Acting Hinky 

January 16, 2020 in Applying The Observations

Our primary goal here at The CP Journal is to get our content into the hands of people who truly want it and need it.  We continue to hear from countless people that have used our training to save a life, build their own training program, prevent a crime or violent incident, or help land a job by improving their interpersonal skills.  However you plan to use our processes and content is great, as long as you are using it for good. One of the greatest parts about the work that we do that is that we get to hear from people that read Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life, spend time on our blog, train with us online, or attend an in-person seminar.  This feedback loop is crucial in helping us remain steadfast in our goals of growing and expanding our program options and training schedule.    

All of the feedback we receive is excellent, even when it isn’t positive.  We realize that we can’t be all things to all people, and the notion that the work that we do will resonate positively with everyone in the world would be naive.  So we do in fact like and appreciate when people don’t like our training or think the book could be better, because it usually leads to a thoughtful discussion about human behavior, observation, or pre-event indicators.  One recent Amazon review of the book Left of Bang recently brought up a great point about what’s happening out in the world today and how the concepts that we teach can help make the world a safer place.  

The review mentioned that the only thing the book is about is how to explain when someone is “acting hinky.”  When we hear the term “hinky,” we generally think that the definition involves a person acting suspect or appearing to be dishonest in some way.  This review and comment is so important to the larger conversation about behavioral analysis and can help organizations around the world better understand some of the struggles that exist in interpersonal communication today.  In Left of Bang, the term is used to explain an incident that involved a customs agent in the state of Washington.  The agent used the term to describe someone that stood out, and she included the phrase in her report.  She then used that concept as a catalyst for further questioning and eventually preventing a potentially major incident.   Continue reading »

Podcast on Hand-to-Hand Combat and the Role of the Decision Tree

January 10, 2020 in Applying The Observations

This past week, a subscriber to the Weekly Profile (and a longtime friend of ours) shared a podcast with us that highlighted a number of concepts we teach in our programs and includes a timely, relevant story that we just had to share.  The podcast is from the Modern War Institute at West Point and features Army Major Tyson Walsh discussing the events of December 2013, when he had a literal run-in with a terrorist inside the wire at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

The Story

First, I highly recommend that you listen to the entire hour-long podcast so you can hear the story in Major Walsh’s words. Here are the highlights and key points:

  • While out for a run around 3 A.M., Major Walsh observed a person dressed as an Afghan contractor standing at the entrance of his unit’s motor pool.
  • More alert to potential threats because of recent looting that had occurred, Major Walsh was immediately suspicious of the person.
  • While running past the person, he noticed that he was wearing running shoes (something he had never seen an Afghan contractor wear before), and observed odd behavior from him, as he was looking down at the ground and avoiding eye contact with the Major.
  • After running past the person to give himself a few seconds to think through his options, he decided to turn around and confront the individual in an attempt to deter any looting.
  • Upon approaching the person for a second time, Major Walsh saw that the Afghan contractor had the chain and the lock to the motor pool gate in his hand.
  • Major Walsh changed his mind and, instead of attempting to deter the crime, decided to stop it.
  • Major Walsh tackled the individual and, after realizing that he wasn’t just a low-level criminal, found that the intruder was responding to being in a fight like a professional.
  • Major Walsh realized that the person was wearing some sort of vest under his clothes and intuited that he likely had a suicide vest on and a detonator somewhere on his body.
  • Realizing he wouldn’t have time to respond in any other way, Major Walsh killed the individual to prevent the Afghan from detonating his vest and killing both of them.
  • Major Walsh was then attacked by a body guard/lookout that was nearby who responded to help the Afghan being attacked.
  • In the end, as a result of his actions, Major Walsh ultimately interrupted a plan that was being undertaken by terrorists to place IEDs throughout all of Bagram Airfield that would be detonated at some point in the future.

But here is the key takeaway. Continue reading »

How Behavioral Analysis Can Improve Loss Prevention Processes

January 2, 2020 in Applying The Observations

We get a lot of e-mails from students after they complete our online course letting us know a little bit more about the work that they do, why they were drawn to our content, and how they plan to apply it to their everyday processes and routines.  We recently received one such e-mail that brought up a great point that will be helpful for readers of our blog.  While it isn’t a frequently asked question, other professionals may have this issue come up, so we hope this post clarifies the idea and helps you make your processes more efficient. 

The person that completed our course works in loss prevention for a large retail chain in the United States.  He has begun using our program as the foundation for a system of safety measures at his store and is very satisfied with the improvements his team has made.  His question was in regards to retail theft and if his team can apply the program to catching and spotting people stealing. If so, what would a recommendation be for the hasty search and building a system to recognize anomalies in those instances?  

