Understanding Threat Assessment Methodologies and the Role of the Analyst


  • 1 The scope of the problem
  • 2 Violence prediction and psychological constructs of violence
  • 3 Behavioral threat assessment
  • 4 Applying the biopsychosocial model to prevent violence
  • 5 Understanding the pathway to targeted violence as an analytical tool.
  • 6 Threat assessments and the crime analyst: Cautionary note

Learning Objectives for Chapter 14

  • 1 Attain a level of general comprehension of definitions relevant to the study of threat assessment and threat management
  • 2 Differentiate between different psychological constructs of aggression and various types of violence
  • 3 Gain an understanding of the crime analysts role in protective investigations
  • 4 Discuss how types of threats can contribute to different components of a threat assessment case strategy' or plan
  • 5 Understand the concept that violence is a process and the pathway to targeted violence
  • 6 Recognize the limitations of threat assessments in a dynamic incident

Man would fain be great and sees that he is little; would fain be happy and sees that he is miserable; would fain be perfect and sees that he is full of imperfections; would fain be the object of the love and esteem of men, and sees that his faults merit only their aversion and contempt.The embarrassment wherein he finds himself produces in him the most unjust and criminal passions imaginable, for he conceives a mortal hatred against that truth which blames him and convinces him of his faults.

(Pascal, 1952/1670, p. 191)

From: C.J. D.

To: America

Subj: Last resort

I know most of you who personally know me are in disbelief to hear from media reports that I am suspected of committing such horrendous murders and have taken drastic and shocking actions in the last couple of days.You are saying to yourself that this is completely out of character of the man you knew who always wore a smile wherever he was seen. I know I will be vilified by the LAPD and the media.

Unfortunately, this is a necessary evil that I do not enjoy but must partake and complete for substantial change to occur within the LAPD and reclaim my name ... The question is, what would you do to clear your name?

Self-Preservation is no longer important to me. I do not fear death as I died long ago on 1/2/09.1 was told by my mother that sometimes bad things happen to good people. I refuse to accept that.

(C.J.D. Manifesto: Ogilvie, 2013, n.p.)

The Scope of the Problem

Chapter 3 poses this question: “If you are like most people when you hear of a particularly horrific or brutal crime, you may ask,‘How could someone do something like that?’”

This question becomes even more critical when the crime is a planned mass murder which causes physical and psychological wounds that claim victims for years after. In March 2019, two separate survivors of the 2017 massacre at Maijory Stoneman Douglas High School committed suicide. The same month saw the father of a murdered Sandy Hook Elementary School first-grader take his own life in a building that houses the foundation he created in his daughter’s memory. Two months later, Austin Eubanks, a survivor of the 1999 Columbine massacre, was found dead in his home from an apparent overdose. Austin had suffered from opioid addiction since his wounding in the shooting (Pilkington, 2019).

While still a relatively rare event, active shooters and mass killings are increasing in frequency. Since 2011, mass shootings, a form of targeted violence in the United States involving the murder of four or more people, have tripled in frequency (Cohen,Azrael, and Miller,2014). Also,since 2011, a mass shooting occurred on average every 64 days, compared to every 200 days in the previous 29 years (McCormack, 2017). In a recent publication by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on active shooters in the United States, it was noted that 2017 saw the highest number of active shooter incidents recorded by the FBI in one year (ALERRT and FBI, 2018). Based on the FBI analysis, in 2017, an active shooter incident occurred on average every 12 days.

The United States Secret Service recently released a study of mass attacks in public places. In 2018,88% of attacks occurred in places of business, open spaces, and/or houses of worship (U.S. Secret Service, 2019 ). The average age of the attacker was 37, and 48% had a history of criminal charges, with 30% having histories of domestic violence (DV) (U.S. Secret Service, 2019). Only some of the DV instances resulted in criminal charges or arrests. The findings of the Secret Service report identified a crucial point for state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement agencies and the intelligence units that support those agencies. Frontline police officers are likely to encounter mass attackers before the attack, and intelligence analysts play a crucial role in asking the right questions to identify cases with accelerating or clustered risk factors for targeted violence and terrorism.

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