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Let's address the issue of #ViolencePrevention: Part Five: The Solution (Five Part Series)

Why Current Programs Fall Short of Our Expectations:

Realizing that there is no absolute prevention or predictability, we have discussed why current methods to prevent the next shooting fall short of our expectations.  In Part One, we discussed why Mental Health Assessments use probabilities, which are important, but do not offer reliable predictability as to who will be our next shooter or terrorists.  In Part Two, we had a similar discussion about Profiling.  I have asked the question in the past and will do so again now, why do we not use Israeli Security Methods, used in Ben-Gurion International Airport, here in the United States? 

We tried applying the methods used in Ben-Gurion International Airport at Boston Logan Airport and it failed two basic predicates of security here in the United States.  You now know from Part Two that “Profiling” tells us that within a certain group of individuals there is a higher probability of a terrorist, but it does not tell us who the next terrorist is!  The Israelis bridge this gap by interrogating every individual who enters their airport and although this works well at the much smaller Ben-Gurion International Airport, it failed for two key reasons at Boston Logan Airport.  First, the use of profiling and interrogations will not pass the test of a cross examination by civil libertarians (ACLU).  Second, if we attempted to interrogate passengers and visitors entering the doors at an airport the size of Boston Logan, no one will make their flights. It requires far too much time and inconveniences and I would suggest that American Citizens would not stand for it.

The closest thing that comes to the “Israeli Method” is a program started by a good friend and colleague, Peter DiDomenica, a very bright officer with a law degree, who at the time was a key person at Boston Logan Airport; Peter helped develop the methods (SPOT/BDO programs) now used in airports around the United States. Peter and his colleagues trained literally thousands of airport security personnel around the United States and the United Kingdom. Peter now speaks about the need for TSA to incorporate our Cognitive Aggression Continuum.

The Difference:

Our programs divide aggression into two categories, Primal (adrenaline-driven) Aggressor and Cognitive (intent-driven) Aggressors.  Peter would admit that airports today focus on Primal Aggression, looking for stress, anxiety, darting eyes, (in the extreme, the red faced ready to explode person), etc., these indicators are indicative of a smuggler, or someone who has missed their flight and explodes with frustration and anger, but these indicators do not aid us in identifying our next terrorist or Cognitive (intent-driven) Aggressor.   We have come to learn that terrorists not only disconnect from their victims, they also disconnect from their own wellbeing and take on a profound calm. They do not have the spate of adrenaline of the Primal Aggressor, they are calm, resolved to their fate, their goal is to give up their life for a cause.  Because of this intention (and there is no greater human intention) their body responds to this intention by losing animation.  The first thing we see is, what the military refer to as, the “thousand yard stare;” a profound disconnection with our own wellbeing. But it is more than this, their whole body language and behavior reflect this intention, the Israelis called it the “walking dead.” 

As an example: TSA’s SPOT (Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques) is predicated on Primal (adrenaline-driven) Aggression Indicators, not Cognitive (intent-driven) Aggression indicators.  On September 21, 2007, I explained to the lead research person for TSA SPOT that Primal Aggression would aid them in finding adrenaline-driven aggressors, like smugglers, but, in the absence of Cognitive Aggression, they would not identify terrorists. This fact has been confirmed by the 2010 GAO (U.S. Government Accountability Office) Report telling us that over 1,000 smugglers have been caught in our US Airports but not one terrorists, even though we know that at least 17 known terrorist have traversed our airports. The more recent November 2013 GAO Report determined that TSA’s SPOT efforts produce results that are no better than baseline “chance.”  So, we know why current programs do not meet our expectations of predicting who our next shooter or terrorist might be, what is a reasonably reliable system or method?

Predicated upon the seminal Safe School Initiative Study, a collaborative effort conducted by US Secret Service, the US Department of Education and the National Institute of Justice; which states, “There is no accurate or useful profile of the school shooter … or for assessing the risk that a particular student may pose for school based targeted violence.”  What this study points out is that profiling tells us that within a certain group of individuals there is a higher probability that a person could become a shooter or terrorist; however, it doesn’t tell us who the next shooter is!

The Solution -- The Primal and Cognitive Aggression Continua:

However, within the body of this Safe School Initiative Study, following solution is revealed:

An inquiry should focus instead on the student’s behavior and communication to determine if the student appears to be planning or preparing for an attack. … The ultimate question to answer in an inquiry is whether a student is on a path to a violent attack, and if so, to determine how fast they are moving and where intervention may be possible.  

This has been the basis of our work at the Center for Aggression Management over the past 19 years (well before the study was completed), to identify someone “on the path to a violent attack” or as we call it “emerging aggression.”  We began developing our Aggression Continuum that would reflect a person’s emerging aggression. Combine this knowledge with the distinction between Primal and Cognitive Aggression and you have the Primal and Cognitive Aggression Continua as shown below.

The first thing to note is that this graphic illustrates a Continuum of Aggression that reflects emerging aggressive behavior from its outset through its ultimate expression of violence; a Trigger Phase, an Escalation Phase and a Crisis Phase. To understand this offers you the opportunity to see the precursors to violence, engage and prevent it from occurring.  What you are observing on this graphic is the body language, behavior and communication indicators of someone “on the path to a violent attack!” Combine the Primal Aggression Continuum on the right and the Cognitive Aggression Continuum on the left and now all of the body language, behavior and communication indicators fall into place and become empirical; setting the stage for the first truly object and measurable system that provides the most reliable means of preventing the next shooting or terrorist attack.

