INTELLIGENCE Volume 2, Issue 8, Winter 2014
Welcome to the eighth issue of the second 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 am very pleased to fill in for Dr. Kelly Watt in assembling the contributions for the current edition of Intelligence. Kelly is enjoying her maternity leave and we look forward to welcoming her back this spring! It has been a busy several months for the Threat Assessment Professionals Associations. Following closely on the heels of the American Association of Threat Assessment Professional’s successful conference in August, the Canadian and Asia Pacific Associations held their conferences in October and November, respectively. I was delighted to have the opportunity to attend both events. I thoroughly enjoyed each, and the presentations and informal chats with colleagues and new friends left me feeling energized for work in the upcoming year. Recap of the Canadian conference is provided in this issue, and a recap of the Asia Pacific conference will be featured in the next issue.
We thank you for your interest in Intelligence, and hope that it will continue to provide a forum for you to share and develop your expertise in threat assessment.
Happy Holidays and warm wishes for the New Year!
Laura S. Guy, PhD
Threat Assessment Specialist
ProActive ReSolutions Inc.
The Role of Dynamic Risk Factors in Violence Risk Assessment
Update by Dr. Catherine Wilson
There is general consensus in the field regarding the importance of using a structured approach for violence risk assessment. Research has consistently demonstrated that unstructured assessments of violence risk are less reliable and valid than structured approaches. There are two main structured approaches: actuarial and structured professional judgment (SPJ). Whereas actuarial measures use a mechanical, algorithmic approach for predicting violence that prohibits evaluators’ discretion, SPJ measures are designed to structure the assessment and management process while allowing for consideration of case-specific issues. Both approaches improve violence risk assessment accuracy over unstructured approaches (Campbell, French, & Gendreau, 2009; Guy, 2008; Singh, Grann, Fazel, 2011).
Many of the early actuarial measures tended to focus on static or stable risk factors; that is, factors that do not change (or change very slowly) over time. Although these factors demonstrate predictive utility, they are limited by their inability to guide treatment and other risk management recommendations. Fortunately, over the past several years, there has been a growing focus on the role of dynamic risk factors for the assessment and management of violence risk. Dynamic risk factors are those that can fluctuate in nature or severity over time, and these fluctuations are then associated with corresponding changes in violence risk. Because assessment of dynamic risk factors is essential for developing comprehensive risk management strategies, they are incorporated into all SPJ measures.
Early research with dynamic risk factors tended to focus on their predictive ability using assessments conducted at a single time-point. Recently, more methodologically sophisticated research has started to examine whether these risk factors do, in fact, change over time and, if so, if this change is associated with future risk. For example, Wilson and colleagues (2013) examined whether dynamic risk factors predicted violence after using statistical procedures to control for the influence of static risk factors. Assessments using Version 2 of the Historical Clinical Risk Management-20 (HCR-20; Webster, Douglas, Hart & Eaves, 1997) and the Short-Term Assessment of Risk and Treatability (START; Webster et al., 2009) were completed for four consecutive 3-month timeframes to assess the likelihood that forensic psychiatric patients would be violent in the hospital during the following three months. Results showed that the dynamic risk factors on the HCR-20’s Clinical and Risk Management scales and the risk or Vulnerability factors on the START fluctuated over time, and that they were associated with perpetration of violence in the hospital after controlling for the influence of the HCR-20’s Historical scale.
This study is part of a growing literature base demonstrating the utility of dynamic risk factors (see also Brown, St. Amand, & Zamble, 2009; de Vries Robbé, de Vogel, Douglas, & Nijman, 2014). It is essential that violence risk assessment not be considered a one-time event. Assessments must be repeated on an ongoing basis to capture relevant changes in risk, which allows for appropriate adjustment of intervention and management strategies and provides the best opportunity to prevent violence.
Brown, S. L., St. Amand, M.D., Zamble, E. (2009). The dynamic prediction of criminal recidivism: A three-wave prospective study. Law and Human Behavior, 33, 25-45.
Campbell, M., French, S. & Gendreau, P. (2009). The prediction of violence in adult offenders. A meta-analytic comparison of instruments and methods of assessment. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 36, 567-590.
de Vries Robbé, M., de Vogel, V., Douglas, K.S., & Nijman, H.L. (2014). Changes in dynamic risk and protective factors for violence during inpatient forensic psychiatric treatment: Predicting reductions in post-discharge community recidivism. Law and Human Behavior. Advanced online publication.
