After the Webinar: The Center of Emerging Threats. Q&A with Dr. David Grantham

Webinar presenter Dr. David Grantham answered a number of your questions after his presentation, The Center of Emerging Threats.  Here are just a few of his responses.


Audience Question: This concept of creating a detention intelligence unit in jails, is it common? Is it a growing trend? Or is what you’re doing and Tarrant County unique? 

Dr. David Grantham: The concept is not new. What we’re doing here is, there are really several distinguishing factors, but the really the main one is we are performing an intelligence function like you would outside the jail. And by that, I mean all hazards all threats. We’re trying to supply the intelligence community as a whole with valuable intelligence information regarding criminal activity, regarding cyber, regarding criminal counter-intelligence, all of it. What generally happens in detention is if there is an intelligence unit, they are collecting on something very specific like gangs, like radicalization, like contraband inside the jail. And they generally share it internally for the safety and security of the facility. What we’re trying to do is broaden that and apply all the techniques of traditional intelligence, collect the information, and send them out.



Audience Question: So, if you, if an agency already has an existing unit, would it be hard to pivot to an all-hazards approach, like you are already doing? 

Dr. David Grantham: Not at all. It’s a matter of broadening the aperture of the intelligence collection that if you go back to the first slide, the intelligence cycle, it’s broadening your collection requirements. And then, once you broaden your collection requirements, you apply strategies to go collect that information, whether that solicitation from inmates through interviews or we call debriefings because interviews has a law enforcement connotations that were merely debriefing them. And it could, there’s a whole host of things that we’ll talk about, but it’s not hard it’s not a turnkey operation per se, but it’s not difficult.



Audience Question: How valuable is the documentation of like tattoos that may reflect gang associations, beliefs, etc. 

Dr. David Grantham: Tattoos are incredibly valuable and incredibly difficult to track, to maintain. The tattoo is something that is valuable in two parts. The first one is just identifying people. As a confinement, anyone that works in any sort of confinement is probably hit up all the time from local law enforcement saying, you have a database of tattoos looking photos. Can you identify this guy, that we have a video of robbing this store? We only have this tattoo. So, it does, it is very helpful when it comes to gang identification. If it’s, it’s even more helpful because frankly, getting them to wear their affiliation on their sleeves on their arms, it’s decreasing somewhat, it’s not as frequent, inmates are getting away from it. But regardless tattoos are very important. In fact, we identified a cartel member who came to our jail because of one tattoo and a very, very observant booking officer, and from there we were able to pretty much open up a case that was very specific to some sort of drugs and it went from that to a whole cartel organization based on one tattoo. So, they can be very valuable as a facet in the intelligence collection process.



Audience Question: So, what’s your recommendation for collecting this info? Is it strictly through the booking photos? 

Dr. David Grantham: There’s probably, there are several ways the main thing is booking. For those of you that aren’t in confinement, that is generally those people who work in the intake. So, inmates are booked into jail. They’re processed, fingerprinted. People down there are your first line, they’re the ones that see them, walking through with their tattoos and in the photo process. So that’s the first place you’re going to spot them, and then the pictures and the documentation is this is probably the second most important thing because if you see it, you don’t document it, it’s so very hard to go back and find it.



Audience Question: How much has inmate electronic communication – tablets with messaging, photos, video visitation, and telephone, etc. – impacted your human intel versus digital monitoring? Can you talk a little bit about that? 

Dr. David Grantham: Oh, man, that’s, uh, that’s a webinar four. Patrick, that’s a great question. In fact, please come to webinar two because I’m going to talk specifically about the technology that we’re using. But the short answer is, it has revolutionized how we collect intelligence and I’ll give you one example among a whole truckload of examples. Our jail facility has an iPad, and inmates can communicate via this iPad to the outside world. Just like the phone calls. It’s monitored and it’s categorized and all that. What’s interesting is we added an intelligence tab. So, inmates that want to provide information merely click on the tab, send us a message, and say, I want to talk about this. We can communicate back with an inmate and say, okay, we’ll come to see you soon. And just that alone is a full-time job. When inmates are provided the opportunity to interact with law enforcement outside of the arrest cycle, they’re much more inclined to talk. It offers us the opportunity at their, at their request to sit and talk to them, get to know them, find out who they are, what they’re interested in. A lot of the narcotics information we receive comes from individuals who, for the first time in their life, in a long time, their head is clear. They’re not on drugs. They’ve gone through the booking process. They’ve come down and they had a clear head, and they want to talk. So, we try to give them that opportunity, and it has been absolutely phenomenal giving them that opportunity to do that. That’s just one example.



Audience Question: What company provides the tablets to Tarrant County? 

David Grantham: Very good question. I think the company is called, Tellmate Command Center. But, if whoever is question that was, you’re free to contact me, and I can put you in touch with them, no problem.



Audience Question: David, you said, you might be covering this in your subsequent presentations, but, yeah, as you said, there’s, there are 4000 people in your jail, and that’s a ton of information, and a ton of data points. What’s the simplest way to gather and collect this information, or collate it into a usable format? 

Dr. David Grantham: Really, the best way is, it depends on what your agency has focused on. First, we’re focusing on human intelligence so we go interact with them. Some agencies don’t. Some agencies rely specifically on technology. So, they monitor phone calls, letters, mail, all that kind of stuff, and they, they exploit the intelligence that way. So first, it does depend on what your strategy is. If you’re an agency that’s large enough, you can do both. Most agencies can’t. We focused on human intelligence and the quickest way and the most efficient way to get that information. It’s having people inside the jail that are your eyes and ears, to find people having the technology I talked about earlier that gives inmates the opportunity to contact us, to talk. It’s really providing as many touchpoints as possible for those people being booked in saying, because frankly, I’m not necessarily trying to be your friend. But if you want to support public safety, I want to give you the chance to do it. And so that’s what we try to do, and it’s being having someone in booking. He’s there to contact them, or make contact with people. It’s an opportunity through the tablet. It’s us going into jail and talking to people. I mean, I literally will go sometimes from pod to pod. I won’t tell them who I am, what I am, therefore, but I’ll just circulate and leave. It’s just showing my face and making people know that we’re here if they want to talk.



