INTELLIGENCE Volume 3, Issue 1, Spring 2015: Am I Qualified To Conduct Threat Assessments?

Welcome to the first issue of the third volume of Intelligence.

Intelligence will keep you up to date with the recent advances in threat assessment from around the globe.

World-leading threat assessment figures have agreed to share their knowledge and experiences and serve on the Intelligence editorial board.

We also encourage you to contribute and provide feedback.

I would like to thank Dr. Laura Guy for taking over as the associate editor and for all the work she put into the last issue while I was on maternity leave. I am very proud to report that Caylan Alexander Hart was born on September 7, 2014 and is a very happy, healthy and tall boy! It is wonderful to be back at work and thank you to everyone for being so supportive during this transition.

We have many thought provoking contributions, significant advances in practice and exciting upcoming events in the coming year. Our latest book review, The Signal and the Noise, can be found in this issue, along with other news and views.

We hope Intelligence will continue to provide a forum for you to share and develop your expertise in threat assessment.

Sincerely,

Kelly A. Watt, PhD 

Threat Assessment Specialist
ProActive ReSolutions Inc.

Practice Update

Am I Qualified to Assess? Some Suggestions for Those Who Want to Conduct Threat Assessments

Update by Dr. Kelly Watt and Dr. Stephen Hart

A Practice Update in the Spring 2014 issue of Intelligence discussed questions related to qualifications required to train others to use threat assessment tools. This Practice Update builds on the previous one by addressing the question Which qualifications are required to conduct threat assessments? This question most often arises because professionals want to assure others they are qualified, but sometimes it arises because people may express concerns that professionals are not qualified to conduct threat assessments.

Similar to the question related to trainers, the question related to assessors is not a simple one to answer. This is because the degree of knowledge and experience required to conduct threat assessments depends critically on relevant laws, policies, and regulations, as well as the nature and purpose of the assessment (e.g., to inform decisions about employment, occupational health and safety, involuntary mental health treatment or commitment, bail, probation or parole, and so forth). Threat assessment professionals are responsible for knowing the laws, policies, ethical guidelines, and regulations that govern their practice in a given jurisdiction.

Two other things must be taken into account when judging qualifications to conduct threat assessment. One is the qualifications required by any specific tools or threat assessment procedures. For example, many threat assessment tools developed according to the structured professional judgment approach—such as the Spousal Assault Risk Assessment (SARA; Kropp, Hart, Webster & Eaves, 1995) Stalking Assessment and Management (SAM; Kropp, Hart & Lyon, 2008) guidelines—do not require a specific professional degree or qualifications. Instead, the manuals discuss two general qualifications: knowledge of violence (familiarity with the professional and scientific literatures on the nature, causes, and management of violence); and expertise in individual assessment (training and experience in interviewing and the review of collateral information). But some tools, such as the Workplace Assessment of Violence Risk-21 (WAVR-21; White & Meloy, 2010), require that users are licensed or registered mental health professionals. Threat assessment professionals are responsible for recognizing, making clear, and practicing within the limits of their own competence or expertise, and also are responsible for knowing the specific qualifications required by any tools they may use.

The second issue concerns whether the threat assessment is being conducted by an individual or a team of professionals. The use of threat assessment teams is encouraged by some practice standards (e.g., the Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention standards published jointly by ASIS International and the Society for Human Resource and Management in 2011) and also by some threat assessment tools (e.g., many sets of structured professional judgment guidelines). If a team is conducting the assessment, it may not be necessary that each person on the team meets all necessary qualifications.

Beyond these considerations it is important to keep in mind that due to the contextual and dynamic nature of violence most perpetrators and victims of violence intersect with many professionals and diverse settings over time. Therefore, the responsibility for assessing and managing violence risk cannot and should not rest with a single profession or setting, but is often the responsibility of many professionals and settings working together.