Douglas, K.S. & Skeem, J.L. (2005). Violence risk assessment: Getting specific about being dynamic. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 11, 347-383.
Guy, L. S. (2008). Performance indicators of the structured professional judgment approach for assessing risk for violence to others: a meta-analytic survey. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC.
Singh, J.P., Grann, M., Fazel, S. (2011). A comparative study of violence risk assessment tools: A systematic review and meta-regression analysis of 68 studies involving 25,980 participants. Clinical Psychology Review, 31, 499-513.
Webster, C.D., Douglas, K.S., Eaves, D., & Hart, S.D. (1997). HCR-20: Assessing risk for violence (version 2). Burnaby, BC: Simon Fraser University, Mental Health, Law, and Policy Institute.
Webster, C.D., Martin, M.L., Brink, J., Nicholls, T.L., & Desmarais, S.L. (2009). Manual for the Short-Term Assessment of Risk and Treatability (START) (Version 1.1). Coquitlam, Canada: Forensic Psychiatric Services Commission.
Wilson, C.M., Desmarais, S.L., Nicholls, T.L., Hart, S.D., & Brink, J. (2013). Predictive validity of dynamic factors: Assessing violence risk in forensic psychiatric inpatients. Law and Human Behavior, 37, 377-388.
Information Sharing: Balancing an Individual’s Right to Privacy Against a Post-Secondary Institution’s Duty to Protect
Update by Drs. Laura S. Guy and Kevin S. Douglas
Communicating about violence risk is essential for effective assessment and management of risk in at least two ways. First, once a concern about potential risk is identified, additional information may need to be gathered to assess the risk properly, which could involve disclosing at least some basic information. Second, the primary goal of conducting a violence risk assessment is to mitigate risk or prevent violence from occurring, and prevention can only be accomplished (in part) by sharing information. Very often when consulting with or providing threat or violence risk assessment training to colleagues working in post-secondary institutions (PSI), we have lively discussions regarding how to balance the apparent competing demands of people’s rights to confidentiality and privacy against the duty to prevent violence to others. Regardless of whether the person in question is a student, staff member, or faculty person, familiarity with the relevant sources of information will better position you to make a thoughtful and informed decision regarding how to proceed when sensitive information may have to be shared or proactive steps may need to be taken when concerns about risk for violence to others arise.
Depending on your role at a PSI, be it in departments such as Human Resources, Diversity and Equity, Legal, Labor Relations, Security, Health and Wellness, Academic Affairs, etc., different issues may be relevant to thinking through this confidentiality vs. protection dilemma. We are in the process of drafting a longer paper discussing the applications of policies, sources of law, and legislation relevant across different types of organizational settings involving varied stakeholders. In the remainder of this column, we chose to address one particular scenario that is raised frequently in Canadian PSIs. Many of the general principles and discussion will be relevant to other scenarios though. Consider the following:
I am a psychologist working at a University Counseling Centre. I have concerns about someone’s risk for violence, but what can I do given that I have a duty under the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists and provincial psychological regulations to protect confidentiality?
Before we go into detail about issues to be considered in this scenario, we first provide some background information about policies and law that may be relevant for guiding decision-making when balancing confidentiality and protection. Internal policies and sources of law and legislation could be important. Examples of a PSI’s internal policies could include Response to Violent or Threatening Behaviour Policy; Respectful Working and Learning Policy; Diversity, Equity and Sustainability Initiatives; Non-Academic Misconduct Policy; and Supporting Students in Distress Protocol. Relevant sources of law could include constitutional, privacy, criminal, employment, occupational health and safety (OHS), mental health, and common (tort) law. Specific relevant laws include legislation or regulations at the local or municipal, provincial, and federal levels, such as federal and provincial OHS legislation; federal and provincial freedom of information/protection of privacy information; and all other legislation and case law dealing with confidentiality and privacy issues.
All freedom of information/protection of privacy information regulations in Canada allow for information to be communicated to relevant individuals when a concern of harm to self or others is present. Depending on your workplace, federal legislation may or may not be applicable. For example, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) is a federal privacy legislation designed to protect personal information gathered during or for commercial activities. PIPEDA does not apply to any activities that take place in the public sector. Although PIPEDA would not apply to public PSIs, provincial privacy laws for the private sector are relevant. It would be advisable to consult with the Information Officer of your PSI (or any public body) prior to releasing information, if circumstances permit.
