‘Whistleblowers’ – What’s in a Name? Everything I suggest.
Contributed article; Ian Hynes, CEO Intersol Global
I’ve long held the view that the fundamentally noble efforts of a significant few to expose a lack or betrayal of organisational ethics and corrupt or improper practice have been undermined by the term ‘Whistleblowing’.
In an effort to identify a preferable and less damaging semantic I ‘googled’ it and came up with alternatives like:
Squealor, informer, snitch, bigmouth, troublemaker, telltale, windbag, gossip,etc
None of which do much to enhance the status and contribution of those so often moved to take significant, often life altering, action such is their desperation at inappropriate or poor practice (if not criminality in extreme).
The term “whistleblower” conjures up certain negative images. Whistles are shrill, after all. Years ago, one government regulator instructed a company to stop referring to employees who reported safety concerns as whistleblowers. Sherron Watkins, the well‐know Enron “whistleblower,” has said she dislikes the term because it has a pejorative ring to it. Therefore, a company that wants employees to report concerns does not help reach that objective by promising employees who follow the policy that they will be assigned a pejorative label: “whistleblower.” (US Attorneys report)
This exercise immediately brought to mind the terms used in the UK to describe those involved in the commission of crime, ‘Supergrasses’ as they are colloquially termed, an emotive and romanticised term capitalised on repeatedly in the media, and occasionally glorified or vilified depending on your stance or even (perhaps) moral values.
Supergrasses were once dealt with without any rules or guidance, only ‘common law’ or obscure and rare case law governing their credibility and admissibility, a constant and repeated challenge for law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
That was until the advent of a much needed statute that now provides governance to their treatment, The Serious and Organised Crime Act (SOCPA) 2005, the 21st century equivalent of the way PACE provided governance to suspect interviewing. This led to the title ‘Assisting Offenders’ (AOs) and remains a very potent tool in the fight against serious, organised, and high stakes crime.
Having been instrumental nationally in the design and rollout of methodology to interview and treat AOs so as to render their testimony as immune as possible to ‘active defence’ attack (and never lost a case or been successfully challenged), it occurs to me that there are potential lessons to be learned and transferred to the arena of ‘whistleblowing’.
In the US whistleblowers are rewarded with a percentage of fines imposed, one recent well publicised case being that of the US Commodities and Trading Bureau who:
“awarded more than $10 million to a whistleblower last week who provided key original information that led to a successful CFTC enforcement action”. – See more here at the FCPA.
Intersol Global partners with Complyport on projects requiring the application of science in investigation, investigative interviewing, advising in investigations and investigative interviews, and the design and delivery of bespoke investigation and investigative interviewing training.
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