Bart McEntire retired at the end of 2009 as a Supervisory Special Agent for ATF-DOJ overseeing the Roanoke Field Office. He is now President of the security consulting company “Instinctive Survival.” Bart offered the following regarding the Feb., 2010 incidents of school shootings by faculty members just two days apart in Tennessee and Alabama:
To prevent violence becomes a matter of education. If the School Employee’s (and the victims were school management) in the two shootings had ever been to one of the classes I teach, I feel confident they would have recognized a potential threatening situation and took other actions. To me it is inexcusable in today’s times not to know who you have working for you especially in a school system which along with education has a primary mission of protecting children.
Much like Virginia tech, we will see the common statements: “No one could have seen this coming.” From the news story on Alabama: “An Alabama professor… was vocal in her resentment over being denied tenure and the looming loss of her teaching post, though relatives and students said she never suggested she might become violent.” Like other shootings, people hear what they want to hear. They expect a killer to carry a large sign and to clearly state, I am going to kill.” It just does not happen that way.
Signs of Potential Violence include: resentment towards others, prior history of violence, major loss of a “life” important feature (work, death to spouse etc.), strange behavior, disrespect, possession of firearms and others. Easily identifiable with a little work in these cases, but in both never found.
So where did both the organizations fail:
1. An effective training program on violence and disruptive/threatening behavior must not have been in place.
2. No training or ineffective training on workplace issues and triggering events and responses by management.
3. Ineffective communication of warning signs of violence or distressed employees/students. Why was Amy Bishop’s resentment never reported to a Crises or Threat Management team? Clearly, it should have been. I have not pulled the handbook or employee guidelines from the schools, but I bet it would include something along the lines: “students or staff should immediately report any person showing signs of distress, making inappropriate comments, or exhibiting strange behavior.”
4. A hiring process that screens out potential violent or unstable persons. Not just a simple criminal background check, but a thorough behavioral check by a professional.
5. Termination practices seem to be minimal regarding how it is to be done and how the employee should be handled.
Anyway, we will sit and wait for the next one. Organizations will not spend money to train and they will not spend money to hire professionals. Very few police departments have trained experts in the field of threat assessment. Threat Assessment is handled very differently than police investigations. Apples and Oranges. Prevention versus making a criminal charge.
Owner Instinctive Survival