On the right you have Primal (adrenaline-driven) Aggression, starting at the baseline or Trigger Phase, where little explosions of adrenaline may be experienced but because they are coping with these triggers, all things are copasetic. All venues have their expected baseline of perceived “Triggering” behavior but it is when an individual stops coping with these triggers that the threat mechanisms fire off in their brain, they start producing adrenaline and they enter the Escalation Phase, we use the term “mounting anxiety.” Mounting Anxiety changes their body language, behavior and communication indicators in ways that we can recognize them; giving us the opportunity to engage and prevent further escalation. The earlier we engage them the easier it is to defuse and prevent the next Stage of Aggression.  As an example, someone who normally is pragmatic and methodical comes to work scattered and disjointed. Why? Because they are not coping with something, regardless of what may be causing it. It is in our best interest to engage this person, in a genuine and caring way and say, “You look a little scattered today, tell me about it?” This genuine and earnest investment of your time and energy will produce significant results.  Typically, given the opportunity, humans will respond by sharing what is causing their dilemma and when once shared will often release their burden to some degree and permit them to begin regaining their lost Quality of Judgment.  Primal Aggression is indicative of someone losing control of Quality of Judgment. The higher an aggressor escalates up the Primal Aggression Continuum, the greater their loss of Quality of Judgment and lesser your chances of diffusing them.   The lesson here is, engage as early as possible and prevent all subsequent escalation on this Aggression Continuum.  Does this work 100% of the time, of course not!  But this provides the most reliable means of getting out in front of a Primal Aggression and preventing further escalation.  Preventing an aggressor from traversing through the Escalation Phase into the Crisis Phase is where we see this person spiraling out of control into panic and or rage!

If Primal Aggression represents someone losing control (adrenaline-driven) what about conscious, deliberate aggression, where does this fit?  It doesn’t!  For this we developed the Cognitive (intent-driven) Aggression Continuum illustrating intent-driven aggression from its outset through its ultimate expression, the perpetrator of murder/suicide.  Cognitive Aggression is far more difficult to identify and diffuse if you don’t understand its components.   However, once understood, it is really quite easy.  Ask yourself, “What is your intent with this person or persons?”  Is it in your interest and theirs, therefore a “win/win,” as it should be; or is it in your interest and to their detriment.  In other words, you are going to victimize this person.  There are nine clearly defined phases/levels to the Cognitive Aggression Continuum, the first grouping are the victimizers, the next are the predators, who are more focused on a purpose than an individual (like robbery and criminal intent), and the highest phase/level of Cognitive Aggression is the perpetrator of murder/suicide, the most lethal of all aggressors, like Adam Lanza the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter. 

We, at the Center for Aggression Management, would describe this aggressor as a 9th Phase Cognitive Aggressor or perpetrator of murder/suicide; someone whose goal is to give up his life for a cause and his behavior reflects his intentions. Subsequent to this level of aggression is the 8th Phase Cognitive Aggressor, the “murderer” or in a military sense, “a combatant;” who is prepared to give up his life for a cause but intends to survive and again his behavior reflects his intentions.  Preceded by the 7th Phase Cognitive Aggression, the “Complicit Tactician,” who is complicit with the 9th and 8th Phase Cognitive Aggressor;  he wants certain people to die but will not kill them nor die for his cause; he will inspire others to do so (like the late-Osama bin Laden) or a terrorist handler or, in a domestic sense, an Accomplice.  The most important element to understand in the graphic is that you have Phases 1 through 6 to foresee or get out in front of the Accomplice, Murder or perpetrator of Murder/Suicide. You have 6 clearly defined phases/levels of precursors to get out in front of violence and prevent it!  As a way of illustrating a method called Snapwire using our Primal and Cognitive Aggression Continua to identify and prevent a terrorist attack; this video is a collaboration between the U.S. Military, Abraxas (a CIA based private company) and the Center for Aggression Management’s Primal and Cognitive Aggression Continua: http://www.aggressionmanagement.com/Snapwire/SnapWire_Demo.html

We, as humans, tend to get transfixed on the threat of violence; it is part of our human condition.  But focusing on the lower levels of our Aggression Continuum provides significant solutions addressing issues of “bullying” and “conflict.”  Programs called, “Bullying” presuppose someone exhibiting bullying behavior; you therefore are reacting to initial bullying, not preventing it!  One of the most standard methods of addressing aggressive behavior is called “Conflict Resolution;” however, like “bullying,” Conflict Resolution presupposes conflict; you are reacting to initial conflict, not preventing it!  Since there are individuals who will express their conflict and bullying with violence, if you truly wish to prevent violence you must first get out in front of bullying and conflict.  How? Bullying and Conflict can be found at the fourth phase/level of the Aggression Continuum. Once you learn the objective and measurable observables (precursors) of phases one, two and three, you will be able to get out in front of bullying and conflict and prevent them. 

Can we rely fully on body language, behavior and communication indicators?  Of course not, this is why we developed the Judicious Interview.  The goal of the Judicious Interview is to ask questions or take actions that produce predicable responses (use of Scientific Cause and Effect Principles) that illustrate hostile or malicious intent so as to identify an aggressive “person of interest.”

Unlike therapy, the initial goal of the Judicious Interview is not about forming a connection with the aggressor but to identify an aggressor and diffuse/prevent any aggressive act.  Once an aggressor has been identified, building rapport and trust may be useful and applied to persuade the aggressor away from their path of violence, while they begin to regain their quality of judgment.  The purpose of the Judicious Interview is to better understand the level of aggression and identify their mission or target and begin a diffusing/preventing process.