In Canada, OHS legislation outlines the general rights and responsibilities of the employer, the supervisor and the worker. Each of the ten provinces, three territories and the federal government has its own OHS legislation. In addition, most provinces have developed regulations specifically addressing workplace violence that define more clearly an employer’s legal responsibilities pertaining to violence in the workplace (provinces without specific regulations fall under a general duty clause in the provincial regulations). In British Columbia, for example, OHS regulation is located in the Workers Compensation Act. Violence in the workplace is defined as “attempted or actual exercise by a person, other than a worker, of any physical force so as to cause injury to a worker, and includes any threatening statement or behaviour which gives a worker reasonable cause to believe that he or she is at risk of injury.” As with most such legislation, the Act clearly details an employer’s responsibility to assess risk for violence, articulating: “risk assessment must be performed in any workplace in which a risk of injury to workers from violence arising out of their employment may be present…” The Act also describes procedures and policies that employers must develop: “If a risk of injury to workers from violence is identified by (a risk) assessment the employer must (a) establish procedures, policies and work environment arrangements to eliminate the risk to workers from violence, and (b) if elimination of the risk to workers is not possible, establish procedures, policies and work environment arrangements to minimize the risk to workers.” Furthermore, the Act specifies that employers have a duty to share information about risk, requiring that they “inform workers who may be exposed to the risk of violence of the nature and extent of the risk…” and “provide information related to the risk of violence from persons who have a history of violent behaviour and whom workers are likely to encounter in the course of their work.”
Now we turn our attention to the scenario above, in which we focus on a mental health professional (MHP) working at a University Counseling Centre who has concerns about someone’s risk for violence. The MHP might ask, What Should I Do?
Firstly, consider the multiple hats that you are wearing. Although you are a psychologist, you also are an employee, and your employer has legal responsibilities to prevent violence. Incidentally, if you are engaged in workplace activities as a member of your PSI’s Threat Assessment (TA) Team but not directly delivering psychological services to the person in question, you are participating in a workplace OHS committee. As such, the Canadian Psychological Association’s (CPA) Code of Ethics for Psychologists-3rd edition may not be applicable because you would not necessarily owe a “psychological” duty of care to people whose cases come before the TA team. Indeed, in such a circumstance you are really providing services to your employer, who can be conceived as your “client.” For psychologists at PSIs delivering psychological services, the Code of Ethics and provincial regulatory bodies should be used to guide conduct, thinking, etc. (i.e., rather than mandate blind adherence to a set of strict rules).
The Code of Ethics and all provincial regulatory codes of conduct highlight that confidentiality and privacy should be maintained under most circumstances. Breaches of such typically are considered unethical and, in many situations, actionable. However, various exceptions are made, including for managing situations in which risk for violence to others arises. The CPA Code’s directive to take steps to prevent violence, for example by imposing a duty to protect (which may involve warning third parties or law enforcement), is introduced in the values statement of Principle I, Respect for the Dignity of Persons: “As individual rights exist within the context of the rights of others and of responsible caring…there might be circumstances in which the possibility of serious detrimental consequences to themselves or others, a diminished capacity to be autonomous, or a court order, would disallow some aspects of the rights to privacy, self-determination, and personal liberty. Indeed, such circumstances might be serious enough to create a duty to warn or protect others…” (p. 9). The Code directs that Principle I generally should be given the highest weight because of its emphasis on moral rights, except in circumstances in which there is a clear and imminent danger to the physical safety of any person (p. 4). The Code further notes that confidential information can be shared with others “as required or justified by law, or in circumstances of actual or possible serious physical harm or death.” (p. 14).
Similarly, most provincial codes of conduct allow for release of confidential client information (in the narrowest way possible in the circumstances) in order to fulfill the duty to protect others from a client’s violent behaviour. And indeed, a psychologist may be held liable for professional malpractice under negligence law if he or she failed to take reasonable steps to prevent foreseeable violence to others.
Several questions may come to mind at this point. What circumstances are “serious enough” or indicative of “actual or possible serious physical harm or death”? What is “clear and imminent” danger?