The importance of the question about qualifications of assessors is highlighted by the fact that all the associations of threat assessment professionals are currently in the process of developing accreditation guidelines as a means of ensuring that threat assessment professionals meet requisite qualifications. For instance, ATAP’s certification is under way (http://www.atapworldwide.org/default.asp?page=CTM) and AETAP’s Quality Standard guidelines have been drafted for review (http://www.aetap.eu/aetap.eu/images/Guideline_Certification_February_2014.pdf). Future issues of Intelligence will be sure to keep you updated about advances made related to accreditation guidelines.

References

ASIS International and the Society for Human Resource Management. (2011). Workplace violence prevention and intervention. Alexandria, VA: ASIS International.

Kropp, P.R., Hart, S.D., Webster, C.D. & Eaves, D. (1995). Manual for the Spousal Assault Risk Assessment Guide,2nd ed. Vancouver, British Columbia: British Columbia Institute of Family Violence.

Kropp, P.R., Hart, S.D. & Lyon, D. R. (2008). Guidelines for Stalking Assessment and Management (SAM) User manual. Vancouver, Canada: ProActive ReSolutions Inc.

White, S.G. & Meloy, J.R. (March, 2010). The WAVR-21: A Structured Professional Guide for the Workplace Assessment of Violence Risk, 2nd ed. San Diego, California: Specialized Training Services, Inc.

Book Review

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — But Some Don’t

Review by Dr. Stephen Hart

Forecasting is a critical part of threat assessment and threat management. Threat assessment involves understanding what types of violence a person might commit, against which people, for which reasons, with what consequences, and at what times or places. Threat management involves understanding what could be done to prevent that violence—that is, planning. It is true that threat assessment without threat management is just passive prediction, something of limited use; but it is equally true that management planning is of limited use without some idea of what one is trying to prevent. Forecasting guides planning.

Nate Silver, the author of The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don’t, is keenly interested in forecasting. He majored in economics at university and worked as an economic consultant for several years. But he also had a lifelong love of baseball and used his statistical skills to develop a sabermetrics system for analyzing baseball prospects. He also dabbled a bit in gambling. Eventually he left consulting to pursue a career in forecasting that extended beyond sports to include politics. He established a successful website that won him acclaim for the accuracy of his analyses and predictions, to the extent that he was named one of The World’s 100 Most Influential People by Time magazine in 2009. Silver’s book, originally published in 2012, set out in a very approachable way some of the major lessons he has learned from a life of forecasting. The book has been very successful, and in 2015 it was released in paperback. It is available at major bookstores or from online vendors such as Amazon.com.

Silver provides a very nice discussion of the challenge of forecasting in various fields of human endeavor. He also reviews prediction failures in these fields, and the causes of these failures. His major conclusion is that the primary source of forecasting error is statistical noise, that is, random errors in the information we obtain through records and measures. Noise makes it hard to detect an underlying signal, that is, the true or accurate information that lies hidden within records and measures. Because we can’t change the signal—the truth “is what it is”—the implication is that the best way to improve forecasting accuracy and avoid the costs of relying on forecasts that are inherently imprecise is to recognize and minimize noise.

Silver’s book also discusses several ways to improve the practice of forecasting. First, we should accept that statistics and predictions are not facts of the natural world, but human beliefs about the world and the way it works. We should try to build confidence in our beliefs, but at the same time not confuse this confidence for certainty. We must recognize that statistics can improve our forecasting, but cannot guarantee accuracy. In technical terms, Silver promotes Bayesian forecasting approaches over frequentist approaches. Second, we should collect more and better-quality data, especially concerning initial values of key predictor variables. Third, we should develop statistical forecasting models (algorithms) that provide more precise estimates of the weights that should be assigned to the key predictor variables.

