After yet another active shooter has taken innocent lives, are you tired of hearing that this event could have been prevented? Are you weary of those who proclaim that, in retrospect, there were plenty of signs, if only someone had said something? The aftermath is staggering:
- Dec. 29, 2019, White Settlement, Texas, 3 dead, including the shooter
- Nov. 17, Fresno, California, 4 dead
- Nov. 14, 2019, San Diego, California, 5 dead, including the shooter
- Nov. 12, 2019, Santa Clarita, California, 3 dead, including the shooter
- Aug. 31, 2019, Odessa, Texas, 8 dead, including the shooter
- Aug. 4, 2019, Dayton, Ohio, 10 dead, including the shooter
- Aug. 3, 2019, El Paso, Texas, 22 dead
- May 31, 2019, Virginia Beach, Virginia, 13 dead, including the shooter
- Feb. 15, 2019, Aurora, Illinois, 6 dead, including the shooter
- Nov. 7, 2018, Thousand Oaks, California, 13 dead, including the shooter
We could continue offering dates, but you get the point. Do you feel that you could “reliably” prevent your next active shooter? Before answering this question, consider this:
We know that from the Moment of Commitment (when an assailant decides to pull his weapon and start shooting) to when the first round is discharged is just 2 seconds! No security, no law enforcement, no matter how well trained or equipped, can be on scene in just 2 seconds. They will do what they have been trained to do, which is to step over those dead, dying and/or wounded victims to get to the shooter.
We all know that there is no absolute (100%) violence prevention. It doesn’t exist, so let’s state it upfront. However, there is “reliable” violence prevention. The FBI and Secret Service refer to this method as “identifying someone on the path to violence.” It is considered the most reliable means of identifying future violence of any kind (shootings, knife attacks, etc.), offering an opportunity to observe the precursors to violence, thus preventing the next active shooter or knife attack.
But what about all of those restrictions like profiling, stereotyping and references to culture, religion, sexual orientation, etc.? The main problem today is the use of subjective references when identifying someone on the path to violence. In our attempt to become more sophisticated, we resort to using mental-health assessments, but too often these are too subjective. Mental-health professionals too often do not share their records for fear of violating HIPAA regulations, and their expertise quickly diminishes the further we move from this source.
Recently, the FBI and Secret Service have published reports suggesting that we look for defined stressors like “family/romantic relationships: death of a loved one, divorce, a broken engagement, or physical or emotional abuse.” But do these stressors actually offer us any meaningful value? Consider death of a loved one.
Question One: If you include every person in the United States who has experienced the death of a loved one because of … (you fill in the aggressive behavior here), how many of these individuals subsequently have murdered others? Is it less than one percent? If so, how can you reliably identify the next active/mass shooter using this insight?
Question Two: At what point do you have a large enough percentage to motivate the Department of Justice and law enforcement to take effective and sustainable action to protect the public – actions such as 24/7 surveillance (do you even have the resources?) or incarceration?
We are lulled into believing that we are being protected by this knowledge, but are we?
In October 2000, the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education, with funding from the National Institute of Justice, collaborated on the “Safe School Initiative” study. They determined that the ultimate question to answer is whether a student is on a path to a violent attack. They determined that the only reliable method of preventing future school shootings was to identify someone on the path to violence, what we prefer to describe as identifying the sequential successive precursors to violence.
On Dec. 16, 2013, a supervisory special agent with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit confirmed their findings in an Associated Press report. Andre Simmons, chief of the Behavioral Threat Assessment Center, said the agency’s ability to prevent violence is predicated on identifying a person who is “on a pathway to violence.”
These insights are the basis for our Critical Aggression Prevention System (CAPS). This system starts with a baseline that applies to any and all venues and then escalates through nine stages/levels of aggressive behavior. The fact that someone is at the third stage of aggressive behavior is not what is critical to understand, but that this person/aggressor now has transitioned to the fourth stage of aggressive behavior. Now we have a trend.
In addition, this aggressor has transitioned from the level of “Low Threat Risk” to “Moderate Threat Risk.” This does not mean that the aggressor will be violent tomorrow, but critically plants the sense of urgency to take effective action now. This urgency too often is missing in most threat-assessment plans.
In the case of the Parkland, Florida, shooting, on Feb. 14, 2018, at least 45 calls were made to the Broward County Public School District, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI regarding Nikolas Cruz’s aggressive behavior, but no one felt the sense of urgency enough to have prevented that horrific shooting from happening. Seventeen students and teachers lost their lives that day, because threat assessment too often means how fast can we react to an active shooter rather than how can we reliably prevent the shooting.
Incidentally, because the Critical Aggression Prevention System (CAPS) uses only aggressive behavior and judges this aggressive behavior on its merits, CAPS does not contravene nor violate HIPAA, FERPA or the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Identifying single elements that represent “stressors” may not help advance judgment as to who is a future shooter. Rather, it is the ability to recognize the sequential successive precursors of aggressive behavior that offers a reliable means of identifying someone who is on the path to violence and then preventing it from occurring.
Maybe the U.S. Secret Service and the FBI should reference their past studies, before moving forward . . .
his brings us back to our original question: Could these active shooter events have been prevented, yes or no? Although we know that there is no absolute violence prevention, we now know that with CAPS, we can achieve “reliable” violence prevention by identifying individuals on the path to violence.
Learn more about our new fully functional CAPS Mobile App select https://www.aggressionmanagement.com/caps-mobile-app.php