The Code of Ethics does not give perfectly clear definitions. Given the inherently fuzzy nature of the concepts of risk and violence, it would be impossible for the Code to do so. Case law provides some guidance, however, regarding “imminence.” Smith v. Jones, a case decided by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1999, focused on a psychiatrist’s disclosure about a client’s risk for violence to others. The psychiatric information was actually protected under the work product rule with the lawyer, and hence it was subject to legal privilege. Because legal privilege is the strongest form of confidentiality in Canada, the principles in Smith v. Jones would be applicable to any lesser forms of confidentiality as well, including those arising for psychologists and other health professionals. The court characterized “imminence” as including either an immediate threat, or a threat that creates a sense of urgency applicable to some time in the future. Imminence need not include a specific time frame, depending on the seriousness and clarity of the threat. Indeed, the court specifically gave the example of an inmate making a threat to kill someone upon release – three years in the future. This latter use of the term “imminence” refers to its less common definition of “overhanging” threat.
The Code of Ethics uses language regarding severity and imminence to specify when psychologists have a positive duty to protect (e.g., in circumstances when actual or possible serious physical harm or death could occur, when a clear and imminent danger to the physical safety of any person exists, etc.). In fact, the Code describes a duty for psychologists to offset or correct harm and recommends actions to discharge this duty, mandating: “Do everything reasonably possible to stop or offset the consequences of actions by others when these actions are likely to cause serious physical harm or death. This may include reporting to appropriate authorities (e.g., the police), an intended victim, or a family member or other support person who can intervene, and would be done even when a confidential relationship is involved” (p. 19). Importantly, the Code in no way places limits on information sharing. Indeed, sharing information may be required to prevent violence, or it may be required as one step in the process of gathering information to inform a risk assessment that will help judge whether the severity of the risk involves serious physical harm or death that may or may not be imminent.
As alluded to above, the Code of Ethics specifically recognizes the need for psychologists to follow the law and employers’ policies and procedures. Just as psychologists are required by child protection laws to report child abuse, a duty consistent with the Code of Ethics, they also are required to take steps to prevent serious violence. OHS law (statutory and common law) places a positive duty on employers to take reasonable steps to protect employees from workplace violence, and if employers follow the law by requiring employees to report and respond to perceived risks (as they would for, say, hazardous materials risks), then psychologists may be obliged to report accordingly. The Code directs psychologists to “familiarize themselves with the laws and regulations of the societies in which they work, especially those that are related to their activities as psychologists, and abide by them” (p. 25). When the law or workplace policies and procedures dictate information sharing or taking action in other situations, psychologists may be justified in doing so. The Code provides guidance about how to resolve a conflict between the law and the Code: “If those laws or regulations seriously conflict with the ethical principles…psychologists would do whatever they could to uphold the ethical principles. If upholding the ethical principles could result in serious personal consequences (e.g., jail or physical harm), decision for final action would be considered a matter of personal conscience.”
So, in the end, what’s a psychologist to do? As with many things in life (including violence), prevention is usually the best strategy. Ensuring that the person in question demonstrates a solid understanding during the informed consent process regarding the circumstances under which confidentiality would be violated, including when concerns regarding risk for violence to others is raised, can go a long way towards preventing psychological damage to the individual, exposure to liability, and actual lawsuits should confidentiality be breached. As noted, the Code directs psychologists to consider their “personal conscience.” You will have to ask yourself if you would rather err on the side of breaking confidentiality for the benefit of preventing violence, or maintaining confidentiality at the expense of violence occurring. It also may be helpful to consider whether you think the individual is receiving good psychological care if they are experiencing, for example, violent ideation that is ignored or not treated. Should you decide that sufficient grounds to break confidentiality exist, two general principles may be helpful to consider. First, share all relevant information, but only relevant information, that is necessary to fulfill the duty to protect. It is not necessary, or likely ethical, to share extraneous personal information. Second, take all reasonable steps, but only reasonable steps, in order to fulfill your duty. In other words, not all the information you have should be shared, and you should not “overact.”
Professionals from all disciplines – not only psychologists – also should remember that, when in doubt, consultation with colleagues could help tremendously, both in terms of acting professionally, but also in terms of managing your own liability. Others may have dealt with similar situations before, be aware of or more knowledgeable about internal policies or law, or perhaps just offer a calming presence while you think though the various issues.