The question of loss prevention is particularly poignant, as we currently partner with multiple clients working to aid loss prevention using our observation and decision-making processes. The answer is yes, this process can definitely be used in loss prevention situations, with “Bang” being the act of a theft.  If you haven’t yet seen our piece that outlines the Hasty and Deliberate searches, here is a link to our “Tools, Guides, and References Page,” where you can find explanations of these processes.  By using the flow chart and processes, you should be able to build a consistent baseline for the various environments that you are tasked with protecting.  Using those baselines, you will then want to practice observing anomalies using the specific language that we teach in our programs to ensure that you are remaining unbiased and using the brain and the body’s response to the situation as your guide.  

For the purposes of building your process and training program, it is important to remember that theft is not the typical intent for most patrons to your business.  The normal flow of customers will be the baseline.  For instance, in a grocery store, the “normal” flow that a person operates under may be, that he or she enters your store, moves to the area where the baskets or carriages are located, then takes the carriage around the store to different areas to select items.  After selecting their items they will move to the checkout area of the store, pay for their items, and leave.  During each step in this process the human body will display a series of normal behavior indicators.  These indicators at each state become your baseline.  In many cases involving customers, the baseline for individuals will be the comfortable cluster, but not always, so it is important to set your baselines using observed behavior and not inherent expectations.  Continue reading »

The Clothes Don’t Make the Man

August 13, 2018 in Applying The Observations

Ah, the age-old phrase “the clothes make the man.” The premise of this phrase is the notion that you can dress a certain way in order to transform yourself into something. For instance, if you want to be seen as someone who knows what they are doing at the gym, you would wear gym clothes. If you have a big job interview, you would put on a nice suit that’s been tailored and dry cleaned for the occasion. The clothes, in these examples, can help you fit in with the established expectation for whatever it is you are undertaking. In behavioral analysis, the clothes are an active choice, not uncontrollable human behaviors, and should therefore not be used to make decisions on their own. Clothing can be a distraction during the observation process and should only be included in your description, after you make your observations, not as sole indicators to base decisions off of.

In the work that we do at The CP Journal, we are often asked to consult on observational processes and behavior pattern recognition with businesses and organizations both within the United States and internationally. One of the benefits of taking a behavioral analysis approach to observation and recognition is that you can use our methodology and principles of universal signs of human behavior anywhere in the world, as long as there are people. And people, all around the world, dress differently. This doesn’t mean that we can’t observe and identify anomalies based in part on clothing. However, whether I am wearing a bathing suit or tuxedo, dominance is dominance and comfortable is comfortable. The clothing may change, but the behaviors do not.

There are many differences between controllable and uncontrollable human behaviors. It may seem Continue reading »

Beyond Security: The Collective Mood and Customer Service

September 20, 2017 in Applying The Observations, Assessing The Collective, Veterans, Business, and Security

This article was originally written for the International Security Driver Association.

I recently posted an article titled “How Security Leaders Can Influence the Mood at Venue Entrances” discussing how security leaders can improve their ability to protect event sites by creating orderly processes that people move through while entering a stadium and venue. The core lesson was that establishing corridors at entrances and helping people to feel safer and more comfortable during their entry allows for more opportunities to proactively recognize threats and prevent violence. Beyond security applications, however, the concepts have also been used by businesses looking to reduce the number customer service problems they face on any given day and can help close protection professionals communicate with event managers and owners about why to consider changing how people enter a venue.

Even though customer service might not be a close protection professional’s primary concern as they prepare for protective operations, being able to demonstrate to a venue’s management why a change to the entry processes can help to make a business more profitable can go a long way to garnering a venue’s willing participation in making those adjustments. In addition to creating the conditions that allow security professionals to successfully recognize threats, the corridor style setup can be used influence customer satisfaction during an event because it begins to lead them towards comfortable behavior from the moment they arrive. To demonstrate the difference in customer satisfaction and the level of stress present at an entryway, consider the difference in boarding processes between two competing airlines.

Example #1: The American Airlines Model

Take a look at the picture below as an American Airlines flight boards at Denver International Airport. While it isn’t a completely unstructured situation because there are assigned boarding groups, passengers wait in a crowd just beyond the ticket scanner for their boarding group to be called because there is no further order established within each of those groups. The result of this process is a semicircle setup where you have a crowd of people all trying to get as close as they can to the gate attendant so that they can board at the front of their boarding group as soon as it’s announced. Due to a lack of any corridors that clearly separate each boarding group from one another, there is an element of an “every man for himself” mentality where goal-oriented behavior begins trumps norm-oriented behavior as people jostle and push their way towards the plane.

