When an assailant decides to pull his weapon and start shooting -- Moment of Commitment – it typically takes just two seconds before the first round is discharged. Campus police, regardless of training or equipment, cannot reliably arrive in just two seconds. Sadly, once an assailant reaches their Moment of Commitment, all that campus police can do is follow their active shooter training and step over dead, dying and/or wounded victims to get to the shooter. Those victims are students, faculty and staff. Is this acceptable to you?
Is your campus using the NaBITA Threat Assessment Tool? As the founder and CEO of the Center for Aggression Management, I authored this tool. I was asked by NaBITA to contribute our Cognitive Aggression Continuum to what mental health professionals were using (distressed, disturbed, and dysregulated), which was far too subjective. By combining our Cognitive Aggression Continuum, we added significant objectivity to this calculation. It was meant to be used solely by mental health professionals; however, when we last checked it was being used in more than 177 campuses as a sole source tool to keep campuses safe. It was never meant to be used in this way and is missing critical elements needed to bring your campus up to specification. If your campus is using the NaBITA Threat Assessment Tool, we recommend you immediately use our Critical Aggression Prevention System (CAPS), which is the complete Threat Assessment and Prevention Tool.
Students and their parents have an expectation that behavioral intervention teams will identify potential violent actors and diffuse them through mental health assessments, but do they? Is the use of mental health assessment reliable in identifying and preventing the next school shooting? 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, this study found that individuals with mental illness tended to be the victims of this behavior, not the perpetrators of it. Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech Shooter who murdered 32 innocents and then himself was mental health assessed 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.” Incidentally, Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland Shooter who murdered 17 innocents, also was mental health assessed by the Florida Department of Children and Family and was deemed “not to be at risk of hurting himself or others.” Further, Jared Lee Loughner, pleaded guilty to 19 charges of murder and attempted murder including Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords in connection with the shooting in Tucson, Arizona. Clearly Mr. Loughner had a thought disorder and was probably schizophrenic, one of the scariest of mental disorders. We know that only .002% of those with schizophrenia have ever murdered others. How do you get from .002% probability to predicting the next shooter? You cannot!
I have spoken to many Directors of Campus Security and Campus Police Chiefs who have anonymously told me, “John, mental health, human resources, student services and student affairs professionals do not understand and respect the concept of threat well enough. So, I don’t share everything we have with them.” Then, when I speak with mental health, human resources, student services and student affairs professionals, they tell me, “John, we are concerned that campus security can get too heavy-handed, so we don’t share everything that we have with them. These departmental silos create gaps that aggressors simply walk though, exposing students, faculty and staff to unspeakable harm.
We distinguish between Primal Aggression (adrenaline-driven) that represents someone losing control, and Cognitive Aggression (intent-driven), which represents someone who intends to harm. Once this distinction is made, aggressive behavior can be objectively and reliably observed and measured in real time using scientific cause and effect principles through the reflection of an individual’s aggression in their body language, behavior and communication indicators.
Using techniques that the FBI and the Secret Service refer to as “identifying someone on the path to violence,” we identify the precursors to violence and thus prevent violence. These same methods can be used to prevent conflict, bullying, abuse, harassment, discrimination, and the loss of trust. Whether on or off campus, aggressive behavior permeates our world and CAPS offers a reliable solution. Our Aggression Continuum is the only methodology that uses scientific cause and effect principles to achieve this objective.
Realizing that it is not practical to train all people with all skills, our methodology involves scalable training for two types of recipients: Aggression First Observers (AFOs) -- individuals trained to identify “objective measurable observables” of aggressive behavior and report them, either by phone or CAPS Mobile App. AFOs will communicate these objective measurable observables to a small core group of Certified Aggression Managers or AMs (creating scalability) who are trained to measure emerging aggression, apply the appropriate and corresponding skill sets to maximize their aggression diffusing/preventing results.
Our Meter of Emerging Aggression (MEA), CAPS Mobile App Software Service, can be used by Aggression First Observers and Certified Aggression Managers (AMs) to input behavior. The CAPS Mobile App immediately illustrates the level of an individual’s aggression, as well as, their level of threat -- low, moderate or high risk -- so that AMs can best determine what resources are needed to maximize their result. Once an AM interviews the aggressor, the AM records her answers to each of the following questions: “What did I see; how did I respond; and what was the result?” This input can scientifically validate this process in real time.
Finally, MEA is then used to record and track aggressive behavior over time so as to validate that these Aggression Managers (AMs) are doing all within their power to make their campuses “as safe as possible.“ This is the highest form of evidence-based best practices and is accomplished without violating HIPAA, FERPA or the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
CAPS’s Meter of Emerging Aggression has produced evaluations and results consistent with the observations of those on our Student Assistance & Intervention Team (SAIT), as we work at tracking students on our campus who are behaving in ways that concern faculty, staff or others in the campus community.
It is the intended purpose of the SAIT to assist, not punish, students. As we have now utilized your CAPS program (training, and the Meter of Emerging Aggression (MEA) software) for two years, it has become very clear that having a system in place that allows us to look at the totality of circumstances, regarding a student’s behavior in an objective way, we are now able to truly assist and/or intervene in a timely, appropriate manner with a focus on a preventive result.
We are able to place all information into the Incident Report (IR) as we gather it. The MEA is now placed directly on the IR as a graphic representation that allows us to see evidence of any emerging aggression. We have found our response to be closely linked with MEA.
Our campus legal counsel is very pleased that we are using the CAPS training and MEA software to record all of the information we gather, including actions taken, in a clear, concise and formal way.
Utilizing your system has provided an opportunity for the members of SAIT to combine their professional knowledge and experience with the foundation grounded in your research in order to find ways to assist our students in resolving issues before they develop into crisis situations.
I will end this brief narrative with my continued appreciation for your support, and your continued willingness to do all you can to enhance the efforts of EKU to identify and assist or intervene with students who have been identified as “students of concern”.