Industry Association News
Canadian Association of Threat Assessment Professionals
Message from President Keith Hammond
As I look back on a busy 2014 and think about the past three years as a member of this CATAP Board I’m very proud of the accomplishments we’ve made. Growing an association from a collective desire to stop horrible things from occurring is both rewarding and tiring. It is gratifying to know we are making a difference by providing training and knowledge sharing opportunities. It is also a pleasure and honour to work with the wonderful people in our field.
Four years ago all of our volunteer energy was going into organizing our annual workshop and conferences. As a not-for-profit society we hosted these events to educate and not as a business. We had no cushion for error and no way of surviving intact should we have one. For people in the risk mitigation business, we were not always the best at applying a similar theme to our association. As a founding board member I was full party to the process where we took risks every year, worked really hard and hoped it would work out. It did, and I’m thrilled to say that in the last three years we have doubled the number of attendees at our annual event and managed to put a financial reserve away as a safety net. Each year our annual event has improved as we have listened to your feedback and learned from our own experiences. Our 2014 conference in Whistler was outstanding by all accounts, but I would like to mention one presentation in particular. This year we took a risk and decided to provide our attendees with a different perspective. We featured Sean, a PTSD survivor, our opening presenter, and the most powerful, emotional and thought provoking presentation I have ever watched. Sean personalized the struggle with great respect, honour and an amazing amount of honesty allowing us all a glimpse behind the curtain of people struggling with this diagnosis. His presentation helped all of us to see that there can be an equally tragic story on the other side of the scenario.
A note of thanks here to Michelle Doyle and Darren Balsom, our 2014 Conference Co-Chairs, for all of the hard work they did to make this event such a success. While it takes a team to pull this together I know from experience that the co-chair role is extremely challenging and stressful.
In the last three years we have also started to take steps beyond hosting an annual conference. Two years ago in Banff we held a meeting with a robust discussion on accreditation and certification. While this process has advanced at a slower pace than anticipated we are working to bring a national standard accreditation to our industry in 2015.
This fall we created a Special Interest Group (SIG) focusing on Post-Secondary Institutes (PSI). This group was organically driven from our membership during our 2013 conference in Banff where the large number of PSI attendees asked if we would facilitate an exclusive networking opportunity. From that discussion there was an interest to form a working committee that would make recommendations to the CATAP Board for training and other ideas that would support their collective. During our 2014 conference we added an optional half-day at the end focused on sexual violence in post-secondary institutes. The session was well attended and well received. A request for nominations to participate on the working committee went out in 2014 and it was gratifying to see so many willing to participate, my thanks to all. We selected a small group, Robyn Begin (University of Guelph), Barry Cochrane (SAIT), Kris Fowler (University of Alberta), Laura MacDonald (Simon Fraser University), and Lisa Morine (McMaster University), and held our first meeting during the 2014 conference. I am extremely grateful to Dr. Kelly Watt for all of the energy and passion she put into this initiative.
Creating a SIG is a new concept for us and I view this one as a pilot project. Should it be successful, which I’m confident it will be, then we may look at creating others.
I’m extremely pleased to tell you that the four worldwide threat assessment associations, ATAP, Asia Pacific Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (APATAP), Association of European Threat Assessment Professionals (AETAP) and CATAP are collaborating fully on many fronts. We’ve talked about accreditation (we’re all on the path), the services we provide, recognizing each other’s memberships for reduced conference rates and participating on joint projects such as holding a combined international conference. In the fall of 2014 I presented with the other three presidents on Global Issues facing Workplace Violence during the ASIS Conference in Atlanta. It was the first time all four presidents had been together.
In 2015 we will be holding CATAP Board elections. An email will be sent out to all CATAP members shortly listing those who have stepped forward to run for various positions. We have had considerable interest, which speaks to the success of our association, and the influx of new members will be invigorating for the board and the association.
I would like to thank those members who are stepping away from the CATAP Board, but not CATAP. All have provided immeasurable volunteer hours over the years making our conferences and association successful. They are deeply invested in our association and so the decision to step away from a position on the board has not come easily. All have been on the board for years, taking time away from families, work, studies and themselves. Included in this group are Keith Dormond, Elisabeth Willcox, Duncan Maxwell and Dr. Stephen Hart. Keith is our past-president and previous conference co-chair. Liz has served for two terms as vice president and has also been a conference co-chair. Duncan has worked hard behind the scenes with Michelle Doyle as your membership coordinator. As a founding board member Stephen has volunteered countless hours to the board and presenting year after year during our workshops and conferences. Stephen will be stepping off of the board and assuming a more focused role participating in committee work, such as accreditation/certification, so that we can gain the needed traction in these areas.
