Preventing Targeted Violence: An Introduction to Threat Assessment

Preventing Targeted Violence: An Introduction to Threat Assessment
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Module 1
Recorded on: 2023-05-11
Unit 1 Presentation Materials: Preventing Targeted Violence: An Introduction to Threat Assessment
Unit 2 Transcript: Preventing Targeted Violence: An Introduction to Threat Assessment
Unit 3 Workbook: Preventing Targeted Violence: An Introduction to Threat Assessment
Unit 4 Recording: Preventing Targeted Violence: An Introduction to Threat Assessment

As targeted violence remains a significant issue in communities across the United States, law enforcement agencies have transitioned from a repressive approach to a more proactive strategy focused on intervention, more recently through the use of behavioral threat assessment and management (BTAM). This session discusses BTAM, what it is, the processes involved in it, as well as the criticisms, limitations, and opportunities involved.

Leading the discussion is Sammie Wicks, a Senior Program Manager at the National Policing Institute’s Center for Mass Violence Response Studies. He’s previously served as a law enforcement officer working with the Crisis Response Team and developing the Targeted Violence Prevention Program.

Specifics of Sammie’s presentation include:

  • What targeted violence is and the challenge that comes with defining targeted violence.
  • The range of approaches and types of activities that various public safety entities as well as the public sector have adopted in an effort to prevent targeted violence.
  • What BTAM is, what it is not, it’s key goal, and the iterative nature of the process.
  • Differentiating behavioral threat assessment from violence risk assessment in terms of how and when it is used, who can conduct the assessments, what these measure, and their goals.
  • Specifics on the four critical phases of BTAM.
    • The different means concerning, and threatening behavior can be identified.
    • The pathway to violence model that outlines the steps that an individual may go through before finally acting on violence and what can be done to de-escalate.
    • The static and dynamic factors to look into and take note of that may indicate the potential for violence.
    • The different sources of information worth looking into and questions and considerations to ask and reflect on as part of data collection.
    • The value in taking the totality of information and circumstances into account when processing and analyzing the information gathered.
    • Types of violence mitigators and enhancers and the importance of identifying and assessing these.
    • Other considerations when conducting the assessment as it relates to the instruments and preventing cognitive bias.
    • Looking into strategic planning, tactical operations, and logistical coordination to mitigate the threat of violence.
    • Altering the potential for targeted violence by maintaining the individual’s dignity and constant reassessment and adjustment which alludes to the dynamic nature of this step.
    • The different management types that can be employed which can be subject-focused, target-focused, or situational management.
  • A scenario exercise to gauge threat risk.
  • Criticisms against BTAM in terms of perpetuating zero-tolerance policies, variability in assessment practices, perpetuating stigma for marginalized populations, and securitizing mental illness.
  • Limitations of threat assessment identified as its weakness compared to risk assessment, the importance of competent practitioners and ongoing training, how it is not a treatment strategy, its reliance on information, susceptibility to cognitive biases and other legal and policy-based limitations.
  • Opportunities provided by threat assessment in early intervention, protection against ad-hoc strategies, behavior-focused assessments, and holistic assessments and interventions through a multi-disciplinary approach.
  • Key takeaways that highlight establishing consistent practices, policy, bias reduction strategies and constant training, expanding the research, and creating a supportive and learning culture.
  • Considerations about forming a behavioral assessment team.



Other Webinars with this Organization


Click here to view and register for other upcoming Police Foundation webinars on the JCH Platform.


Audience Comments

  • “This was probably the best presentation I have ever seen on BTAM. Thank you!” — Alexander
  • “Great speaker with good information. As usual, not enough time to cover thoroughly and answer questions so a follow-on session would be appreciated!” — Bob
  • “The presenter was really strong on the topic- thought-provoking- I would say it’s less relevant to my current work responsibilities but I did learn a lot. It was good to think about the rehabilitative response options.” — Heidi
  • “The presenter was very articulate, organized, knowledgeable, and engaging.” — Judith C
  • “It was good knowing how much work and effort is already going into establishing TAMs. I am working with my local TAM and we are just in our infancy stages. It’s good to know there are resources out there to help us get where we need to be.” — Wade
  • “A very clear refresher on threat assessment, framework and caveats of the process, and practical considerations. The speaker was VERY well-informed and communicated his knowledge excellently! FYI, TA is not my responsibility but I work adjacent and wanted to be informed, and this overview was perfect!” — Martha
  • “Well expressed and focused, knowledgeably experienced, comprehensive, practical examples, and systemic and balanced in approach to complex behavioral issues of importance.” — Bill



About the National Policing Institute: Formerly known as the National Police Foundation, the National Policing Institute’s mission is to pursue excellence in policing through innovation and science. It is the oldest nationally-known, non-profit, non-partisan, and non-membership-driven organization dedicated to improving America’s most noble profession – policing.

The National Policing Institute has been on the cutting edge of police innovation for over 50 years since it was established by the Ford Foundation as a result of the President’s Commission on the Challenge of Crime in a Free Society (1967) and the related conclusions of the Kerner and Eisenhower Commissions, taking place during the same era.



Additional Resources
1 year ago
After the Webinar: Preventing Targeted Violence Q&A with Sammie Wicks
Webinar presenter Sammie Wicks answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Preventin […]
1 year ago
Managing High-Risk Adolescents: A Case Study of the Averted Paw Paw High School Shooting and the Southaven Pier Shooting
There are ongoing processes and changes in the adolescent brain that affects their decision-making a […]
1 year ago
Online Course: Crisis Intervention Response – An Introduction and Refresher
Professionals in the Criminal Justice System have a front-row seat to the challenges and issues faci […]
2 years ago
Social Media Threat Assessments
As people’s lives get more and more intertwined with the digital world, actors with criminal inten […]
5 years ago
Thoughts on Threat Awareness from Col. Sam Johnson (ret)
Being aware of threats and able to discern the difference between real versus perceived threats is a […]
5 years ago
Threats and Risk Assessments of Workplace Violence for Justice Agencies
The Workplace Violence webinar series started with a brief overview on the dynamics of the actors, t […]