Applying Maslow’s Hierarchy: The Needs of an Investor

August 5, 2015 in Applying The Observations

One of the things that we are always on the lookout for at The CP Journal are practical applications of topics that we teach in our courses that we hadn’t previously considered. As one of our company’s goals is to make the lessons in the Tactical Analysis program as relevant to our students as we can, having examples from a wide array of fields increases the likelihood that someone coming through our course is able to successfully transition the concepts from the classroom to their lives. In a NextView Ventures podcast that I was listening to last week, Kathryn Minshew, the CEO of The Muse, provided one such example when she explained how she uses Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to plan out meetings with her company’s investors and board members.

If you are unfamiliar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the theory is that people have predictable needs that they are motivated to fulfill throughout their lives. As I’ve written about in the past, these needs are grouped into five categories that are often visually displayed in the form of a pyramid, with a person’s most basic needs making up the bottom of the structure and their highest motivations located at the very top. The underlying premise is that because a person’s fundamental requirements are housed at the bottom of the pyramid, if the needs of a level below where a person is currently operating are no longer being fulfilled, a person is going to drop back down to the appropriate level of the pyramid to reestablish themselves before they can climb back up. Maslow’s Hierarchy is a topic that comes up in our Elite Program as we teach our clients how to apply behavioral analysis to deescalate situations with the goal of getting people to calm down.

As I listened to Kathryn Minshew explain to Jay Acunzo, the show’s host, how she uses Maslow’s Hierarchy to sequence the information she presents to her board of directors, I immediately saw how her application of the theory relates directly to the protectors who are operating with the goal of getting left of bang. First, let’s take a look at how Continue reading »

Smile and Say Hello

July 1, 2015 in Applying The Observations

While traveling this past week I found myself waiting on a train platform. I was headed south from Boston and the train was delayed. While I was waiting for my train I saw a man come bursting through the station doors. He ran to the track next to mine and asked the conductor whether the train that was leaving just then was bound for Washington, D.C., his destination. When he was told that it wasn’t, he asked where his train platform was. The conductor didn’t know the answer and suggested that the man go back upstairs into the station and check the board. I knew based on his questions that I was waiting for the same train that he was looking for. Just as he was about to run up the stairs and back to the main station, I stopped him and let him know that he was in the right spot.

Over the next two hours on the train to D.C., a couple of things happened. I met someone I hadn’t known before and we passed the time on the lengthy ride by chatting and learning a little bit about each other (my new friend designs expensive boats.) Now I do understand there is a chance that, when you travel, you wish to keep to yourself and not engage in conversation with other people. That is normal and perfectly all right, but you must remember that meeting new people can lead to many positive outcomes. You could make a new friend, find a more pleasant way to pass the time on an otherwise boring trip, learn something that can benefit you personally, or foster a new professional connection that can benefit you or your organization in some way. With that in mind and based on my personal experiences traveling quite frequently, here are three tips on how to break the ice with people you have never spoken to before.

The first step in meeting new people while traveling is to Continue reading »

It’s How You Say What You Saw

February 3, 2015 in Applying The Observations

Here is an article that was recently written for and published in the Illinois Tactical Officer’s Association (ITOA) quarterly journal.

“The benefits of Tactical Awareness don’t end with the recognition of someone who warrants additional attention. Tactical behavioral analysis provides a vocabulary for police officers to articulate what led them to make decisions.”

Take a look at “It’s How You Say What You Saw.”

I’ll Take the Usual: Patterns and Routines of Behavior

November 14, 2014 in Applying The Observations

For over two years I went to the same Dunkin’ Donuts every morning outside of the subway station across the street from my office building in Midtown Manhattan. I was always there during the same hour of the day as the flood of commuters from the E and M trains stopped to get their coffee, breakfast sandwich, or donut, before heading into work, and I typically saw familiar faces in line with me each morning. Even in a city populated by millions of people, patterns of overall behavior, like those in the line at my Dunkin’, aren’t hard to find.