Critical Aggression Prevention System (CAPS)

Our most sophisticated product is our validated Critical Aggression Prevention System, its effectiveness is unmatched.  There are three legs to this system; the first two are training tools.  We recognize that you cannot train all people with all skills; we therefore integrate scalable training of Aggression First Observers (trained to make objective and measurable observations and report them based upon policy and procedure) and Certified Aggression Managers (responders trained to read and understand emerging aggression as well as apply corresponding skill sets so as to maximize their diffusing/mitigating results).  The third leg to this validated system is the Meter of Emerging Aggression (MEA) Software Service.  Built upon the Primal and Cognitive Aggression Continua and more, this software offers a proposed level/phase of aggression and thereby the presumption of threat.  MEA enables its users to record and track aggressive behavior in a way that does not encroach on individuals rights of privacy and validates their efforts in real time.

It is not our objective in this article to go into great detail about our unique and proprietary Meter of Emerging Aggression Software Service and its role in our validated Critical Aggression Prevention System. This System provides the most reliable means to identify the precursors to bullying, conflict and violence, record and track emerging aggression in an empirical and forensic way, as well as, offering the highest probability for prevention or effective mitigation.   

Are you a Security or Law Enforcement Professional?

If you are a Security or Law Enforcement Professional, you have likely read the stellar study conducted by the highly respected Gavin de Becker, who published the book, “Just 2 Seconds.”  Though his study we learned that the time span between the horrific Moment of Commitment (when a weapon is pulled and the assailant begins firing) and the Moment of Completion (when the last round is discharged) is as little as just 2 seconds. Further we learn:

    1. If you have chosen Executive Security as your profession and you and your executive are 15 feet from the assailant there is only an 18% chance that you can protect your client from the assailant’s bullet.
    2. If you are in Corporate Security or Campus Security and your objective is to use Crisis Response or Active Shooters Response; it is highly probable that you will respond over those slain during those horrific first 2 seconds.
    3. If you are in Law Enforcement, ask yourself, are you trained only to respond or is there real value to your officers and constituency that you are able to get out in front of violence and prevent it?

These reactive methods fall short of our expectations; as Security and Law Enforcement Professionals, we must make every effort to get out in front of the horrific Moment of Commitment!  The Critical Aggression Prevention System provides the most reliable means to observe the precursors, getting out in front of violence and preventing it.

In Part Five, it is our objective to simply offer a foundational understanding of our Primal and Cognitive Aggression Continua and how it enables us to see the precursors and thereby offering the most reliable means to get out in front of bullying, conflict and violence and prevent these maladies.

If you would like more information on our Primal and Cognitive Aggression Continua or our validated Critical Aggression Prevention System simply call us at 407-718-5637 or email us at JohnByrnes@AggressionManagement.com


Let's address the issue of #ViolencePrevention, Part 4: Probability versus Predictability

Our greatest threat as citizens of any society is the perpetrator of murder/suicide, whether a “Lone Wolf” terrorist or simply an individual who decides to shoot his estranged partner in a public place with a lot of innocent bystanders whose only error was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and then the assailant turns the weapon on himself. The Lone Wolf is trying to create terror in the hearts and minds of his victims, so the more spectacular the incident the greater the effects on those who survive.  Terror to this individual is not in those who are murdered; instead it is in those whose lives are changed forever by the heinous act of violence. Remember 10 years ago in Montgomery County, Maryland 13 people were shot as two snipers terrorized an entire community. 

What makes this aggressor so lethal?  We know that it is not instinctual for one human to attack another human; you must disconnect, depersonalize, turns the person (victim) into an object in order to attack them.  A perpetrator of murder/suicide further disconnects from his own wellbeing, to the point where he finds a profound calm.  This person (man or woman) is so very lethal because his goal is to give up his life for a cause.  They won’t take all the usual precautions, they will simply open fire without regard for age or gender (Example: Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary).  These most lethal aggressors, acts of murder/suicide, are on the rise; we get Google Alerts on incidents of murder/suicides and in the past few years, we have been getting these alerts on a daily basis.  In Parts 1-3, we have written about how Mental Health Assessments, Profiling and Threat Assessment fall short of telling us who is our next shooter, whether murderer or perpetrator of murder/suicide. We need a more reliable way of identifying and preventing the next shooting. To better understand these methods shortcomings and how to more reliable identify a future shooter, we must examine the difference between “Probability” and “Predictability.”  Before we start, we must admit there is no “absolute” Predictability; it does not exist. However, there is a far more reliable means of predictability and it far exceeds the use of probabilities.

Mental Health Assessments, Profiling and Threat Assessment fall under the use of “probabilities.”  These methods tell us that within a certain group of people, there is a higher probability of a murderer or perpetrator of murder/suicide.  It does not tell us who the next perpetrator is!  As illustrated in Part One of this series, Schizophrenia is one of the more scary forms of mental illness and we know that only 0.02% of those with Schizophrenia have actually murdered another human being; the probability that someone with Schizophrenia will murder you is so very low there is no reliable means of predicting that a person with Schizophrenia will be your next shooter. We are certainly not going to put all individuals with Schizophrenia in asylums, so when we place our focus on Mental Illness and illnesses like Schizophrenia as a predictor of who the next shooter will be, it comes up short of being an effective solution.  As illustrated in Part Three of this series, Threat Assessment is an assessment of a threat that already exists; the hope is to identify a “lesser” threat and thereby prevent a “greater” threat but there is no assurance that the “lesser” threat will not be a threat to life or limb.  When did the Navy learn that Aaron Alexis was a threat; when he started shooting people! Threat Assessment is often evaluated on the basis of probabilities; this person may be a threat because of a mental illness, where they came from, what culture they are, etc.

