The shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims in the public appearance event on January 8, 2011, has emphasized once again the value of executive protection for public figures and others whose notoriety has placed them in the arena of potential targets. While the motivation and exact targeting rationale is not known at this time, what is known is that the alleged shooter exhibited symptoms of instability at least for some months and had legally bought the weapon he used within the past 90 days. He had been rejected by the Armed Forces and published unusual postings on social media sites.
In most cases, these perpetrators have displayed a series of “red flags” over periods of time prior to this kind of attack. To date, there has been no report of any specific warnings or threats in the Arizona incident, but post-attack investigation by the press and law enforcement have uncovered numerous events and characteristics that would have been cause for alarm if there had been notice to check. One question that rises is, “Why didn’t someone bring this to the attention of the proper authorities?”
Frequently these events do not involve a recognizable, specific articulated threat. The evaluation of these threats usually begins when “red flag” behavior is reported by a third party. Workplace violence prevention programs seek to establish networks within the culture of the organization that encourage these reports and protect the origin of the concern. These situations are assessed in the same manner as direct threats, and hopefully result in preventative interventions.
If a warning or direct threat is involved, there are methodologies for assessing the threat and determining the capacity and capability of the individual who made it. RMA has experience with these methodologies and has served a variety of clients in assessing threats toward the end of formulating protective actions that a client should take. This kind of assessment includes criminal background checks, searches of public records for weapons permits, interviews with relevant individuals, and consultation with professional behavioral and psychological practitioners where appropriate. These activities are best conducted within a viable executive protection plan and workplace violence prevention plan, both of which RMA has helped develop and plan for numerous clients.
Knowing how much validity to award a specific threat provides security managers and company executives a basis for committing resources and using procedures to increase the protection posture for a site or an individual. Threat evaluation provides that critical insight.