Patterns of more specific behavior can also be recognized when you pay close enough attention. I always thought it was amazing that the two women who were usually working at this particular Dunkin’ Donuts could recognize each of us “regulars” in line and, if we frequented there often enough, knew our orders by heart. From their perspective behind the counter, they likely observed hundreds of people every morning, but they could pick out those that they had seen before and those whose orders they had committed to memory.

I imagine that they could also tell more specific things about each of us, such as when one of us was running late to work on a particular morning. We were likely shifting and fidgeting, checking our watches, and looking up and down the line, mentally gauging how long it would take to pay for our coffee and get out the door. They could also probably tell when we were right on time or having a completely typical day, comfortably standing in line, perhaps checking our emails on our phones and absent-mindedly going through the motions of our morning routine. Thirdly, they could probably pick out if it was a day when we had to be at work early. Not only would we literally be there at Dunkin’ earlier than usual, but we were likely in a state of complete Condition White, perhaps even on the edge of sleep, with the drowsiness of the train ride not yet leaving our eyes. We were likely in a state of relaxation fueled by the normality of our routine and by simple bodily tiredness. In all three of these scenarios, though, the pervading cluster that I observed all of us everyday Dunkin’ patrons to be in was Continue reading »

What We Can and Can’t Do – The Necessity of Staying Objective

April 30, 2014 in Applying The Observations

Behavioral assessment and anomaly detection is designed to be empowering for our nation’s protectors.  It is designed to help you pick the criminal out of the crowd he hides amongst.  It is designed to help you recognize criminals before they present a weapon and before they conduct their attack.  Behavioral analysis, however, doesn’t make you a mind reader.  We can make observations and we can identify behavior that improves our decision-making, but we can never really know what is causing a person to behave that way.  As we continue to gain an upper hand against the criminals we are hunting by employing behavior detection, we must always what people trained in behavioral analysis can and can’t do.

The picture below is one that I often use while teaching our Tactical Analysis Level 1 Course, Preventing The Active Shooter.  When we discuss this picture in class, the focus of the conversation is around how a police officer can anticipate the behavioral baseline prior to arriving on scene and begin thinking about what the situation will look like as soon as they get the call to respond to violence.  In this case, it is a gang shooting in the Nickerson Gardens Projects of Los Angeles.  The purpose of the discussion is to show how conducting a mental simulation of the situation prepares an officer to make rapid decisions about which onlookers need to be contacted immediately and which potential witnesses can be followed up with later.  This picture comes up about halfway through the day and by this point the students quickly pick out the woman in the white long sleeve shirt, with the white belt, jeans and white shoes as standing out from the baseline.

While that initial recognition is a success, the assessment process isn’t over just yet.  Once one of the students identifies that woman as an anomaly, I always follow up by asking Continue reading »

We Have Nothing Without a Vocabulary

January 6, 2014 in Applying The Observations

One of the reasons that Daniel Kahneman cited for writing his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, was that he hoped to inform gossip and enrich the vocabulary that people use to talk about the assessments that they make. He understood that talking about decision-making for professionals in the security field is no different that the way a doctor has to acquire a large set of labels for diseases, understand the symptoms, causes, antecedents, remedies and interventions to cure or mitigate the illness. As Kahneman says, learning medicine consists in part of learning the language of medicine. Thinking Fast and Slow is his way of providing the language of decision-making.

A decision is only as accurate as the recognitions that trigger it. Just as we need a language to talk about the end of the process (the decision) we also need a terminology to talk about the observations leading up to an assessment. That is what behavioral analysis offers, a vocabulary to discuss human behavior so that we can focus on the true signals and not get distracted by the noise. One of the goals of our Tactical Analysis training program is to improve the way you talk about others. The clusters used to assess individual behavior (dominant, submissive, uncomfortable, and comfortable) do just that. How we assess the relationship between members of groups as being intimate, friends, acquaintances, or strangers does just that. Identifying key leaders, talking about how people relate to their environment and establishing the collective mood of everyone present does just that. The language of nonverbal behavior lets us talk about people, their behaviors, their emotions and their intentions in a way that simply isn’t possible without first learning a standardized terminology. Instead of looking at a person on the opposite side of the street and saying there is something weird or “iffy” about that guy, you can look at him and say that he is displaying the dominant cluster (or the submissive, the uncomfortable, or the comfortable cluster) and has mission focus. Because of that he stands out from your established norm. The language of behavior is paramount to creating the opportunity to separate the criminal from the crowd he hides amongst.

