Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Threat Assessment

Corporate executives, corporate security managers, university and school administrators, and law enforcement officers all need to be professionally prepared to assess threats, particularly threats of violence. It is erroneous to assume that because of their position, law enforcement officers are already prepared.

Too often, failing to prepare to assess threats leads to precipitous actions that endanger rather than safeguard people.

For example, on Wednesday, November 13, 2002, Eastern Washington University officials evacuated approximately 11,000 students, faculty, and staff from its facilities in response to two telephone bomb threats. The university's handling of this incident was well-intended but demonstrated just how poorly prepared the school was to properly assess and respond to communicated bomb threats. Lacking specific information about the composition and location of the alleged devices, the university's decision to needlessly evacuate potentially exposed evacuees to greater risk of harm.

The US Secret Service spends significant time, effort, and money to train its special agents and others to assess threats. In July 1995, the US Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice (NIJ), published a seven-page introduction to threat assessment. The document, entitled Threat Assessment: An Approach to Prevent Targeted Violence, discusses several relevant topics relating to threat assessment. One of the most relevant and important is learning to differentiate between a threat made and a threat posed. Failing to make that distinction contributes to poor decisions.

The NIJ paper is not a substitute for comprehensive training and individualized assessments. It is, however, a good starting point to better understand the assessment of threats that may lead to targeted violence. It may also help decision-makers to make better informed decisions that increase rather than diminish the safety of people in their charge.


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