One of the problems with the semicircle setup is that, as the passengers in late boarding groups form a crowd near the entrance, it creates Continue reading »

How Security Leaders Can Influence the Collective Mood at Venue Entrances

August 24, 2017 in Applying The Observations, Assessing The Collective

When seeking to prevent violence and identify attackers before they launch an assault, leaders in the security industry can take steps to establish conditions at the entrances to venues that lead to successful threat recognition strategies. As my co-author Jason Riley and I discuss in our book, Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life, establishing the baseline for an area so that you can search for anomalies is an essential first step to building a proactive threat recognition process, but what can you do when the baseline isn’t the type of behavior that you’d prefer in that type of situation?  By influencing how safe people feel in an area and creating positive atmospherics, leaders allow professional protectors to recognize anomalous behavior with a greater degree of accuracy and less effort.  If you would like to transition the collective mood at the entrances to your stadiums and arenas from having negative atmospherics to having positive atmospherics, one way to do that is by shifting the component of “orderliness” that people perceive so that your entrances seem more structured.

To help security leaders determine what changes they can make to make people feel more comfortable as they approach stadiums and arenas, we can turn to the findings of an article titled, “Collective Phenomena In Crowds – Where Pedestrian Dynamics Needs Social Psychology,” that was published in the Public Library Of Science’s PLOS One Journal.  In this paper, researchers set out to better understand how the entrances to venues and buildings influence the collective mood. Their research was focused on answering the question, “What is the difference between areas that don’t have a controlled process for entry and those that do?”  When entrances don’t have an established process to get in, the result is a Continue reading »

Thinking About Situational Awareness Through the Lens of a Field Researcher

July 19, 2017 in Applying The Observations

Learning how to learn is a skill that often separates the professionals from the novices in a professional field. In the fast-paced and constantly changing world we live in, those who can quickly learn what is happening in a situation, especially once it changes, have many advantages over their slower moving peers. But how do you develop that ability? Learning how to learn isn’t just about picking up on new skills. It’s also about learning how to size-up and make sense of a situation. How do you learn the “way they do things here?” How do you learn what makes the people in an area tick? Whether your goal is to blend in and avoid attention or to identify opportunities to pursue gains, it begins by being capable of building your own map for the areas and situations you encounter. For protectors, guardians and warriors operating in locations where your ability to quickly and accurately learn about the situation can be the difference between success and failure, and it turns out that there is a lot we can learn in this vein from professional field researchers.

According to David Danelo, a Marine Officer, Iraq War Veteran and author of the recently released book The Field Research Handbook: A Guide to the Art and Science of Professional Fieldwork, field research is a simplified process of collecting information outside of a laboratory. While academic research often produces quantifiable results that come from controlling a limited set of variables and clearly defined datasets, I meet many people in the military, law enforcement or security industries that often question the applicability of that research. While academic research can be interesting and enlightening, the very fact that it is done within the controlled environment of a laboratory often makes professional operators question how it will translate into the real world where variables abound, where control is hard to establish and where cause and effect are often difficult to tie together.

Field research is different in that it does reflect all of those real world truths. Field research is also something that you are already doing whether you are aware of it or not. The “collection of information” component to field research is already present in our field; we just use different names for it. In the military, we say that Continue reading »

Three Situations That Should Cause Protection Specialists to Transition to the Deliberate Search

April 17, 2017 in Applying The Observations

Threat recognition is a game of speed. For executive protection specialists, delays or hesitations in decision-making upon recognizing a threat can be the difference between success and failure while working on protection detail. Because there are some behavioral observations that need to be made immediately upon entering an area and some assessments that can wait until an initial level of safety has been established before being turned to, it is important for a protector (especially one just entering the field) to know which assessment needs to be made and in what order. Improving the method for establishing a baseline in operational settings has been one of our greatest focuses over the last few years. The recent release of our flow charts for how to conduct a hasty search and a deliberate search represents the most current techniques that we use to ensure both speed and accuracy in establishing baselines and searching for anomalies, but what the diagrams don’t show is when a person should begin the deliberate search.

