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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