Lastly, attached is a link I’d like to share with you that Dr. Reid Meloy sent to me. I’m not endorsing the Sandy Hook Promise program; I just liked the video and especially the reaction of the parents to the final question. It speaks loudly to why we do what we do and why the TAP associations exist. Protecting our children, and others, from acts of violence is not the exclusive domain of parents, family, friends, co-workers or other individuals; it is a shared responsibility. As part of that collective you have chosen to put yourself on the leading edge of threat assessment work to the benefit of everyone in society.
2014 Whistler Conference Recap from Conference Co-Chair Michelle Doyle
In October 2014, the Canadian Threat Assessment & Management Conference was held in beautiful Whistler, British Columbia. Whistler was a change of venue from past conferences held in Alberta and proved to be a solid conference venue with incredible service from the Fairmont team.
CATAP was delighted to welcome 170 participants, representing six countries including: Canada, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, United States, South Africa and Thailand. Additionally, we were pleased to have representation from our partner TAPs from ATAP (US), AETAP (Europe) and APATAP (Asia Pacific) to meet and discuss international threat assessment issues and advancement of our associations.
Our conference kicked off with three workshop training options including: Investigative Interviewing in Threat Assessment, Foundational Spousal Assault & Stalking Threat Assessment & Management Skills, and Current Directions in Threat Assessment: A Research Update. Each year we strive to provide a variety of training options for both seasoned professionals and those who are new to the field of threat assessment. The caliber of instruction is second to none, thanks to the following training professionals: Dr. Stephen Hart, Dr. Reid Meloy, Dr. Laura Guy, Dr. Randall Kropp and Bram Van der Meer.
Our three day conference sessions began with an incredibly impactful presentation by a PTSD survivor sharing his personal experience and giving us all insight into this challenging disorder. The remainder of the conference offered sessions on assessing workplace violence, investigative psychology’s approach to threat assessment, sexual deviance and responsible reactions to sexual offending, recognizing high risk threats through language analysis, PTSD and violence assessment, cultural differences in threat assessment and case studies on workplace violence and a high risk domestic offender. These sessions offered current research, practical applications for assessing and managing, and future directions in our field. The variety of sessions offered is intended to appeal to a diverse group of professionals as our membership expands. We welcome any suggestions for improvement or ideas for future presentations.
We were pleased to offer a bonus session this year on a very topical issue for post-secondary institutions; sexual assault on campus. Additionally, we increased exposure to the poster presenters providing their research on practical applications of threat assessment over a three day period. Overall the 2014 CATAP Conference proved to be a great success. We look forward to seeing you all again for the 2015 conference in Lake Louise, Alberta on October 17 – 21. A big thank you from the CATAP Board to our speakers, sponsors, members, poster presenters, students, volunteers and Fairmont staff!!
2014 Conference Sponsors:
ProActive ReSolutions – Alberta Criminal Justice Association (ACJA) – Investigative Solutions Network (ISN)
Release of the Communications Threat Assessment Protocol-25
Update by Dr. David James
The Communications Threat Assessment Protocol-25 (CTAP-25), written by David James, Rachel MacKenzie and Frank Farnham, provides a structured approach to the initial threat assessment of concerning communications. Its purpose is to help senior security staff within an organisation decide which of those cases referred to them require further action and which require no further investment of resources.
The assessment and management of inappropriate or threatening communications within an organisation is taken as comprising three tiers: the identification of such communications by those to whom they are addressed, or their secretarial staff; the initial assessment and management of cases by the senior security staff, to whom they are referred; and the further management of the most concerning or enduring cases, usually involving referral to external agencies.
The CTAP-25 itself is a structured threat assessment tool designed to be employed by senior security officers who have received training in its use. Its purpose is to enable an initial assessment of the content of concerning communications in a manner that allows conclusions to be drawn as to the need for, and urgency of, intervention. It permits cases to be triaged into concern levels and offers guidance as to the structuring of initial management plans.