There is a solution and it can be found within a very thorough study conducted by the U.S. Secret Service & U.S. Department of Education, called the “Safe School Initiative.”  It declared that, “There is no accurate or useful profile (probability) of the school shooter, nor for assessing the risk that a particular student may pose for school-based targeted violence.” In other words, someone’s proclivities or probabilities to act aggressively are not reliable predictors as to who the next murderer or perpetrator of murder/suicide will be. But the study goes on to say, “An inquiry should focus instead on the student’s behaviors and communication to determine if the student appears to be planning or preparing for an attack.”  “The ultimate question to answer …. is whether a student is on a path to an violent attack, and if so, to determine how fast they are moving and where intervention may be possible.”  If we are to be predictive as to who will be the next murderer or perpetrator of murder/suicide, we must focus, not only on one’s probability to commit these heinous crimes but we must focus on the “emerging aggression” (someone on a path to an violent attack) of someone planning or preparing for an attack.

Understanding the notion of emerging aggression, or identifying someone “on a path to a violent attack:” the most lethal form of aggressor is the perpetrator of “murder/suicide,” or as we at the Center for Aggression Management, would describe this aggressor as a 9th Phase/Level Cognitive Aggressor; someone whose goal it is to give up their life for a cause and their body language and behavior reflect this intention. Subsequent to this level of aggression is the 8th Phase Cognitive Aggressor, the “murder” or in a military sense, “a combatant;” who is prepared to give up their life for a cause but intends to survive; and their body language and behavior reflect their intentions.  Preceded by the 7th Phase Cognitive Aggression, the “Complicit Tactician,” who is complicit with the 9th and 8th Phase Cognitive Aggressor.  Like the 9th and 8th Phase Cognitive Aggressors, the Complicit Tactician wants people to die but will not kill them nor die for their cause; they will inspire others to do so (like the late-Osama bin Laden), a terrorist handler, a logistics person or, in a domestic sense, an accomplice.

Although “probability versus predictability” are not mutually exclusive, too often, we are using only probabilities, which fall short of the most important key component: Who will be our next murderer or perpetrator of murder/suicide (terrorist)!

In Part five, we will define the solution.

Let's Address the Issue of #ViolencePrevention," Part 3

Threat Assessment, does it tell us who the next shooter will be?  There is a complete industry built upon “Threat Assessment,” filled with very competent individuals whose objective is to reduce the probability of another shooter.  As important as this is, does “reducing the probability” of a shooting actually identify the next shooter? We will address this in Part 4.

Threat Assessment, by its definition, is an assessment of a threat that already exists!  It is the hope of its user to identify a “lesser threat” and thereby prevent a “greater threat;” however, there is no assurance that the “lesser threat” will not be a threat to life or limb!  In the case of the Navy Yard Shooter, Aaron Alexis, when did the Navy Yard realize that Aaron Alexis posed a threat?  Once he started shooting people!  Police officers in RI suspected that Aaron Alexis was a threat and notified the Navy of their concerns but apparently the Navy’s means of assessing threat was not sufficient to assess and take action to prevent this tragedy.  Either they have no such system in place or the system that they have did not place enough emphasis on the indicators given them by the RI police officers to warn them of the impending attack.  Either way, the obvious results being, people died because no one was able to get out in front of this attack and prevent it from happening.  Are you frustrated enough with these killings to look for more effective solutions?  We at the Center for Aggression Management are the first to admit there is no absolute safe venue, but there are ways to make our venues “as safe as possible,” the ultimate of evidence-based Best Practices.  We intend to demonstrate how . . . but I digress.

In recent years many have built Threat Assessment around graduated levels of prevention, referred to Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Prevention.  Primary Prevention represents those with a lower probability of becoming violent due to their particular circumstances, like attending school or involved in positive-social activities that might reduce their probability of becoming violent. Secondary Prevention refers to individuals who are at a reduced risk because they are working or increase risk because they have joined a known violent gang. Tertiary prevention is the application of new security policies and procedures to reduce the probability of further violence, indicating that violence currently exists and further action must be taken to reduce its probability in the future.  More recently, there is “Situational Prevention,” which uses techniques focusing on reducing the opportunity to commit violence. Some of these techniques include increasing the difficulty of violence, increasing the risk of violence to the aggressor, and reducing the rewards of violence. 

Regardless of these more sophisticated definitions of “prevention;” it is our opinion that “prevention” simply means that you prevented violence or an incident. You were able to reliably get out in front of an incident and thereby prevent it.  Or stated another way consistent with this topic of Threat Assessment; you were able to reliably get out in front of a “threat” of violence and prevent that “threat!” Anything else is a reaction!  I hear people using the phrase “proactive” or “proactive intervention.” The problem that we have is that one can be “proactively” reactive and that is not “prevention!”

So, how do you get out in front of a threat of violence? In Part 4, I will address “Probability versus Prevention through Reliable Predictability. How to Get Our In Front of a Threat of Violence.”

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Let's Address the Issue of #ViolencePrevention," Part 2

“Profiling,” does it tell us who the next shooter will be?  There is no question that profiling offers great value as we narrow down the potential for violence; but is it a reliable predictor of who will be our next shooter?  It is natural that Americans want to understand why the Navy Yard Shooting took place and how can we prevent future attacks like this one.

