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Behavioral Threat Assessments: Peace of Mind in a Complex World

It seems like everyday in the news we have bad people doing bad things to innocent people. It's not a new thing. Just go back throughout history and look at some of the bad actors that have committed heinous acts. There has been one major change throughout history and that's technology. What hasn't changed is that sinister human nature of targeted violence.

Gavin De Becker in the book "Gift of Fear" tells us that intuition is our most powerful tool in our personal arsenal. Like those times you are standing in a dark hallway waiting for the elevator. The doors open and a person is standing in the elevator. They just don't look right so you wait for the next elevator. A group of young teenagers are standing on a street corner and something doesn't feel right, so you cross the street to avoid them. You have just performed a threat assessment.

Threat assessments are performed in the workplace, at the home, at a church, at a school, or on the street. The objective is to strive for zero failure. There's an adage that has had many interpretations over the years "Amateurs practice until they get it right, professionals practice until they can't get it wrong." So, is it Bark verses Bite, is the threat credible or not credible, or are they making a threat or are they posing a threat? Violence can not be predicted, based on behavior, with 100% accuracy 100% of the time. But what can be done is an assessment to identify risk factors and data and to identify risk potential in the future.

So can you tell a difference between bark verses bite? Those who pose a threat do so by way of a pattern of repeated behaviors. Targeted violence is not spontaneous it's a pattern of repeated behaviors. It's not one thing it's a quantity of data that induces the violent behavior. It's a cluster of behaviors that is cause for concern.

The framework for a behavioral threat assessment is the title photo above; Threat posturing, preparatory behavior, and rehearsal fantasies. Threat posturing is a communicated threat, whether it's direct or indirect. It can be verbal or written. What makes a difference between credible and not credible is specificity. Preparatory behaviors involves the investment of time, planning, resources, etc. Rehearsal fantasies are more obsessive in nature. A person who is fixated on their target. The bad actor can not let a situation go. In fact they believe there's an injustice. They are injustice collectors. The Albert Ellis Institute defines injustice collecting as an act of creating and maintaining a mental list of wrongs committed by others.

Any one of the items in the framework raises a concern for threat potential. But, two or all three raises a significant concern in which we must start thinking about threat management and safety planning. Safety planning is the plan when the bad actor is on your door step. Restraining orders are not strategic they are a tool for the justice system. They will not help you when violence is at your front door. I want to leave you with the parting quote below by Abraham Lincoln.

"The best way to predict the future is to create it."

Author: Lee Barnard

  • 20 years in Law Enforcement

  • 30+ years if you include security

  • CPP through ASIS

  • Business Owner

  • Member of ATAP

  • Student of Crowd and Behavioral Science

  • Event Services

  • Security Consultant

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