The CTAP-25 includes a simple set of screening questions to help recipients decide which unwanted communications should be brought to the attention of those responsible for security in an organisation, the Quick Correspondence Screen (QCS). The QCS comprises a list of eighteen short items: if any of these are present, then the recipient can be confident in the need to pass it to senior security personnel for more detailed consideration.
The CTAP-25 was developed by a group of forensic psychiatrists and psychologists, together with security personnel. It incorporated factors derived from the literature, from a consideration of the risk assessment practices of a number of prominent agencies in different countries, and from specific research conducted by the authors and their associates. Its current form was evolved in practice over ten years through examining the usefulness of individual factors in the assessment of many thousands of correspondence cases involving politicians and other prominent people.
Further information can be obtained from Theseus LLP (www.theseusllp.com)
Research continues on risk assessment guides for extremist violence – but more is needed
Update by Dr. Alana Cook
Recently a team of researchers and threat assessors were awarded a grant to investigate risk assessment guides for extremist violence. The grant was awarded for a project entitled “A concurrent evaluation of threat assessment tools for the individual assessment of terrorism” from the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security, and Society (TSAS). The research team is from Simon Fraser University (Drs. Stephen Hart and Alana Cook), Carleton University (Dr. Elaine Pressman), and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Steven Strang). See below for the project summary and research questions.
Although this project will advance our understanding of threat assessment and management of extremist violence, there is a need for investigations internationally for the utility, reliability, and validity of tools used in the assessment and management of extremist violence. Projects of this nature will not only continue to enhance our knowledge, but importantly allow organizations and the courts to make evidence-informed decisions about the use of these types of tools in practice. To put it in perspective, there are hundreds of peer-reviewed publications on investigations internationally on the Historical Clinical Risk Management-20 (Douglas et al., 2013), but less than half a dozen investigations on risk assessment guides for extremist violence – none of which have been published in peer-reviewed journals.
There are several avenues for threat assessment professionals to contribute to our advancement of knowledge and practice in the individual assessment of extremist violence:
Connect and collaborate on projects: If you or your team is interested in undertaking a project, please let us know. We would be happy to continue to facilitate connections and collaborations for research and practice in the area of threat assessment and management of extremist violence. It is important to know that research experience is not a requisite of contributing to our growing knowledge. There is a large network of researchers and practitioners eager to connect to meet these goals, as demonstrated by the recent collaboration of Simon Fraser University, Carlton University, and the RCMP.
Seek out funding for research projects: There are funding agencies that offer grants for projects examining extremist violence. In Canada, for example, several organizations provide funds (e.g., Canadian Network on Terrorism, Security, and Society; Kanishka Project Contribution from Public Safety Canada; Canadian Safety and Security Program). These grants can be used to hire research assistants, purchase materials, or fund training needed to facilitate your research project.
Share what you know: There are numerous avenues for dissemination of knowledge by threat assessment professionals working in the area of extremist violence. Two such avenues of note are the annual meetings of the threat assessment professional associations (AETAP, APATAP, ATAP, CATAP) and the Journal of Threat Assessment and Management (JTAM). The annual meetings of threat assessment organizations allow of professional presentations to an international group of colleagues, which support numerous presentation formats (case studies, best-practices, overview of the field). Contact the associations via their websites for information on presenting your work. Similarly, JTAM publishes work that is applied in nature from professionals working in mental health, criminal justice, national security, and private security settings. Contact the editor Stephen D. Hart for more information.
Call for case studies: Here at ProActive ReSolutions we also have an ongoing project examining cases of extremism specifically, and cases of group-based violence broadly. A number of our colleagues internationally have already provide us sanitized cases to be included in this project, contributing to our ability to inform the content and application of a tool for the assessment and management of group-based violence, the Multi-level Guidelines (MLG; Cook, Hart, & Kropp, 2013). We are always open to receiving deidentified cases from practitioners working in the field on cases of extremism, organized crime, gangs, new religious movements, and freeman sovereign citizens.