In a continuing attempt to determine what Aaron Alexis’ (the Navy Yard Shooter) motives were, an article in the LA Times titled “Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis left messages,” states: 

The messages were carved by either a knife or some other instrument into the wooden stock of the Remington 870 Express shotgun that Alexis bought two days before the shooting, the official said. “The first one (Better Off This Way) seems to have him saying he wanted to kill fellow workers or maybe expected to die himself,” the official said.

“He was a loner,” said the official, who was reading from reports on the case but spoke anonymously because the investigation is continuing. “Who knows what was in his mind? He told people he was crazy.”

Well, if you accept my first premise that “Most people who are violent do not have a mental illness, and most people who have mental illness are not violent.” Although Mental Health assessments are an extremely important asset, we have found that identifying a “disorder” is not typically a reliable predictor as to whom the next shooter will be.

“He was a loner,” is another clue but does this kind of clue help us identify our next shooter.  Can we use his apparent mental disorder to “profile” him as our next shooter? 

I ask that you consider the logic of my next statement; I have been criticized by some in security for making it. I wish to get to the truth, so I would encourage your considered comments and/or suggestions.  What does profiling do?  It tells us that within a certain group of people there is a higher probability of a shooter; it does not tell us who the next shooter is!  This statement is confirmed when we consider one of the most thorough studies on this topic, the “Safe School Initiative,” a combined effort of the US Secret Service and the US Department of Education; which states, “There is no accurate or useful profile of the school shooter … or for assessing the risk that a particular student may pose for school based targeted violence.” Does this mean that we should disregard profiling information? Of course not!  If there is a higher probability that this person could become our next shooter, we should make note and provisions for this information.  However, just because someone is Schizophrenic and likely has a less than 1% chance of becoming a shooter, we are not going to put this person in an asylum or jail. 

So, how do we identify who the next shooter is?  This same Safe School Initiative study offers a significant solution.  It states,

“An inquiry should focus instead on the student’s behavior and communication to determine if the student appears to be planning or preparing for an attack. … The ultimate question to answer in an inquiry is whether a student is on a path to a violent attack, and if so, to determine how fast they are moving and where intervention may be possible”  

This has been the basis of our work at the Center for Aggression Management over the past 19 years, to identify someone “on the path to a violent attack” or as we call it “emerging aggression.”  Nineteen years ago, we began developing our Aggression Continuum that would reflect a person’s aggression from its outset to its ultimate expression of murder/suicide. This Aggression Continuum has illustrated to us that the most lethal of all aggressors is the perpetrator of murder/suicide, something that we are increasingly seeing as we get news reports. I would speculate that Aaron Alexis went into Building 197 with the “goal” of suicide by cop. The official in this LA Times article also speculated this by the carved words found on his shotgun, “The first one (Better Off This Way) seems to have him saying he wanted to kill fellow workers or maybe expected to die himself.”

As humans, it is natural that we become transfixed on violence, but if we are to prevent the next shooting, we must get out in front of a violent attack by focusing on the precursors to violence. In fact, we can get out in front of aggressive behavior at the lowest levels of our Aggression Continuum and prevent conflict, much less violence. Since there are those who will express their conflict with violence, if we truly wish to prevent violence there is an increasing need to prevent conflict.  In our next posting, I would like to focus on “emerging aggression” from its outset to its ultimate expression and where Threat Assessment fits in this continuum. In next Blog Posting (Let's Address the Issue of #ViolencePrevention," Part 3), I will discuss “Threat Assessment” and our view as to how effective it is in identifying the next shooter.

Let's Address this Issue of Violence "Prevention," Part 1

I am very proud to have over 4,600 Linkedin connections; the majority, of which, are security and/or law enforcement professionals.  Over 2,500 of you have been gracious enough to endorse my work.  Now, I would like to take our combined body of knowledge and expertise to address some of the more significant deficits in our approach to “preventing violence.”  It is said that security and law enforcement can only react or respond to violence, I disagree!  

Each of you are responsible for keeping your clients or constituencies safe, yet we continue to have these rare but significant rampage shootings that shake the American psyche to its core.  While many train for active shootings, I would like to focus on avenues for “prevention.”

With the most recent advent of the Navy Yard shooting (Aaron Alexis), many of the usual reasons are being flaunted by all the usual experts, yet these shooting persist and we continue to react to them, not prevent them.  I intend to address each of the current methods by discussing their rationale and their weaknesses. I would be very interested in your opinions as to whether you believe my evaluations are on target or how your approach might differ.  Let’s have a civil earnest discussion and hopefully we can actually offer substantive solutions.  Although we all know that there is no absolute prevention or predictability, I would like to focus on our ability to “predict” who the next shooter will be.  Since some measure of predictability is essential to prevent the next shooting, let’s attempt to determine the most “reliable” means of predictability.  

Each week, I would like to address another aspect of our attempts to predict who the next shooter will be.

So this week let’s begin by addressing what we all know is the 800 pound gorilla in the room, mental health assessments.  Do mental health assessments offer reliable precursors that suggest who the next shooter will be?  An excellent article by the renowned Dr. Charles Krauthammer, a trained psychiatrist, reports:

On Aug. 7, that same Alexis had called police from a Newport, R.I., Marriott. He was hearing voices. Three people were following him, he told the cops. They were sending microwaves through walls, making his skin vibrate and preventing him from sleeping. He had already twice changed hotels to escape the men, the radiation, the voices.

