Rethinking the Role of Mental Disorder in Public Figure Stalking
Meloy, J. R., James, D. V., Mullen, P. E., Pathe, M. T., Farnham, F. R., Preston, L. F., & Darnley, B. J. (2011). Factors associated with escalation and problematic approaches towards public figures. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 56, 128-135. [DOI: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2010.01574.x]
Strong claims have been made that serious mental illness is a relatively unimportant risk factor for violence generally and for threats towards public figures more specifically. However, a recent review by J. Reid Meloy and colleagues (2011) of the Fixated Persons Project casts doubt on these claims. They re-analyzed data from 6 different studies of public figure stalking. The most striking findings of their study were: (a) a high prevalence of serious mental illness across all studies, and (b) a significant association between serious mental illness and approach behavior in five of the six studies. The primary features of mental illness observed in these studies were psychotic symptoms, and especially grandiosity.
Meloy et al. (2011) are not alone in their findings. For example, Park E. Dietz and Dan Martell (2010) discussed the importance of mental illness in a paper on public figure stalking. And with respect to violence more generally, Kevin S. Douglas and colleagues (2009) meta-analyzed 204 studies and found psychosis was a robust risk factor, especially for serious violence
As Meloy et al. (2011) point out, effective threat assessment and management may benefit from closer collaboration between criminal justice and mental health professionals. They note that such collaborations work well for agencies such as the United States Secret Service, the United States Capitol Police, the Netherlands National Police Agency, the Swedish Security Police, and the Fixated Threat Assessment Centre in the United Kingdom.
Dietz, P. E., & Martell, D. A. (2010). Approaching and stalking public figures—A prerequisite to attack. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 38, 341-348.
Douglas, K. S., Guy, L. S., & Hart, S. D. (2009). Psychosis as a risk factor for violence to others: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 135, 679-706. [DOI: 10.1037/a0016311]
Does Threat Assessment Training Work?
Storey, J. E., Gibas, A. E., Reeves, K. A., & Hart, S. D. (2011). Evaluation of violence risk (threat) assessment training programs for police and other criminal justice professionals. Criminal Justice and Behavior. [DOI: 10.1177/0093854811403123]
Extensive work has been done on developing and validating approaches to threat assessment over the last twenty years. Professionals around the world have been trained in the use of these approaches. Yet, there has been little evaluation of the extent to which training improves the practice of threat assessment.
Building primarily on the work done by Dale McNiel and colleagues (2008), who evaluated a violence risk assessment training program for mental health professionals, Jennifer Storey and colleagues (in press) examined the impact of threat assessment training for police and other criminal justice professionals. They conducted pre- and post-training assessment of participants in an intensive, 8-day threat assessment training workshop. They found statistically significant improvements in knowledge, as indicated by scores on a multiple-choice exam; skills, as indicated by analysis of case vignettes; and attitudes, as indicated by self-ratings of competence and confidence.
These findings should help threat assessment specialists justify the need for and usefulness of training efforts. Hopefully, they will also stimulate further research on how to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of training programs.
McNiel, D. E., Chamberlain, J. R., Weaver, C. M., Hall, S. E., Fordwood, S. R., & Binder, R. L. (2008). Impact of clinical training on violence risk assessment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 165, 195-200. [DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2007.06081396]
Investigative and Forensic Interviewing: A Personality-Focused Approach
Craig Ackley and colleagues have written an excellent book on interviewing individuals with personality disorders. The authors have extensive experience, both individually and collectively. The team includes two former FBI employees, a special agent and a research analyst, and two clinical psychologists. Although the book focuses primarily on investigative interviews by police, it offers useful insights for those who conduct threat assessments—not just police, but also attorneys, probation and parole officers, and mental health professionals.
The chapters are organized by the personality styles that are most commonly encountered in the criminal justice system, such as narcissistic, borderline, psychopathic, paranoid, and schizoptypal. Each chapter provides illustrative vignettes, informative descriptions, and practical information about issues to consider both before and during interviews with people with different personality styles. For instance, the authors outline the behaviors one is likely to encounter, how to effectively respond to such behaviors,what types questions to ask, and how best to ask questions.
Ackley, C. N., Mack, S. M., Beyer, K., & Erdberg, P. (2011). Investigative and forensic interviewing: A personality-focused approach. Boca Raton: CRC Press. [ISBN: 978-1420084252]
Hofstra University has started a masters program specializing in Forensic Linguistics. This is the first graduate program of its kind in the United States.
For more information, contact Dr. Robert Leonard by phone (1-516-463-5440) or e-mail (Robert.A.Leonard@hofstra.edu).
Industry associations news
Association of European Threat Assessment Professionals
Message from the President, Bram van der Meer
Since it was founded in 2004, the fundamental goal of AETAP has been to bring together threat assessment professionals from different organizations around the world in a secure and professional environment. We are proud to have succeeded in making our conferences a meeting point for an increasing number of experts from various police, intelligence, military, security, and academic organizations representing 9 different countries. We have learned that creating the opportunity for threat assessment professionals from different backgrounds to connect is of great value to our members. With this philosophy in mind, we hope to contribute to the further development of the threat assessment field in the future.
Building on these positive developments, it is important for us to provide a high quality service to our members and fellow associations in North America. We will therefore maintain a focus on topics related to the assessment and management of threats. Our board will continue to play an active and supporting role in research and publishing, and we also hope to attract more academics to the field.
In the short term, our focus will be on developing a safe digital environment where members who need advice will have the possibility to access insight from other experienced professionals. Besides our existing news section on our website, we would like to provide an updated library section where research papers, news articles, books, and relevant internet links can be found.
AETAP also recently formed a working group in The Hague in April 2010 for the purpose of organizing European accreditation and certification for threat assessment professionals. As our field is receiving more attention in Europe, now is the time to develop professional quality standards, supported by research and practice, for consistent threat assessment and management.
The success of AETAP over the past few years would not have been possible without the support from our friends from CATAP and ATAP. We look forward to continuing the strong and warm relationship that received a positive surge at the 2010 CATAP conference in Banff, where the three organizations met together for the first time. We would like to thank the NCIS representatives and the initiators of this Intelligence Newsletter for your warm support and big efforts to build bridges between AETAP and the North American associations.
I would like to use this opportunity to invite all threat assessment professionals to our next conference that will take place in the beautiful old city of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. For more information about our organization and conference, please visit www.aetap.eu.
Association of European Threat Assessment Professionals Annual Conference
April 12-15, 2011
Tallinn, the beautiful and historic capital of Estonia, is the site of the next AETAP Annual Conference. The venue is the Swissôtel Tallinn, Estonia's only 5-star hotel. A special feature of the 2011 conference is a 1-day expert seminar on explicit threats, led by Dr. Lisa Warren.
Association of Threat Assessment Professionals Upcoming Spring Regional Conference
April 18-19, 2011
Association of Threat Assessment Professionals Upcoming Threat Management Conference
August 16-19, 2011
Canadian Association of Threat Assessment Professionals Upcoming Conference
September 19-23, 2011
ProActive ReSolutions Inc. Violence Risk Assessment and Management Workshops
May 11-12, 2011
May 16-19, 2011
ProActive ReSolutions Inc. Violence Risk Assessment and Management Workshop for Post-Secondary Institutions
May 30-June 3, 2011
Burnaby, British Columbia
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