Continue reading »

Making The Most Of Holiday Parties

December 20, 2013 in Applying The Observations

Company holiday parties are often a hit or miss for how much fun you are going to have.  This is especially true when you don’t work for the company throwing the party but are going with your spouse or a friend.  For some people, a few hours of listening to inside jokes that you are on the outside of and hearing comments about bosses that you don’t know isn’t the ideal Friday night. As we head into the end of the holiday party season though, these gatherings don’t have to be something that you dread, you just have to look at them through a different lens.  Company holiday parties where you don’t know a majority of the people there provide a great, and amusing, opportunity to practice reading behavior because they come with a built in feedback loop to let you know if your observations are right or wrong.  As long as your significant other, or whomever you go to the party with, is tuned-in to the office politics that drive the relationships and interactions between the partygoers, you can learn the back-story and cause for all of the assessments that you make.  Having someone that you can trust to give you the unfiltered inside scoop is a rare opportunity when observing nonverbal behavior, but can have a huge impact on your ability to make accurate assessments in unscripted and less certain environments.

My personal goal for holiday parties is to identify the leadership and decision-makers that exist right below the executive team.  I like this group because they have access to the top people in the company, but aren’t the ones easily identified as standing right next to the CEO during their speech, so there is still a challenge there.  Lately, identifying these influential people within organizations has been one of the areas that I’ve been really focused on and holiday parties let me practice without having to turn around and use that information.  While members of the military and law enforcement refer to this process of identifying leaders as a part of the targeting process, to civilians, this is just part of networking and regardless of your profession, the ability to identify decision-makers is equally important.  Whether the goal is to collect information or get introduced, the first step of targeting and networking is knowing who it is you want to go after.

One of the reasons I’ve been so focused on identifying leaders lately is because it can be difficult to find these people in relaxed and social settings.  Continue reading »

Creating Informed Awareness

December 12, 2013 in Applying The Observations

How can we prevent violence? It starts by creating informed awareness.

Transcript provided by SpeechPad, please ignore any errors that are inevitable when transcribing a talk.

One of the questions that I have been getting asked a lot recently relates to some of the goals of the program and where students should be once they come through the course. Our obvious end state as we talk about quite frequently, here on the site is to prevent violent acts from occurring, to be proactive and identify criminals, and identify attackers before they commit their crime, so that we can create a greater sense of safety, and security, and confidence among the people that we are out there tasked with protecting.

We use behavioral analysis, but behavior analysis is simply a method. It’s a technique that we are going to use to get there, but there is some intermediary steps in there that are very important for us to talk about. If we are going to be proactive, if we are going to use behavioral analysis to prevent crimes from occurring, the goal of the program is really to create a sense of informed awareness. And it’s not just a higher level of awareness, we don’t want people just to be hyper-alert but not know what they should be looking for. The goal is to teach people what indicators that they can use, they can rely on that are accurate, that are validated, and truly let them make decisions that improve their observation and decision making ability, while they are on the ground.

So I just want to talk a little bit about what informed awareness really mean, Continue reading »

Making Decisions Like Peyton Manning

October 11, 2013 in Applying The Observations

I love this time of the year.  It’s not because of the changing colors of the leaves or the end of the summer heat, but because it’s football season.  Like many football fans and sports commentators, I could watch Peyton Manning dissect teams and defensive strategies all day long. As I watch him not only read a defense but also truly incorporate that information into the play the Broncos are about to run, it is easy to see why he has set the standard for quarterbacks in the NFL.  The power of Peyton Manning’s observation and decision-making skills should also be the goal of our warriors and security professionals.