Audience Question: You also talked a little bit about validation. How do you validate the quality or the accuracy of information that the inmates provide them? And, as you said, people lie. So, how do you validate that information?  

Dr. David Grantham: Yeah, we’ll definitely go into more detail. I think that’s the third webinar, which is the distribution and analysis. But so, to answer your question, I will simplify it for time. Really, there is an intelligence process to evaluate that information. So, I take that raw information from someone who says they have information about human traffickers, who are bringing girls from New Mexico into Texas. We get details. We ask the person certain questions that would lend themselves to lying and see if they’re telling the truth. We’ll attempt to verify their story through, if we have other sources that are familiar with that, we’ll ask the sources. But really, the key is, in that elicitation process, using the elicitation skills to determine the truthfulness of that person. And then go and find the expert. One of the downsides of intelligence collection inside corrections is that you’re trying to collect everything. You can’t be an expert on everything. So, I rely heavily on the experts, if I’m talking to some about human trafficking. I know a fair bit about it, no questions asked, but I’m still walking down to down the hall to the human trafficking unit and say, “Does this sound right? Does this make sense?” And we use a whole model, which I’ll show in one of our subsequent webinars. It’s a grading model we’ve developed here that uses the traditional source, credibility, information, reliability, definitions. And we actually have cool little algorithm. You press the button, it spits out a result. And we use that often to determine the viability of the information and the reliability of the information. And I can’t wait to show you guys, that I’m really proud of that. You got to come back to the next webinar because I’m excited to show people that.



Audience Question: What incentives might an inmate have to share information? Or do you need to provide additional incentives to get an inmate to share information? 

Dr. David Grantham: Great question. I’m going to talk about this in-depth, and in the, I believe, the second one, because it is, it is the foundation of what you’re doing. If you don’t understand how to incentivize, you’re not going to have much luck. But, briefly, in our experience, what we have seen is roughly 30% of the people want help in their case. Now mind, you were at a county, so there’s still going to court. There still is time for them just get a deal to provide information that would help them with their current case. That’s not the same as a state prison, they’re already serving their time or a federal prison. However, most people that we encounter do not want help in our case, which surprises a lot of people. What we find is that there’s a mixture, someone help in a case, some, it’s merely personal, they just have they, well, here, I want to do right by my kids. I want to get out of this life. It’s just personal. It’s their way of giving back. Some people, it is atonement, they feel bad, and they literally want to provide information as a way of helping. Others, it’s revenge. People said, We’re going to, we’re going to help you out when you go to jail, and they don’t. They get no money on there, what’s called their books, their commissary. So, in fact, when I first started, and I apologize for the word here, but someone told me, “I don’t know what you’re going to collect inside the jail. All these people are full of crap.” Oh, I took offense to that, because I thought you’re challenging my ability to collect intelligence. So, we developed an acronym. Crap, there are four points. Each letter stands for something C is case. Each letter stands for motivation, Case, revenge, atonement, and personal. We categorize each person we talked to and so one of those categories so that we can better understand what motivates them and then go to your question, what incentivizes them. So, the case is pretty straightforward. We’re going to talk to the prosecutors if they provide valuable information. But a lot of times, it’s merely can you get a message out to my mom who’s in the hospital? Can you get me a better housing situation? I’m with this gang, I don’t want to be near them. Can you move me? Can you give me new shoes? It’s a, it’s really if you can determine what their motivation is, personal, atonement, revenge. you can quickly know what’s going to incentivize them, and then you could offer it without them asking, which builds even more rapport. So, if you know what motivates them, you quickly can jump to the incentivizing options without them asking, and before you know it, they will be telling you all kinds of things. Because you have been proactive in wanting to show that you’re willing to help if they’re willing to help you.

Host: What a phenomenal acronym, I love that. So case, revenge, atonement, and personal. Right?

Dr. David Grantham: Correct.



Audience Question: For those in the audience who don’t already have an intelligence unit. I know that, that the majority of today’s attendees did. What is the best way to build that case, that one is needed, and maybe more importantly, in a day and age of budget issues, like so many folks are facing any funding recommendations? 

Dr. David Grantham: Wow. That’s a great, great question. I think, first of all, making the case for this is finding examples. At the end of the day, everyone has to show their value, and the way you show value is through information and examples. So it takes a little legwork and you would need to go, perhaps if you’re in a jail, or you’re thinking about starting one, it’s going you’re going to jail and doing some legwork, trying to sell, getting some information, seeing what it does, and then compiling a nice portfolio to say, look at what we did with one person and two hours of time. Imagine if… Bring on partners. What we’ve done locally is we have a very close working relationship with Fort Worth Police Department, with the ATF, with the FBI, with the DEA, with the Texas Department of Public Safety. What we’ve done is brought all these people on board. So not only am I saying, Look what we did with this, I have other people going. If you can do this, it would help us so much, and then we go into your part of the funding question, especially with the feds. If the feds see value in you, they have a spigot of money that few of us have. And so, they are more willing to help. We got National Guard help from the federal government, only because we were providing them information that nobody else was providing, and they said, you have value. They went and did it themselves. Brought us people and said, “Continue giving us what you’re giving us. Here are some people to help you.”


Click Here to Watch a Recording of The Center of Emerging Threats.   



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