Delusions, paranoid ideation, auditory (and somatic) hallucinations: the classic symptoms of schizophrenia.

Aaron Alexis clearly has mental health/disorder issues but does this alone indicate that he will be our next shooter?

We know that less than 1% of known schizophrenics have murdered another human being.  How do we get from less than 1%, to this is the next shooter?   Are we going to put all schizophrenics in asylums because 1% might murder others?  Not likely.

In fact, the “Report to the President on Issues Raised by the Virginia Tech Tragedy, June 13, 2007” reported that, “Most people who are violent do not have a mental illness, and most people who have mental illness are not violent.”  What we have learned is that those with mental illness tend to be the victims of this behavior not the perpetrators of it.

In fact Seung-Hui Cho (the Virginia Tech shooter) was evaluated on three different occasions and in each occasion he was deemed to be “Depressed and anxious, but not at risk of hurting himself or others!”   I am not suggesting that murderers do not have mental health issues; I am saying that the state of a person’s mental health is not a reliable predictor of whether this person might become our next murderer.

Further, too often, mental health counselors are not a reliable resource because their methods are too subjective. They use Distressed, Disturbed and Dysregulated and typically, regardless of a duty to warn, they will not share their information because of HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996).  This is further complicated by management, who don’t want to get involved in these complex problems (whether military or civilians) so they would rather offer an Honorable Discharge (military) or offer an excellent recommendation (employer), so as to move the problem to someone else.  This appears to be the case with Aaron Alexis.

I am not suggesting for a moment that counseling is not a worthwhile effort, counselors have, on many occasions, convinced a potential shooters toward more constructive solutions; however, the reasons above are why, when I hear mental health counselors suggest that we must invest more money toward counseling so as to prevent the next shooting, I am skeptical.  Counseling is typically an excellent idea, but in my opinion cannot solely be considered as a relied predictor of who the next shooter will be.

Please share your thoughts, comments or questions . . .

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It has happened again, a Virginia Tech “Near Miss!”

It has happened again, a Virginia Tech “near miss!” at our second largest university, the University of Central Florida (UCF).  Had it not been for one frightened roommate, who called 911, all other means of detection would have failed.   

  1. UCF’s former student, James Oliver Seevakumaran, was housed in an on-campus suite of four rooms and rarely made contact with his roommates. It was only when one roommate found himself in front of Seevakumaran who had an assault weapon that the roommate retreated to a bathroom and call 911. This was the first moment that anyone realized his lethality.

  2. Had Seevakumaran been in a single dorm-room this horrific massacre would likely have occurred.  He had a checklist and as he completed each task, he crossed through it.  His next step was to pull the fire alarm (he did), which would corral the students in one specific area (they did) so he could easily shoot as many as possible.  However, the police arrived and Seevakumaran took his own life with a bullet to the head. 

  3. Seevakumaran had not paid his tuition and housing and therefore was being evicted from his room. His electronic key card no longer worked barring him from the residence, so how did he get in?  His roommates and others buzzed him in!  Security continues to fail us because humans circumvent those controls put in place to protect us.   These security measures may make us feel safe but do they actually make us safe?

  4. He purchased his assault weapon, including the material for four improvised explosive devices online, his ammunition from a local gun range, none of his roommates were aware of these items being brought into the suite of rooms.  UCF sophomore Tori Thorpe said, “People were shocked. They were like “How could he possibly get explosive devices in the room? How did he get the stuff in there?” But I wasn’t surprised at all. There’s nothing. Everyone walks in with bags and duffle bags. No one questions it.”

  5. Grant Heston, Spokesperson for UCF said, “He (Seevakumaran) has never been seen by UCF Counseling Services and never had any conduct issues.” In other words, Seevakumaran never came under the scrutiny of professionals.

  6. Police also said there was no visible motive or manifesto, and he was not involved with any groups that would indicate his lethal intentions.

Once again the protections we put in place to protect us continue to fail because we are looking for motives that we don’t see and means, i.e. weapons and explosives, we don’t detect.  Yet, the one thing that we miss or don’t do well is “identify someone on the path to violence,” the only accepted means of identifying the next shooter.  We, at the Center for Aggression Management, have spent the past 18 years developing our Aggression Continuum and the Meter of Emerging Aggression so as to identify “the next shooter.” This man was a 9th Phase Cognitive Aggressor, “whose goal is to give up his life for a cause;” the most lethal of aggressors and he went unnoticed until just before his attack.  The Meter of Emerging Aggression would have provided 8 precursor-phases of opportunities to have identified this person prior to his reaching this lethal stage of his intentions.  Few will bemoan the loss of this lethal perpetrator but would it not have been a better solution to have had the opportunity to reach out to Seevakumaran prior to his committing suicide?

Learn how to identify someone “on the path to violence,” watch our 3-minute Critical Aggression Prevention System (CAPS) Movie:  www.AggressionManagement.com/movie/  

Current methods used to prevent school shooting are failing us!

The shooting yesterday at Lone Star College is the fourth school shooting in the past five weeks, since the massacre at Sand Hook Elementary and three were in higher education.  Could these shooting have been prevented?

Beyond the horrific Sand Hook Tragedy, this year begins with one shooting at Stevens Institute of Business and Arts in St. Louis and another by a 16 year old high school student Taft High School in California.  Sadly, the vast majority of professionals are focusing on guns and mental illness, neither of which would have prevented the Sandy Hook shooting, nor will they provide a reliable means of preventing the next shooting.  Why?