Silver’s book is likely to be of interest to anyone whose job involves forecasting, including threat assessment professionals. It is well written and engaging, which makes for great casual reading (think of picking it up next time you are getting ready for a long airplane ride). My criticisms of the book focus mostly on what it does not do or does not say. The forecasting problems that Silver deals with are, for the most part, ones that involve making multiple or repeated predictions in systems that are relatively simple or closed—things such as how to identify which individuals in a given year’s cohort of baseball prospects will be most successful, which professional hockey matches will generate the best ticket sales, which candidates are most likely to win Presidential elections, and so forth. His analysis and solutions are less relevant to forecasting situations that involve one-time predictions (e.g., what is this person likely to do in this particular situation?) or complex, open systems (e.g., how might a person’s violence risk be affected if she is released from a psychiatric hospital under unknown circumstances, or if he is involuntarily terminated form his job?). Under conditions of the latter sort, uncertainty rules supreme; and we are forced to consider not only the signal and the noise, but also the distinct possibility of interference. Interference is non-random error—a false, distorted, or incomplete signal. Eliminating interference is much more difficult than eliminating noise. It requires a clear and complete understanding of a phenomenon. With respect to assessment, eliminating interference requires that we have a good idea exactly what violence is and exactly what causes it. Now, are there readers who think they are ready to deal with interference? Anyone?

But it is perhaps unfair to focus too much on criticisms of what a book did not do or say. I recommend Silver’s book. Read it, appreciate the wisdom it contains, and apply that wisdom to your practice. I forecast you will be better off for doing so.

Paperback edition published 2015 by Penguin Books, New York
ISBN: 978-0143125082

Industry Association News

Association of European Threat Assessment Professionals

Message from President Mr. Totti Karpela

Greetings from Europe. Year 2015 has shown that the need for threat assessment and management is now needed more than ever. Terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen as well as a restaurant shooting in the Czech Republic are only the most tragic ones that the media so eagerly covers. Academic studies are being conducted, government organizations are getting better each year with their policies and procedures, and public awareness has gotten much better. Yet, we are only in the beginning of the era of prevention. The recent events have again clearly indicated that there is room and a need for an association such as AETAP. The association is creating a vital link between all professionals working in the field of threat assessment and management. Our association is providing a platform for mental health, law enforcement, private practitioners as well as the corporate world to meet and exchange ideas and compare best practices. We have seen a steady growth in our membership numbers since last year, so one could say that threat assessment has gained more publicity amongst professionals, especially during the past few years.

The European accreditation program is taking steady steps to become standardized, but there still is work to be done. Similar steps are simultaneously being taken by all of our sister associations.

The Journal of Threat Assessment and Management (JTAM) has also been greeted with very positive response. Yet another excellent reason to become a member in any of the associations.

AETAP is gaining more members and our annual conference in April 2015 seemed to gather again yet another record crowd. Beautiful Lucerne provided a great facility for the Pan-European conference and for the first time, simultaneous translation to German. Also, the excellent work that past boards have done to strengthen the cooperation between the associations seems to continue on a steady path. Again this year, we had participants and speakers from all other associations. We hope that many of you had the opportunity to attend the conference and we look forward to updating you about the conference in the next issue of Intelligence.

Asia Pacific Association of Threat Assessment Professionals

Conference recap from Vice-President Dr. Lisa Warren

The fourth annual APATAP conference was well attended by a strong delegation representing mental health, policing, security, criminology and other corporate threat management professionals. This was our first conference away from Melbourne and sunny Brisbane did not disappoint. The views were spectacular on the 24th floor of the Microsoft offices, even when participants strained to hear Professor Geoff Dean enlighten us on countering violent extremism over the pelting hailstorm that raged outside and shook the windows to the point a break was needed to let the din subside. We were most appreciative when Professor Dean continued in more clement weather.

We enjoyed two days of excellent presentations as well as a highly informative expert seminar on Cybercrime from Detective Inspector Tim Thomas from the West Australian Police. As well as learning about jargon and technologies new to many in the group, we were treated to insights on the extent and prevention of online crime in Australia, which costs the community around $AUD338M per year. From hacking, to the use of social media by political groups to the posting of child pornography, the knowledge and experience of Detective Inspector Thomas in combating these issues made for a fascinating day.

Dr. David James (Forensic Psychiatrist and founder of the Fixated Threat Assessment in London) and Mr. Daniel Frost (Manager of the Global Workplace Security Programs at Walt Disney) provided our keynote addresses. Dr. James described a new approach for responding to threatening communications and the development of the CTAP-25 (Communications Threat Assessment Protocol), which is a structured method of identifying concerning communications and managing the associated risks. Daniel Frost described threat management at the largest media company in the world, Disney. He spoke of the extraordinary extent of their operations given the size of the organization and provided a case study of their work in practice.