The primary reason why we divide the establishment of a baseline into two phases (hasty and deliberate) is because a full and complete baseline (the result of the deliberate search) is not always needed. There might be situations where you aren’t in the area long enough to even complete both searches. There might be times when you are walking or driving and to try and complete both searches would completely overwhelm you mentally. There might be times when your brain has to be focused on things besides your safety, so you might not be able to dedicate all of your cognitive resources to establishing baselines and looking for anomalies with 100% of your attention. The division between the hasty search and deliberate search exists so that you know the minimum you should be doing (the hasty search) and you know how to conduct the deliberate search when that level of depth in the baseline is needed. But that distinction also creates the question of when a protection specialist should make the transition from the hasty search and begin to conduct the deliberate search.

This question became apparent to me during a recent conversation with Chris Pendas. Chris is a security professional, the owner of the Staying Safe – Self Defense website and a graduate of our Tactical Analysis program. Chris recently recorded a video of himself conducting a hasty search while walking from his apartment building to the subway station, a task that many people can relate to as they commute to work each day. To set the stage for our discussion about transitioning from the hasty search into the deliberate search, start by watching the video he made and think about the steps that go into each search.

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As you watched the video, you may have noticed that he begins to make some assessments about the environment as he identifies habitual areas and anchor points (a deliberate search task), even though he is intentionally trying to limit himself to the hasty search. During our conversation, Chris asked about the times when he should make the transition into the deliberate search. Because answering questions in a way that implies you will “know it when you see it,” or that it is “situationally dependent” is a lazy form of instruction, I provided Chris with three situations when we advise our students and clients to make the transition from the hasty search and begin the deliberate search to heighten their level of situational awareness. Since Chris’ video is of him walking, each of these situations is focused on Continue reading »

Just Tell Me What To Do: The Instructor’s Dilemma

March 22, 2017 in Applying The Observations

 

“What would you do in this situation?

This seemingly simple question coming from a student is one of the most challenging and difficult questions for an instructor to answer. Especially when considering the consequences of failing to recognize a threat left of bang, it is understandable why someone would want to know what cues and what behaviors would reveal a potential threat for every single scenario they might face. There is, of course, the drive to answer the question in the best way possible too. It’s the people who truly want to learn how to protect themselves, protect their family or be better at their job that ask this question. They are looking for a way to get the process started. But for any instructor who has ever been asked what they would do in a particular situation, you are probably well aware of the challenge it poses because it often forces the instructor to choose from two equally unattractive options when deciding how to respond.

Option #1: The Decisive Answer

The first option for the instructor when asked, “What would you do?” is to simply answer the question and explain what you would do in the specific situation being discussed. Your first response to this option might be, “How is answering the question a bad thing?” On its own, providing clear and decisive answers that students can take with them from the classroom to the job is a great thing and, whenever possible, should be the standard.

The problem, however, with answering the question and stating what you would do, and in turn telling someone what they should do, is that it Continue reading »

The Deliberate Search: A Visual Guide

March 17, 2017 in Applying The Observations

Once an observer has completed their Hasty Search of the area, they are able to turn their attention to completing an in-depth look at the processes, patterns and behaviors that make up the baseline for the area they are in.  That comprehensive baseline is the result of the Deliberate Search.

The Deliberate Search Flowchart was initially created at the request of one of our online students who was looking for some clarification on the steps and, we’ve refined our initial design using feedback from students and advisors as well as through use in the field during our one-on-one practical application sessions with students.

While the process outlined in the flowchart was designed to be a standalone guide, these concepts can be best implemented by also completing our training programs here at The CP Journal to develop a deeper understanding of each piece of the process.

You can download the Deliberate Search Flowchart in our library by clicking here.


 

Choosing Your Conversational Style

March 3, 2017 in Applying The Observations, Assessing Individuals

 

Since getting to present at the 2015 WINx Conference, I’ve really come to appreciate the amount of time and effort that Roy Bethge and Brian Willis put into creating this excellent event each year in Lisle, Illinois. With the goal of helping police officers continually elevate their performance and achieve excellence in their field, the 18-minute long videos on the WINx site are certainly worth the time and attention of law enforcement professionals looking to be inspired. While the 2017 conference is just over a month away, I was recently re-watching the talk above by Chelly Seibert that she gave at the 2016 conference.

In this talk, Seibert highlights the need for police officers to adopt different conversational styles while responding to calls depending on the type of situation they find themselves in. Referring to the different conversational styles as characters to be played, she showed how officers might find themselves portraying one of three characters in any given situation. They might take on the behaviors of “The Enforcer,” “The Compassionate Consoler” or “The Composed Stabilizer” in order to get to a successful outcome in the encounter. By taking the time to consider and develop the ability to display the type of body language, tone of voice, facial expression and other non-verbal and verbal styles of communication to fit your character’s behavior and the situation, you can begin to take control over the way that other people see you.

