“Shots fired!”


Whether a police officer, security professional, or member of the military you a have mission which involves observation and threat assessment. Observation skills and the ability to assess threats can help you and your personnel do your job and keep others safe.  

We would like to share with you a testimonial from one our trainees; an experienced police sergeant who took both our online and instructor-led course offerings. This patrol sergeant has 11 years of police experience and works in a high crime urban environment. We received his positive testimonial (included below) within a week after he was trained.

Active Threat Gun Carrying

“Shortly (days) after completing the online threat assessment training through Second Sight, I was working my shift when a call for shots fired was dispatched.   I was working in the station at the time and immediately responded to our camera room to see if anything was captured.  While reviewing video, I quickly picked up on a group of three individuals, two of which were showing numerous indicators of gun carrying.   One of the males was showing Disrupted Stride, Repositioning of the Gun and Picking while the second male was showing a Dead-Arm Swing and Security Feel.  As I continued to watch the video, it showed the males displaying weapons and one actually fired it. 

It was pretty amazing to see how blatant these indicators were when I realized what I was seeing. 

Thanks for a great class and, like I said, it really works.

This sergeant is describing multiple behaviors known as threat indicators, which we cover in our online active threat assessment training. A threat indicator is a verbal or visual behavior that implies an individual is threatening, trying to hide in plain sight, or carrying contraband or weapons. In this testimonial, the sergeant references five different threat indicators that we further analyze in our classes: Disrupted Stride, Repositioning, Picking, Dead Arm Swing, and Security Feel.

Threat Indicators Breakdown

We have identified about 96 different threat indicators in eight separate categories. The sergeant in this case study is describing five different indicators. Regretfully, we can’t discuss them all in this post, BUT the threat indicators module in our online and instructor-led courses is about three hours long and covers them all.

The following indicators were identified based on research studying how people like you identify potential and active threats. Let’s focus on two of these indicators, describe them, and show you a video depiction.

The Shortened/Disrupted Stride 

When a gun is tucked into a pants pocket, groin area, or the front waistband it may hinder leg movements on that side of the body or cause a person to have a shorter step on one side. Instead of having a shortened stride, a person carrying an illegal gun may also have a disrupted stride, meaning that the gait of his walk will be off in some recognizable way. This behavior may be caused by the individual attempting to either conceal the weapon or limiting its movement so as not to drop it. The Disrupted Stride does not only involve forward movement but may also involve a side to side motion which could be described as a “waddle”. The Disrupted Stride may also be visible as a brief interruption or change in the rhythm of a person’s stride over a longer distance. This change in the pattern of the walk could be to readjust the weapon.

The Dead Arm - A Shortened/No Arm Swing  

When a person is carrying a gun in or out of a holster at the waist, they may hold their arm or elbow against the weapon to control it and to keep it from falling out of their waistband. Holding the gun against the body in this way could also keep a person’s arm from moving at all. This lack of arm movement can also be described as a "Dead Arm".

Watch this video which depicts a Shortened/Disrupted Stride and a Dead Arm Swing. This is a cluster of behaviors. Clusters of behaviors an essential element to identifying active threats.

Threat Indicators: Shortened/Disrupted Stride & The Dead Arm Swing

From Observation to Assessment: Using Threat Indicators in Real Life

In this testimonial, the subjects carrying the weapons were already under observation; the sergeant didn’t have to work to pick them out from the crowd of people on the street.

But how do threat indicators help your officers know who to observe in the first place?

Your officers need to be able to filter specific individuals from the larger crowd of people. They can do this by assessing a behavioral baseline at the location they are observing.

A baseline is a minimum or starting point constructed of consistent behaviors from which other behaviors are compared.


Baselining includes a focus on the environment, population, group, and individual, and can facilitate the identification of behavioral deviations related to a threat. The baselining process is necessary because behavior can vary dramatically based on location and cultural context. The baseline is used along with your understanding of different behavioral threat indicators to interpret what you see or hear.

Your ability to identify threats is based on the identification of deviations from the baseline. A deviation is a behavior that is inconsistent with the baseline. A deviation does not always mean that the subject under observation is a person of interest. Rather, it is an indicator that someone’s behavior is inconsistent with the baseline and requires further observation.

The baseline, deviations, and an assessment of roles and objectives lead to the identification of a person of interest. By observing that POI, it is possible to assess how much of a threat that subject might be. This is where threat indicators come into play.

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Most, if not all, of your officers should be observing their environment and looking for threats, people committing crimes, or people breaking the law. The important thing is that they observe their environment systematically; a formal active threat assessment process can help them to quickly and effectively assess active threats.

We can train you and your officers to identify and assess active threats in one of our online or instructor-led course offerings. If you would like to learn more about systematic observation and active threat assessment, register for our FREE online Introduction to Active Threat Assessment Course. In this 1-hour course you can learn more about systematic observation, baselining, and active threat assessment.