Summary of ongoing project: A concurrent evaluation of threat assessment tools for the individual assessment of terrorism (funded by TSAS and led by Dr. Stephen Hart, Dr. Alana Cook, Dr. Elaine Pressman, and Steven Strang)
The individual assessment and management of terrorism threat is of critical importance in Canada and abroad. Two of the most promising tools to guide threat assessment professionals in the assessment and management of terrorist risk were developed in recent years by Canadian TSAS affiliated scientist-practitioners. One tool, the MLG, was developed for the assessment and management of group-based violence, including extremism and terrorist violence. The other tool, the Violent Extremism Risk Assessment (VERA-2; Pressman & Flockton, 2010) was developed for the assessment and management of extremist violence specifically. The MLG and VERA-2 are structured professional judgment tools that are evidence (research) and consensus (expert opinion) based, grounded in best-practice models of threat assessment of violence. As both tools are relatively new, continued research is critical to establish their utility, reliability, and validity in practice. Research to date suggests that both the MLG and VERA-2 have demonstrated utility, or usefulness, for their purposes, reliability of the application of the tools by academics and practitioners, and content validity. However, for both tools the research is limited to a handful of studies and settings, and there have never been concurrent evaluation of the tools, leaving policy makers to make determinations of the tools that best suits their need without comprehensive evidence to inform their decisions. There is a need for empirical investigations into the extent to which existing tools meet operational needs, if changes to existing tools are needed to meet those needs, and if new tools need to be developed. The goals of the current project are to (1) examine the utility, reliability, and validity of the MLG and VERA-2 concurrently and (2) continue development of best-practice tools in the area of threat assessment of terrorist violence.
Cook, A. N., Hart, S. D., & Kropp, P. R. (2013). Multi-Level Guidelines for the assessment and management of group-based violence. Burnaby, Canada: Mental Health, Law, & Policy Institute, Simon Fraser University.
Pressman, D. E., & Flockton, J. (2010). VERA-2. Violent extremism Risk Assessment, Version 2 Manual(unpublished manuscript).
“Wednesday Webinar” Series
Beginning in February, ConCEpt will be hosting a monthly “Wednesday Webinar” series. Approximately once each month, there will be a 3-hour live webinar on a violence risk assessment topic. Below is the 2015 schedule of Wednesday Webinars. Please visit the Proactive Resolutions website in early 2015 for more details.
* All Webinars will take place from 9 am-12:00 pm and 2 pm-5 pm PST / 12 pm – 3 pm and 5 pm – 8 pm EST
February 4th- Violence Risk: HCR-V3 with Dr. Kevin Douglas
February 18th – Violence Risk: HCR-V3 with Dr. Kevin Douglas
March 4th- Sexual Violence Risk: RSVP/SVR with Dr. Randall Kropp
April 1st – Violence Risk in Youth: SAVRY with Dr. Laura Guy
April 15th – Violence Risk: HCR-V3 with Dr. Kevin Douglas
May 6th – Stalking: SAM/Intimate Partner Violence: SARA with Dr. Randall Kropp
June 10th – Violence Risk: HCR-V3 with Dr. Kevin Douglas
September 16th – Violence Risk: HCR-V3 with Dr. Kevin Douglas
October 7th- Sexual Violence Risk: RSVP/SVR with Dr. Randall Kropp
October 28th – Violence Risk in Youth: SAVRY with Dr. Laura Guy
November 18th – Violence Risk: HCR-V3 with Dr. Kevin Douglas
December 9th – Stalking: SAM/Intimate Partner Violence: SARA with Dr. Randall Kropp
Northern Networking Events
HCR-20 Version 3 Workshops: Learn from the Authors
January 19-20, 2015
January 22-23, 2015
ProActive ReSolutions Inc.
Advanced Threat Assessment and Risk Management Workshop
February 23-27, 2015
Vancouver, British Columbia
American Psychology-Law Society Annual Conference
March 19-21, 2015
San Diego, California
Association of European Threat Assessment Professionals
April 14-17, 2015
ProActive ReSolutions Inc. and Van der Meer Investigative Psychologists
Foundational Threat Assessment and Risk Management Workshop
April 20-24, 2015
The Hague, The Netherlands
ProActive ReSolutions Inc. and McMaster University
Advanced Violence Risk Assessment and Management Workshop for Higher Education
May 25-29, 2015
International Association of Forensic Mental Health Services
June 16-18, 2015
Association of Threat Assessment Professionals
August 11-14, 2015
Society for Terrorism Research 8th Annual International Conference
September 17-19, 2015
Canadian Association of Threat Assessment Professionals
October 17-21, 2015
Lake Louise, Alberta
Asia Pacific Association of Threat Assessment Professionals
November 2-5, 2015
We welcome ideas for contributions from all readers. Please e-mail your suggestions to the editor (email@example.com) or associate editor (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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