Let’s start with a common understanding of how Peyton Manning makes decisions leading up to the snap.  The first step is recognition.  He has to determine what defensive strategy the other team is using, where the blitz is coming from, which receiver has a one-on-one match up he wants to exploit, and so on.  Even though every quarterback is expected to read a defense, where Peyton separates himself from all others comes in the second step of the process, where he uses the information he just collected.  Once he has determined what the defense’s intentions are, he assesses where that defensive strategy is weak and uses determines where his opportunities are.  The final step is Continue reading »

Applying Lessons Learned In The Real World

September 23, 2013 in Applying The Observations

In the aftermath of the shooting last week at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., a reader of The CP Journal, sent be the below video clip.  I wanted to pass it on.  Last week we released a new e-book, Perception and Reality, and, while the topic for the articles and video-based development was chosen months in advance, the book answers many of the questions that Aaron Cohen raises in his Fox News interview (in the below clip). As you watch the video, listen to the key points that Cohen raises regarding how our country and the security industry can prevent these types of attacks from occurring.

[expand title=”Read Video Transcript”]
Neil: I’ve got Aaron Cohen our national security analyst. Aaron from what you heard, and our authority said that they quickly wanted to take this guy down because if they didn’t he would have kept shooting. It looks like within an hour after they got there it was done, but he had already done a great deal of damage.

Aaron: Yeah, the response protocol, Neil, for what they call an active shooter, which is what we saw or what the chief was explaining, is that they obviously have a joint or a multi-agency task force, that’s properly armed and equipped to be able to respond to that type of threat. They show up to that location and the goal of the active shooter team is to just chop seconds off the ability of the shooter to fire rounds, so essentially, every second you waste another innocent person can be killed. I think they did a great job with the response. The red flag for me and the congress woman, when she was speaking to the media, said we don’t want to pass judgment. But listen, the truth is you have to pass judgment when it comes to our nation’s security, especially at a facility that is designed to protect our nation.

So, the question I have is, where was the failure in the system? And how do we prevent or maintain this multi-layered security system that we’ve heard repeated over the last ten years since 9/11? Clearly, a specific person potentially too Neil, was able to get in to one of the most historic naval facilities in the country and open fire. So one of these layers failed. And so my question is how did it fail? I would begin looking out again the training of the security at the facility. And again it’s how do we identify the murderer? Which we’ve learned in Israel, I don’t need to make this Israeli specific, but what we have learned over years is, the profile of a murderer is the same before he commits the act of murder as it is afterwards. There are red flag indicators. So it’s really time, again I think, to start getting out of this lackadaisical thing in terms of the amount of time we’ve had away from 9/11. Reinvigorate it, and we do that by constantly challenging our security. It’s almost an art form. If you are not challenging the security, then eventually it becomes complacent.

Neil: One of the things we do know about Aaron Alexis is that he did work there. We don’t know whether it was on a full time basis. But we do know he was familiar to people there. So do you think that the security process, he was treated more leniently than others who might not be familiar? So people checking IDs, checking security as they go through various stages of the system.

Aaron: I know from having provided many security hours of protection to schools here in Los Angeles, and around the country, that there is a sort of security rhythm that begins to take shape. And you do often build relationships with people that you are familiar with and it speeds up the security system and it’s okay to have that. If, in fact, you can verify that everybody who is moving in and out of that security system are people who are supposed to be there. So if, in fact, I don’t want to speculate because we are still investigating or the law enforcement agents are still investigating. Trying to figure out exactly what his motives are.

But the fact is there is somebody who is not supposed to be on the property that information has to get collated and has to be collated immediately. And again I think that goes back to what we call ‘wet system testing’ or ‘red teaming’. Making sure that all of these layers function properly, so that in the event of attack, whether it’s terror related or whether it’s an extremist or disgruntled employee, the fact is Neil, it’s still the same tactic that’s being used which is trying to kill as many people in the shortest period of time in order to achieve whatever your goal was. That testing, I think, it’s really what’s critical here. And I think that’s what’s going to reinvigorate everything.

Neil: Aaron Cohen thank you very much. Just up-

A few of the points that Cohen believes the security industry should address can be summarized with the following issues:

–       How do we prevent a person from penetrating a multi-layered security system?

