The Origin Story of Active Threat Assessment for Law Enforcement: The Identifying Threats Program

Transitioning research to practice is hard and complicated. Especially when the training intends to prepare soldiers to be deployed to complex and dangerous environments. This difficulty is also true of training first responders to react in emergency or time-critical situations – including training law enforcement in active threat assessment

Active threat assessment is the identification of immediate, imminent, or active threats by a law enforcement officer, a soldier, or security professional. This threat assessment approach can also involve watching a specific subject to determine if they are carrying a weapon or likely to cause harm.

Active Threat Assessment in Peace Operations

If you have been reading our past blogs about active threat assessment for law enforcement and the Just Doesn’t Look Right (JDLR) Project, you might be wondering how training was derived from a research project such as JDLR.

That is a good question.

In a pilot project, the JDLR Project team incorporated active threat assessment into the Identifying Threats program for soldiers deployed to support United Nation’s missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over two years. This program is the basis for our active threat assessment training for law enforcement.

The Identifying Threats Program

Identifying Threats is a 40-hour instructor-led train-the-trainer program involving classroom instructions, role-playing activities, and reality-based training. The training was tailored for Uruguayan platoon leaders and senior non-commissioned officers deployed to support the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (A.K.A. MONUSCO).

Through the Identifying Threats program, the original US-based team trained 102 personnel, 7 coaches, and 6 instructors in partnership with the Center for Peace Operations Training in Uruguay (ENOPU). With this internal instructional capacity, ENOPU trainers went on to train an additional 19 officers and 190 enlisted personnel. Trainees were deployed to UN peace operations in Haiti (MINISTAH), the Sinai, and the DRC. The techniques have also been used domestically by the Uruguayan Army including in the provision of perimeter security to prisons and at international border checkpoints.

The JDLR Project Phase 1 & 2

The JDLR Project was undertaken to transfer tactics, techniques, and procedures to identify active threats from veteran to inexperienced military, law enforcement, and security personnel. You can read more about this project in our blog post on JDLR.

Active Threat Assessment in Peace Operations

The Identifying Threats training program was developed through a partnership between the JDLR Project team, US Southern Command Global Peace Operations Initiative, and ENOPU to support the Uruguayan armed forces deployments with MONUSCO. Uruguay is one of the largest South American troop-contributing countries to United Nation's missions. They have supported UN missions across the globe and most recently in the DRC and Haiti.

UN missions are complex. Peacekeepers must interact with unarmed civilians and armed combatants. In the DRC, of particular concern is the pervasive presence of weapons among the civilian population and the need for techniques to better distinguish those who are about to use their weapons from those who are merely carrying them.

Take a moment and watch the video below. This location is likely outside of your comfort zone; it is for me too. In this location, wouldn’t active threat assessment be a great skill to have?

About Identifying Threats

The foundation of Identifying Threats is a systematic observation process. This process was developed to allow an observer (in this case a peacekeeper) to assess consistent behavior in a given environment. This systematic assessment of behavior enables the observer to identify behavioral deviations. These deviations lead to the identification of suspicious or threatening individuals (an active threat). This process allows the observer to filter a potential threat from the broader population and provides a focus for further observation and interdiction.

In this training, observation and threat assessment are weaved into all stages of an encounter with a potentially suspicious or threatening person. This process allows us to provide our trainees active threat assessment training that covers the spectrum of an interaction with a potential threat.

This active threat assessment training program has five modules: 1) baselining techniques, 2) identification behavioral threat indicators, 3) learning a standardized process for interdiction through the Universal Interdiction Framework, 4) casual conversation with knowledge elicitation techniques, and culminates with 5) a series of reality-based training exercises.

Threat Assessment for Law Enforcement - Evaluating Impact

Evaluating Impact

Evaluation is important. Anyone who is providing, purchasing, or delivering training should assess the utility and benefit of their training. According to Kirkpatrick (1998), there are four generally accepted levels of evaluation: Level 1 (Reaction), Level 2 (Learning), Level 3 (Behavior), and Level 4 (Results).

Throughout the program, a lot of data was collected which helped the project team to assess the reaction of the trainees to evaluate the program (Level 1). We do not have the opportunity to report on all the data we collected as part of this program, and you can read more about these findings in our publication in the Smalls War Journal. But, across all deliveries, 100% of all attendees agreed that the skills they learned would support their ability to do their job. We also found significant a large improvement in active threat assessment skills (Level 2). But more research is needed to evaluate behavior (Level 3) and Learning (Level 4).

Why This Matters

We use the JDLR III project to show the broader applicability of active threat assessment training and the origin  of our active threat assessment for law enforcement training. Soldiers in conflict zones and police officers in our cities use these active threat assessment methods.  Thankfully, it is not likely you or your officers will be facing similar levels of violence and weapons carrying as our partners face in the DRC – but they are techniques that can help your officers protect the public and keep themselves safe.

Want to learn more, register for our free 1-hour online Introduction to Active Threat Assessment training class.

References:

Kirkpatrick, D. (1998), Evaluating Training Programs: The Four Levels (San Francisco: Brett-Koehler Publishers).

Peace Operations Training Center of Uruguay (ENOPU). (2018). Mobile Training Team Report on the Identifying Threats in Peacekeeping Environments Training Course. Unpublished manuscript.

United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (UNDPKO). (April, 2018). Troop and Police Contributors. Retrieved from https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/troop-and-police-contributors.

Meehan, N. (2018). Threat Assessment Training for Peacekeepers: A Proven Business Approach. Small Wars Journal. Available at http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/threat-assessment-training-peacekeepers-proven-business-approach.

Nathan Meehan Ph.D.