Before I talk about how these three main characters listed above tie in with our approach to situational awareness, threat recognition and behavior-based conversations, here is how Continue reading »

The Hasty Search: A Visual Guide

February 14, 2017 in Applying The Observations

In our video Stop Looking For Threats that we posted last week, I outlined the process that goes into the way we conduct a hasty search. I wanted to share this information in an alternative format to visually show the sequence of observations that go into this process.

The Hasty Search Flowchart was initially created at the request of one of our online students who was looking for some clarification on the steps and, in the last few weeks, we’ve refined our initial design using feedback from students and advisors as well as through use in the field during our one-on-one practical application sessions with students.

While the process outlined in the flowchart was designed to be a standalone guide, these concepts can be best implemented by also completing our training programs here at The CP Journal to develop a deeper understanding of each piece of the process.

You can download the Hasty Search Flowchart in our company library by clicking here.


 

Everyone Can Search Hastily

February 8, 2017 in Applying The Observations

While chatting with my mother-in-law recently, we got to talking about The CP Journal and the work that we do.  She is a great supporter of us and is always interested in what we are working on. In our conversation, she said that our content is very interesting but she sometimes has trouble taking our writing and using it herself because she is a civilian and doesn’t work in security or law enforcement.  Because we spend a significant amount of time training professionals that are already well versed in the basics of observation and threat recognition, we tend to gloss over how everyday people can put these same skills to work for themselves.  Based on themes we’ve noticed in student questions through our online training platform, we are spending the month of February digging into a particular step in our observational process called the “hasty search”.  The purpose of this post will be to frame what the hasty search is for civilians and put some simple steps into your hands to be able to conduct a hasty search everywhere you go.

The hasty search does not have to be complicated.  In plain English, the hasty search is the first thing people do when they walk into any environment. Everyone already does it, they just might not realize it. Everyday civilians probably spend about one to two seconds subconsciously conducting their own hasty search when they step foot into a new environment. The first step is to ask yourself when you walk in to a place, in terms of your personal safety and security, are you Continue reading »

Stop Looking For “Threats”

January 30, 2017 in Applying The Observations

When it comes to being able to recognize violent people or criminals, saying that you are looking for “threats” isn’t a good enough definition.  Being able to explain, very specifically, what will make someone stand out from the baseline and being able to recognize those behaviors is the mark of a true professional and someone on the path to mastery.

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Additions to the video:

  • Download the cluster cards mentioned in the video to see a list of the indicators that make up each assessment.  You can find them here.
  • Take a look at the book Mastery, by Robert Greene in Amazon by clicking here.
  • One note: One question that we often receive is why are we looking for only high intensity cues during the hasty search when it comes to recognizing the anomaly.  The answer to this question that areas will often have people displaying dominance, submissiveness, discomfort, and comfort in order to accomplish their goal and fulfill their need for being in the area.  As the goal of the hasty search is to simply identify if there is anyone who poses a risk before going into a more detailed search, we begin the process by searching for high intensity displays, and will focus on more subtle displays during the deliberate search.

Transcript Of Video: Continue reading »

See What? And Say It How?

December 12, 2016 in Applying The Observations

While traveling in New York City recently I noticed signs for the “See Something, Say Something” campaign around town.  For those who haven’t yet seen a sign or poster in their neighborhood, the slogan is intended to remind people that, when they see something that is out of the ordinary or suspicious, they should say something to someone of authority to raise awareness of the potential issue.  The program was originally implemented by the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 2001 and is now licensed to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a nationwide campaign.  You can get more info on the campaign and ways to help drive the message here.

This campaign is a crucial step for getting the public involved in the process of stopping potentially dangerous events from occurring.  It also raises awareness and reminds people of their role in keeping themselves and those around them safe. While the concept itself is broad enough in scope to serve as a great reminder, the purpose of this post will be to expand on details of the program that also align with the work that we do here at The CP Journal. Together, this campaign and the work that we do, both serve as helpful tools to help build community involvement in threat recognition and this post will expand on a prior writing that outlined the three pieces to the threat prevention puzzle.

Many of the types of suspicious activity outlined in training programs and literature for the “See Something, Say Something” campaign revolve around physical actions, like stealing information, data acquisition, and weapon discovery.  These are all obviously important suspicious activities to report that have been gathered based on the study of prior threatening events, but the truth is that they don’t tend to Continue reading »