The presentations on Day 1 ranged from learning about gang stalking or mobbing by Dr. Lorraine Sheridan to uses of background screening techniques in recruitment to aid in the prevention of workplace violence by Guy Underwood. Interesting discussions arose during the day on the use of data in the threat management process. Questions tossed around by presenters and the audience included the sourcing of data – how far do you need to search beyond what is provided by a referrer and the values and ethics of seeking open source information from the Internet about persons of concern and their targets.

Day 2 included a briefing from the American Bureau of Diplomatic Security, who provide security for the safe operations of U.S. foreign business and policy. Dr. Laura Guy translated threat management practices for use with children and adolescents and the importance of understanding neuroplasticity and phases of development to assess risks in youth. The Queensland Police described the development of a Fixated Threat Assessment group in their ranks to aid the smooth running of a visit by members of the British Royal Family and the G20 summit.

The conference closed with an AGM for APATAP members in which our 2015 Committee was elected and preparations for the fifth annual APATAP conference began. We are delighted to say that this year’s conference will be held in Bangkok from the 1st to the 5th November. We hope you can join us and look forward to continuing our commitment to providing professional development and collaboration of threat assessment professionals in the Asia Pacific region and around the world.


Product Update

Release Date Announced for the SARA Version 3

Update by Dr. Randall P. Kropp

More than 20 years have passed since the first edition of the Spousal Assault Risk Assessment Guide (SARA; Kropp, Hart, Webster, & Eaves, 1994, 1995) was published. The original SARA and the soon to follow Historical-Clinical-Risk Management-20 (HCR-20; Webster, Eaves, Douglas, & Wintrup, 1995) were the first examples of the structured professional judgment (SPJ) approach to violence risk assessment. While earlier versions of the SARA have been successful – they have been implemented in over 15 countries spanning 5 continents – there have been significant developments in the field since the SARA was first released. The empirical and professional literatures on intimate partner violence (IPV) have advanced significantly, and there have been several innovations in the SPJ approach that can be seen in guidelines such as the Risk for Sexual Violence Protocol (RSVP; Hart et al., 2003), the Guidelines for Stalking Assessment and Management (SAM; Kropp, Hart, & Lyon, 2008), the Brief Spousal Assault Form for the Evaluation of Risk (B-SAFER; Kropp, Hart, & Belfrage, 2005, 2010), and the newly released version of the HCR-20 Version 3 (HCR-20 V3; Douglas, Hart, Webster, & Belfrage, 2013; Webster et al., 1997). A revision was due, and the SARA-V3 is built directly upon these developments. Further, authors Randall Kropp and Stephen Hart, internationally recognized experts in IPV risk assessment, were able to incorporate feedback and knowledge gained from two decades of implementing earlier versions of the SARA. Overall, the result is a significantly updated instrument that is rooted in a current and comprehensive review of 35 years of IPV research, incorporating key advances in risk formulation, scenario planning, and victim safety planning. The SARA-V3 is now the state of the art SPJ guide for IPV risk assessment. We are excited to announce that it will be available by Summer 2015!


Special Announcement

HCR-20 Version 3 paper available for free download until June 30, 2015

The most downloaded articles published in Routledge Behavioral Sciences journals in 2014 are currently available on http://explore.tandfonline.com/page/beh/behavioral-sciences-most-read/psychology#20860. Of particular interest to threat assessment specialists, one of the articles featured includes the Historical-Clinical-Risk Management-20, Version 3 (HCR-20 V3): Development and Overview, published in the International Journal of Forensic Mental Health. We encourage you to download it now for free while you have the chance!