Following the horrific Virginia Tech shooting the “Report to the President on Issues Raised by the Virginia Tech Tragedy, June 13, 2007 clearly stated, “Most people who are violent do not have a mental illness, and most people who have mental illness are not violent.”  In fact Seung-Hui Cho , the Virginia Tech Shooter was evaluated on three separate occasions and on each occasion he was deemed to be, “Depressed and anxious but not at risk of hurting himself or others”!  Further, Jared Lee Loughner, who pleaded guilty to 19 charges, of murder and attempted murder, in connection with the shooting in Tucson, Arizona, clearly had a Thought Disorder and may be Schizophrenic, but less than 1% of those with Schizophrenia have ever murdered others.  How do you get from 1% probability to predicting the next shooter?

Mental Illness is like “Profiling;” illustrated by the seminal study conducted with the U.S. Secret Service & U.S. Dept. of Education, called the Safe School Initiative, which concluded, “There is no accurate or useful profile of the school shooter, nor for assessing the risk that a particular student may pose for school-based targeted violence.”   Those in this study discovered what we already knew; “Profiling” tells us that within a certain group of individuals, there is a higher probability of a shooter.  It does not tell us who the next shooter is!


Another “go to” practice to predict the next shooter is Threat Assessment but does this method provide a reliable predictive model.  By its definition, Threat Assessment is an assessment of a threat that already exists! It is the objective of members of a Threat Assessment team to identify “lesser threats” and thereby prevent “greater threats,” but they are still reacting, not preventing, the initial threat.  There is not guarantee that this “lesser threat” will not be a threat to life or limb!


This is compounded by the fact that from the Moment of Commitment (when an aggressor pulls their weapon and begins firing) to the Moment of Completion (when the last round is discharged) is typically a mere 2 seconds (President Reagan shooting took only 1.7 seconds). If you are “reacting/responding” to a shooter, you will do so over those slain during those horrific first 2 seconds! This is not effective, responsible and, I would submit, not defensible.

However, the Safe School Initiative study continues with a SOLUTION, “An inquiry should focus instead on the student’s behaviors and communication to determine if the student appears to be planning or preparing for an attack.” “The ultimate question to answer …. is whether a student is on a path to a violent attack, and if so, to determine how fast they are moving and where intervention may be possible”   The most reliable means of identifying the next shooter is through observing and defusing “emerging aggression.” A better understanding of mental illness and threat assessment are important but if we are to identify the next shooter we must focus on “emerging aggression,” usable objective observables, culturally neutral body language, behavior and communication indicators.

Critical Aggression Prevention System (CAPS) is built upon the observations and management of “emerging aggression,” along with the Meter of Emerging Aggression (software service) that enables its users to identify the precursors to violence and prevent them. For a quick review of how and why CAPS works, please review our 3-minute CAPS Informational Movie:   www.AggressionManagement.com/movie/

Understanding the Primal and Cognitive Aggression Continua (See Graphic Below)

Early in our 18 years to pursue a “prevention” solution to workplace violence, we came to realize that there at two types of aggression, Primal and Cognitive.  Primal Aggression is built upon the primal instincts of fight or flight, fueled by adrenaline (that connection between “aggression,” the production of adrenaline, the increase in the heart rate and the resulting body language and behavior that we can objectively identify and measure); Primal Aggression is indicative of an individual “losing control,” who in the extreme will spiral out of control into panic and or rage. 

But what about conscious, deliberate aggression?  For this we developed Cognitive Aggression, fueled by “intent.”  Quite simply, the question is “what is your intent with this person or persons?”  Is it in your interest and theirs therefore a “win/win” as it should be, or is it in your interest and to their detriment; in other words, you intend to victimize this person or persons, you are becoming a victimizer; subsequently a predator (someone who intends to harm for a purpose, like a robbery or murder).  Ultimately the highest form of Cognitive Aggression (the 9th Phase) is the “terrorist;” someone who intends to evoke terror in the hearts and minds of their victims.

When combined, these two continua present a formidable picture of “emerging aggression.” Permitting its user the opportunity to foresee “emerging aggression” and prevent it.  Each phase of aggression (0-9) offers the precursors to its next phase and therefore provide the opportunity to prevent it.   The highest phase is the 9th Phase, which represents the individuals whose goal it is to “give up their life for their cause,” (the perpetrator of murder/suicide) and their behavior reflects this.  The 8th Phase is the murderer or combatant, who is prepared to give up his life for a cause but intends to survive, in the case of the combatant, to kill more of you tomorrow. The 7th Phase is the Complicit Tactician (accomplice), who is completely complicit with the 8th and 9th Phase Cognitive Aggressors (they want people to die) but they are not going to die for nor commit these murders, they will inspire others to do so; and their behavior reflects this intention.  Below you will see our graphic that illustrates Phases 0 through 9 of both Primal and Cognitive Aggression and how each continuum integrates with the other. Whether your concern is within the Crisis Phase where there is a strong possibility of imminent lethality; or in the 4th Phase where your concern is “Bullying and Conflict” the Primal and Cognitive Aggression Continua offers the opportunity to foresee and prevent subsequent levels/phases of aggression.

The advantages of using the “Aggression Continuum” are that it provides objective observables that all departments can use, tearing down departmental silos; it can be used outside of HIPPA, FERPA and other privacy regulations;  and the indicators and training are intuitive and therefore are easy to learn and apply, it does not require special sophistication or advanced degrees. 

