The 411 on JDLR and what it means for identifying active threats

The transmission of knowledge from more to less experienced police can occur in a variety of ways. It may occur during training sessions provided and developed by these more experienced individuals. It may also occur during one-on-one interaction between the experienced and the less experienced. Regretfully, unless the experience of veteran officers is systematically recorded and transmitted to the less-experienced, knowledge gets lost or is inconsistently transmitted. That’s why we’re giving you the 411 on the Just Doesn’t Look Right (JDLR) Project and what it means for identifying active threats.

Police and Active Threat Assessment

Think about your experiences as a rookie officer. You learned a lot from not only doing the job but the officers that you worked with. There is probably a lot that you know that you haven’t had the chance to pass on to your fellow officers.

The United States Department of Defense-funded JDLR Project was undertaken to transfer tactics, techniques, and procedures to identify active threats from veteran to inexperienced military, law enforcement, and security personnel.

In other words, the project team studied if it was possible to pass the ability of a veteran police officer to identify an active threat (such someone who is carrying a concealed weapon) to a 20-year old soldier deployed to an urban environment in the Middle East.

Thankfully, this is possible. We not only figured out how to transfer this knowledge on identifying active threats to military personnel, but also to police officers, sheriff’s deputies and other law enforcement officers like yourself and those that work for you.

The JDLR Project team studied how and why law enforcement uses behavior to identify active threats. Data collection involved interviews and focus groups with Federal, State and local law enforcement. Experienced men and women just like those that work in your agency.

Organizations which collaborated on the JDLR Project include:

• Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (NV)

• Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (CA)

• Los Angeles Police Department (CA)

• International Narcotics Interdiction Association

• The United States Secret Service

• Maryland State Police

• North Carolina State Highway Patrol

• Boston Police Department (MA)

• Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department (NC)

• Houston Police Department (Texas)

• Schenectady Police Department (NY)

• Glenville Police Department (NY)

Findings associated with this project have been used to support military and law enforcement personnel deployed to a variety of complex missions. Our active threat training techniques are practitioner derived and molded through science. Course techniques have been transitioned to law enforcement and military personnel in the US and abroad. There were three phases associated with the project.

JDLR PHASE I: Identifying Active Threats


The primary goal of Phase I was to identify behavioral indicators associated with threats, fear of detection, or the carrying of some form of contraband. This identification of these threat indicators was necessary because available research and documentation on these behavioral indicators were limited to a few practitioner focused training materials (NY DCJS, 2011; Porter, 2010).

In Phase I, the project team focused their efforts on documenting the behaviors indicating that a subject is carrying a handgun or illegal narcotics through the spectrum of an encounter between law enforcement and a person of interest.

They focused their operationalization of suspicious behavior on how an individual carrying these specific items of contraband behave when they are unobserved by law enforcement (operating in their natural environment), how they behave when law enforcement or a police patrol is present but not watching them, how they act when that patrol is watching them, and, finally, how they behave when initially approached by that patrol. The findings of Phase I were documented in three reports published with the Defense Threat Information Center (DTIC) and in various academic journals:

1. Behavioral Indicators of Legal and Illegal Gun Carrying

2. Behavioral Indicators of Drug Carrying in Open Spaces

3. Behavioral Indicators of Drug Courier in Airports

These reports provide a foundation for identifying active threats, active threat assessment, and of specific threat indicators associated with threat, fear of detection, and the carrying of contraband.

JDLR PHASE II: Behavioral Threat Indicators

The primary goal of Phase II was to study how behavioral indicators are used during an encounter between a person of interest and the police. The project ventured to understand how veteran police officers identify active threats and interpret, process, and react to human behavior.

Unlike in Phase I, the project team did not focus solely on persons carrying firearms or drugs. Instead, they concentrated on encounters where the exact motivator of the suspicious behavior was unknown.


As you know on the unknown was necessary because a person may be acting suspiciously for a variety of reasons: they may be in possession of a firearm or illegal drugs, engaged in a criminal act, be wanted by police, have negative attitudes towards law enforcement, or simply be anxious. It may only be possible to identify why someone is acting “suspiciously” if you go talk to them, even then it might not be enough.  

 To better understand how police use behavioral indicators the JDLR project team invited teams of police officers from throughout the country to participate. The officers participated in a role-playing scenario with experienced police trainers and were subsequently debriefed regarding what they saw and how they made decisions. The JDLR team studied how the participating officers interpreted the behaviors they observed and how these behaviors were incorporated into the decision-making process.

The findings of Phase II were documented in a single report published with DTIC titled Behavioral Indicators During a Police Interdiction.

These efforts, in combination with the research conducted in JDLR Phase I, provided a basis for understanding when, why, and how behavioral indicators are used in identifying active threats, people carrying contraband, or individuals trying to avoid detection.

JDLR PHASE III: Transitioning Research to Practice through Training

Phase I and II of the JDLR Project created a foundation to develop training for law enforcement and security personnel to identify active threats and utilize behavioral indicators in a safe, legal, and effective manner.  JDLR Phase III focused on transitioning this research to practice in the form of training for military personnel deployed to complex environments. Training military, police, and security personnel to assess and properly react to the behavior of people around them will better prepare them to complete their mission and keep themselves and their compatriots safe.

How Does this Research Inform Law Enforcement Decision Making and Training?

This research and training developed from it touch law enforcement in a variety of ways. It established standardized terminology for behavioral threat indicators. They also documented how and why police officers make decisions during an interdiction and the types of observations, assessments, and predictions they routinely make.

The process of identifying active threats is related to decisions to detain, search, use force, or make an arrest. They can also help in the establishment of reasonable suspicion.  Your officers make these decisions on a routine basis. Bad decisions by your officers can cause you a lot of problems.  Good decisions allow you and your personnel to complete their mission and keep people safe.

Learn more on training your officers from the expert researchers and team behind the JDLR Project here at Second Sight. We’d me more than happy to discuss key findings as well as our training availabilities.


Meehan, N., McClary, M., and C. Strange. (2015). Behavioral Indicators of Drug Couriers in Airports. Memorandum Report - NRL/MN/5508--15-9595. United States Naval Research Laboratory.

Meehan, N. and McClary, M.(2015). Behavioral Indicators of Drug Carriers in Open Spaces. Memorandum Report - NRL/MN/5508--15-9596. United States Naval Research Laboratory.

Meehan, N. and C. Strange. (2015). Behavioral Indicators of Legal and Illegal Gun Carrying. Memorandum Report - NRL/MN/5508--15-9597. United States Naval Research Laboratory.

Meehan, N., C. Strange, and M. McClary. (2015). Behavioral Indicators during a Police Interdiction. Memorandum Report - NRL/MN/5508--15-9598. United States Naval Research Laboratory.

New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (2011). Proceedings from: Street Encounters and Advanced Street Encounters Class. Hempstead, NY.

Porter, K. (2010). Characteristics of the armed individual. (U.S. Secret Service Publication). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.