggestions as interpreted by the Jezebel staff, such as, “Don’t Be Afraid to Racially Profile Your Friends, Neighbors and Coworkers”:
Peterson opened his remarks with an anecdote about the San Bernardino shooters, who you’ll recall were a married couple. He noted that a neighbor failed to call the cops on the pair before the shooting, despite seeing them in their garage doing something murky. She feared being thought of as “racist,” Peterson said.
Peterson described this as an example of “political correctness run amok.” He encouraged us not to let a distaste for treating people differently based on their race or ethnicity prevent us from alerting the police to behavior like spending time in a garage with your spouse.
Author Anna Merlan claims this never happened, that neighbors of the San Bernardino shooters never suspected the couple of being terrorists, and that “There’s no evidence for it besides extremely thin reports on right-wing websites.” She cited reports from Politifact and FactCheck.org that purportedly debunked reports of neighbors saying they didn’t report their suspicions about the San Bernardino shooters because they didn’t want to racially profile them, but those articles make no such claim that those reports were false.
Rather, Politifact was rating the truthfulness of a broader claim made by Chris Christie during a January 2016 Republican presidential primary debate. PolitiFact rated Christie’s statement “False” that neighbors knew the terrorists were planning an attack but did not refute the reports he was speaking about. Likewise, FactCheck was criticizing the claim from then-candidate Donald Trump that neighbors had seen “bombs all over the floor” of the home of jihadists Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, but did not call into question the reports of neighbors failing to report the couple because they did not want to racially profile them.
Jezebel reporters called Peterson out, claiming that the report was false. Peterson further tried to explain the point of the anecdote regardless of whether or not it was correct and was reportedly laughed at.
A few moments later, he said “I want to return to the gentleman here,” he said, pointing to O’Connor. “Whether what the woman said is accurate or not—” he paused here to let the laughter subside — “The point is, the point I was trying to make, is don’t let that stop you from making the call if you think something is suspicious.”
Jezebel reporters further questioned Peterson:
During the question and answer portion of the training, Special Projects editor Kelly Stout asked, “You advised us to dispense with political correctness when dealing with potential threats. Is that DHS policy or your personal opinion?”
“It’s both, I would say,” Peterson responded. “It’s a common sense thing.” Perhaps sensing the nonplussed mood in the room he added a caveat that he had not when he first told the story: “That shouldn’t be the determination as to why you make a phone call. You don’t make a call because someone is a certain ethnicity or religion or from a certain area of the world. The reason to make the call is that you’re suspicious of some activity that person is doing.”
"hello welcome to active shooter training the first step: you gotta get extremely racist"
— Chris Person (@Papapishu) March 23, 2017
Merlan further claims that Peterson instructed them to “Make Sure to Snitch on Depressed People,” claiming that the chart below encouraged “viewing people who seem depressed as potential threats”:
The author then concedes, “Some of these points are worthwhile—a hostile person with a new fixation on weapons might be a concern—but ‘depression or withdrawal’ is not, on its own, a good indicator of a future workplace shooter. (Especially in this business.) Nor is absenteeism or failure to comply with company policies.”
Merlan then attacked Peterson for not focusing on white men, which she claims are most likely to commit workplace shootings based on a 2015 article from CNN. However, that article notes: “Are young, white men more likely than anyone else to become mass murderers? Well, it’s complicated. Analysts say a variety of factors could be at play.” CNN also quoted Columbine author Dave Cullen as saying: “If you look at the whole list, it turns out that whites and blacks are pretty proportionate to their population, very close.”
Merlan for some reason then conflated the claim that the majority of mass shooters are white men with statistics from Bureau of Labor Statistics about women being most likely to be killed by someone they know in the workplace and the fact that men are most likely to be killed in a workplace homicide:
Since 1982, at least 64 percent of mass shootings have been committed by lone white men. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women in the workplace are most likely to be killed by someone they know; men are most likely to be killed during the course of a robbery, and make up the bulk of victims of workplace homicides.
Gizmodo Media Group parent company Univision issued a note to explain why the training session was organized that was added in an update to the end of the story:
The safety and security of our staff is of utmost importance and we want to ensure our employees are best prepared for a range of circumstances that could arise. The overriding goal of the recent training at Gizmodo Media Group was to inform employees on how to manage dangerous situations, especially given the timely and frequent nature of incidents today. We have noted staff comments regarding certain statements made during the session and we take such feedback seriously. As a company committed to serving diverse audiences, our goal is to foster an environment of tolerance and inclusion. Our Global Security team has taken into account this feedback and will work to continually improve future training sessions.