Whether you are a member of an Executive Security, Threat Assessment or Behavioral Intervention Team, Human Research Professional, Mental Health Counselors or simply someone who is troubled by aggression of those around them, the Primal and Cognitive Aggression Continua can be an invaluable objective tool in preventing aggressive behavior in others.

 


Will Focusing On Those With Mental Illness Reliably Predict Who The Next Shooter Will Be?

It has been a week since the horrific shootings in Newtown, CT.  We have heard many in the mental health community demand more funding to address the many mentally ill; as if this might help us better predict the next shooter.  But sadly, it has been our experience from previous shootings that those with mental Illness have not garnered any reliable predictive quality, as to who might be the next shooter.

Following the Virginia Tech shooting the “Report to the President on Issues Raised by the Virginia Tech Tragedy, June 13, 2007 clearly stated, “Most people who are violent do not have a mental illness, and most people who have mental illness are not violent.”  In fact Seung-Hui Cho , the VT Shooter was evaluated on three separate occasions and on each occasion he was deemed to be, “Depressed and anxious but not at risk of hurting himself or others”!  Further, Jared Lee Loughner, who pleaded guilty to 19 charges, of murder and attempted murder, in connection with the shooting in Tucson, Arizona, clearly had a Thought Disorder and may be Schizophrenic, but less than 1% of those with Schizophrenia have ever murdered others.  How do you get from 1% to he is the next shooter?

Mental Illness is like “Profiling;” illustrated by the seminal study conducted with the U.S. Secret Service & U.S. Dept. of Education, called the Safe School Initiative, which concluded, “There is no accurate or useful profile of the school shooter, nor for assessing the risk that a particular student may pose for school-based targeted violence.”   Those in this study discovered what we already knew; “Profiling” tells us that within a certain group of individuals, there is a higher probability of a shooter.  It does not tell us who the next shooter is!

This study continues with a solution, “An inquiry should focus instead on the student’s behaviors and communication to determine if the student appears to be planning or preparing for an attack.” “The ultimate question to answer …. is whether a student is on a path to an violent attack, and if so, to determine how fast they are moving and where intervention may be possible”   The most reliable means of identifying the next shooter is through observing and defusing “emerging aggression.” A better understanding of mental illness is important but if we are to identify the next shooter we must focus on “emerging aggression,” usable objective observables, culturally neutral body language, behavior and communication indicators.

If we are to truly “prevent” the next school shooting, we must focus on “emerging aggression” and use a forensic recording and tracking software system, we call this the Critical Aggression Prevention System (CAPS). To learn more watch our 3-minute CAPS Movie: www.AggressionManagement.com/movie/

When silence was broken by “Evil” in the idyllic community of Newtown, Connecticut

We at the Center for Aggression Management are, like the rest of humanity, extremely saddened by the break of silence by “Evil” in the idyllic community of Newtown, Connecticut.  We said that there will be more of these horrific murder/suicides; but never would we have expected this to happen so soon and to so many truly innocent victims.  Every parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt, uncle and friend is trying to, in a caring way, understand and share the pain that so many parents who have lost the most innocent of innocents on December 14, 2012.  So many of us are glued to the reports, we see the Media voice continually talk about how this man must be “crazy” and he may have had a disorder but “Evil” is seldom “crazy.”  We hear references to Asperger Syndrome, Autism and even Schizophrenia but it is our understanding that the number of Schizophrenics who have shot and killed others is less than 1%.  How do we get from 1 percent or even 5 percent to “this is the next shooter?” 

These circumstances of mental illness fall within the category of “profiling,” or the use of probabilities, which are not necessarily reliable predictors of who will be our next shooter.  The use of profiling is not a reliable means to identify and “prevent.”   Profiling tells us that within a certain group of individuals there is a higher probability of a shooter; it does not tell us who the next shooter is!  As affirmed by the seminal study conducted by the U.S. Secret Service & U.S. Dept. of Education called the Safe School Initiative Study, which declared, “There is no accurate or useful profile of the school shooter … or for assessing the risk that a particular student may pose for school based targeted violence.”    But this study continues, “An inquiry should focus instead on the student’s behaviors and communication to determine if the student appears to be planning or preparing for an attack.”  “The ultimate question to answer …. is whether a student is on a path to a violent attack, and if so, to determine how fast they are moving and where intervention may be possible”   We at the Center for Aggression Management have concluded that if we are to “prevent” the next shooting we must focus on “emerging aggression.”  Looking for the “red-faced and ready to explode” Primal Aggressor as most security and law enforcement do, will not identify this kind of killer.  If we are to identify the next perpetrator of murder/suicide, we must focus on the calculating, detached and determined “Cognitive Aggressor.” We, at the Center for Aggression Management, have found that when an individual rises to the level where they are prepared to give up their life for a cause, their body responds to this intention by losing animation; we see what the military calls the “thousand yard stare;” but it is more than this. Their whole body language and behavior loses animation; the Israelis refer to what we, at the Center, call the 9th Stage Cognitive Aggressor as the “walking dead.”  If we are to identify the next shooter before their horrific Moment of Commitment (When they pull their weapon and begin shooting), we must identify “emerging aggression;” in other words, identify the precursors to violence, engage and prevent it.  It is imperative to understand that the shooter comes to the scene with this look.  Armed with the Meter of Emerging Aggression and the Judicious Interview, we can prevent these horrific events.   Today we will mourn the loss of these most innocent of innocents, tomorrow we must set out to establish a more effective means of preventing this kind of atrocity from ever happening again!

 

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