In last month’s Talon Shield the discussion focused on detecting aberrant and dysfunctional behaviors that indicate a person has a propensity for violence.
There are three aspects to targeted violence prevention. They are: threat detection, threat management, and response to an active threat in progress.
This month, we want to focus on threat management and strategies to deter a person from acting out after a threat assessment has determined a person is dangerous.
The first consideration is whether the threat meets the guidelines as a violation of California penal code 422pc, making a criminal threat. The threats can be construed as a criminal violation if:
- A target of the threat is placed in a state of reasonably sustained fear for his/her safety and the safety of his/her family.
- The threat is specific and unequivocal.
- The threat is transmitted verbally, in writing, or via electronic transmitted device.
A person who violates 422 pc can be charged with either a felony or misdemeanor depending on the severity of the threat and whether it was a veiled threat or a direct threat. A misdemeanor charge carries a penalty of 1 year in county jail. A felony conviction carries a penalty of 4 years in California State prison. Under California state law a person convicted of this crime must serve 85% of the sentence.
Naturally law enforcement needs to be involved in any violation of 422 pc. With the involvement of first responders, they can seize any weapons in the possession of the perpetrator.
If a person who is acting out does not meet the threshold of violating 422pc, but is considered dangerous, intervention in the form of an interview by a trained psychologist or investigator who has dealt with threatening behaviors needs to be conducted to ascertain the perpetrators motives, their frame of mind, their mental stability, and their ability to carry out an attack. Likewise, any witnesses to the perpetrator’s behaviors and threats should be interviewed and documented.
Another form of intervention is to obtain a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). This is a legal document that articulates the nature of the threat and is acquired after an attorney obtains evidence that the perpetrator has made threats and appears in court to appeal the case to a judge. A judge can then order the TRO. The TRO with the attached affidavit is then provided to the perpetrator, as well as a copy to the local law enforcement agency. The issue with a TRO is that the perpetrator gets to read the affidavit and determine who made any allegations against them. With the issuance of a TRO the police can seize weapons owned by the perpetrator.
If a person making threats is deemed dangerous to themselves or others and they display a form of mental instability, they can be taken into custody under a 5150 commitment and placed in a mental facility for a 72-hour hold and evaluation. Again, the police will have the authority to seize the perpetrator’s weapons.
Often, companies terminate employees who have made threats or displayed inappropriate dysfunctional behaviors that cause concern for a safe work environment. It is in the best interest of the company to provide armed security that are trained in crime suppression and intervention to protect fellow employees and visitors. Unarmed guards are not qualified to provide a secure environment and their job is limited to observe and report.
When a threat is made from a terminated employee or irate customer, a security risk assessment needs to be performed on the facility to ensure access and egress points are secured and early detection of a potential assault or crisis is detected before the event. Frequently, a surveillance of the disgruntled former employee or person making a threat is advisable. It is important to know if the person is engaged in preparatory behaviors such as buying weapons or target practicing.
All of these options require communication and cooperation between private industry and law enforcement, as well as private security.
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Ron Williams, CFS
United States Secret Service-Retired