Upcoming Webinars

ConCEpt and ProActive ReSolutions Inc.
“Wednesday Webinar” Series

Stalking: SAM/Intimate Partner Violence: SARA/B-SAFER
Dr. Randall Kropp

May 6, 2015

Violence Risk: HCR-20 V3
Dr. Kevin Douglas

June 10, 2015

Violence Risk: HCR-20 V3
Dr. Kevin Douglas

September 16, 2015

Sexual Violence Risk: RSVP/SVR-20
Dr. Randall Kropp

October 7, 2015

Violence Risk in Youth: SAVRY
Dr. Laura Guy

October 28, 2015

Violence Risk: HCR-20 V3
Dr. Kevin Douglas

November 18, 2015

Stalking: SAM/Intimate Partner Violence: SARA/B-SAFER
Dr. Randall Kropp

December 9, 2015

Learn more


Upcoming Events

 

8th Biennial Threat Management Symposium
Focus on Assessing and Managing Risk for Active Shooters, Lone Terrorism, and Mass Homicides in School Settings

May 12-14, 2015
Oshawa, Ontario
*For more information contact D/Sgt. Glenn Sheil at (705)329-6494 or glenn.sheil@opp.ca

ProActive ReSolutions Inc. and McMaster University
Advanced Violence Risk Assessment and Management Workshop for Higher Education

May 25-29, 2015
Burlington, Ontario
Learn more

ConCEpt and ProActive ReSolutions Inc.
Foundations of Risk Assessment

June 1-5, 2015
New York, New York
Learn more

ConCEpt and ProActive ReSolutions Inc.
Assessing Risk for Violence using the HCR-20 V3
June 1-2, 2015
New York, New York
Learn more

ConCEpt and ProActive ReSolutions Inc.
Assessing Psychopathy using the Hare Scales (PCL-R and PCL-SV)

June 3-4, 2015
New York, New York
Learn more

International Association of Forensic Mental Health Services
Annual Conference

June 16-18, 2015
Manchester, England
Learn more

Ryerson University and ProActive ReSolutions Inc.
Foundational Violence Risk Assessment and Management Workshop
August 10-14, 2015
Toronto, Ontario
Learn more

Association of Threat Assessment Professionals
Annual Conference

August 11-14, 2015
Anaheim, California
Learn more

ProActive ReSolutions Inc.
Foundational Violence Risk Assessment and Management Workshop

September 14-18, 2015
Vancouver, British Columbia
Learn more

Society for Terrorism Research 8th Annual International Conference
September 17-19, 2015
Boston, Massachusetts
Learn more

Canadian Association of Threat Assessment Professionals
Annual Conference

October 17-21, 2015
Lake Louise, Alberta
Learn more

Asia Pacific Association of Threat Assessment Professionals
Annual Conference

November 2-5, 2015
Bangkok, Thailand
Learn more


Editorial Board

 
Dr. Henrik Belfrage
Mid Sweden University

Mr. Geoff Brown
Microsoft ASIA / President, APATAP

Dr. Laura S. Guy
ProActive ReSolutions Inc.

Mr. Keith Hammond
Vancouver Police Department/ President, CATAP

Dr. Stephen D. Hart
ProActive ReSolutions Inc.

Dr. David James
Fixated Threat Assessment Centre

Dr. P. Randy Kropp
ProActive ReSolutions Inc.

Dr. J. Reid Meloy
Forensis, Inc.

Dr. Kris Mohandie
Operational Consulting International, Inc.

Dr. John Monahan
University of Virginia

Dr. Mario Scalora
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Mr. Glenn Sheil
Ontario Provincial Police

Dr. Lorraine Sheridan
Curtain University

Mr. Chuck Tobin
AT-RISK International / President, ATAP

Mr. Bram van der Meer
Van der Meer Investigative / President, AETAP

Dr. Kelly A. Watt
ProActive ReSolutions Inc.

Dr. Patricia Zapf
John Jay College of Criminal Justice / CONCEPT

Contribute

We welcome ideas for contributions from all readers. Please e-mail your suggestions to the editor (kwatt@proactive­resolutions.com) or associate editor (lguy@proactive-resolutions.com).
Visit us at www.proactive-­resolutions.com

Follow us on twitter@buildingrespect