–       How do we identify an attacker who is familiar to the people tasked with securing the building?

–       How can we continually challenge and test the security system to ensure that an attacker is identified?

Many people who watched this interview or have read the increasing number of articles in the press discussing the need for a behavioral approach to threat recognition are left without a clear way forward to begin implementing such an approach.  Our new e-book in the behavioral library, Perception and Reality: A Lethal Divide, provides many of the answers that security providers need to get to the next level of safety, including:

–       An article that discusses the risk that schools are exposed to when administrators believe they have created a secure learning environment but treat their school as a habitual area.

–       A video development article that is focused on the behaviors of a person responsible for ensuring that outsiders are kept out of a secured building and what behaviors would alert a security guard to an insider who stands out from the baseline.

–       An article with a method to incorporate behavioral analysis into the red cell portion of a security assessment.

As violent incidents continue to occur in areas that we expect to be safe, the e-book provides readers with practical steps they can take to begin securing their anchor points.

Perception and Reality – A Lethal Divide

September 17, 2013 in Applying The Observations

An Introduction

Here in The CP Journal, we talk a lot about getting left of bang as a means of ensuring our personal survival and safety.  The benefit of this concept, however, goes well beyond this single factor, and our ability to proactively recognize threats also has an impact on the people who live in the areas where we work. Dangerous situations are characterized by having a very limited time available to decide on a course of action. Because of that limitation, we naturally reduce the number of options that we even consider to be viable when in these situations. In the defense, law enforcement and security sectors, this often times leaves us with no other choice than to use very aggressive and decisive force when our safety is on the line. I’m certainly not saying that aggressive action is wrong, and sometimes it is a necessity in order to protect ourselves.  However, there is a difference between actions that are necessary and actions that are ideal. In situations that result in a last resort decision, the cause can often be traced back to late recognition of the threat. When we are operating either at bang or right of bang, we are unable to consider the second and third order effects of our actions because of the immediacy of the situation we face.  However, the public’s perception of our nation’s protectors is oftentimes shaped and influenced by aggressive tactics and the negative fallout that comes with them. Getting left of bang improves our ability to more thoroughly consider the far-reaching consequences of our actions.

As we strive to continually build upon the support of those we seek to protect, the earlier we can recognize individuals who intend to harm others provides opportunities to reduce the risk of alienating the public. This includes ways that ensures officer safety and considers the impact our actions will have on the viewing, and often critical, public. In situations such as these, the difference between the factors that guided your decisions and the way they are perceived by the public is something that all members of the military, law enforcement officers and private security professionals face.  For example, let’s say a squad of Marines deployed overseas is pinned down in a residential compound by machine gun fire from a nearby building, and they decide that their only way out of this ambush is to bomb the building the insurgents are using for protection.  While they know that their decision to destroy the house is based on the fact that they can’t move without getting shot, the only thing that the local villagers returning after the battle see is another house destroyed by American firepower.  Even with an explanation to the affected parties and monetary reparations, this bombing has the ability to reinforce the perception created by the Taliban that Americans are targeting civilians and their livelihood. People often see the effect, not the cause. Would the decision be different if the Marines identified the insurgents a few hundred yards further away and were therefore in a less risky position?  Maybe, but how to respond in that situation is a decision for the guy on the ground to make.  However, with earlier recognition, there would certainly have been more options available to him, more time to consider what would lead to the best way forward and consider the impact that their actions would have on the locals, whose support is vital in a counter-insurgency fight.  Being left of bang provides access to opportunities and options that being right of bang takes away.

The conditions of cause and effect exist for law enforcement officers operating here in the states as well as private security professionals operating around the world.  The mandate to protect and serve is a double-edged sword.  Sometimes aggressive action is needed to ensure your own safety but it also runs the risk of leading to a negative perception of your effectiveness and abilities. I’m certainly not saying that decisive action is never required, but when the perception of our actions is a great deal different than the reality of the situation, it can lead to an irreparable rift and divide between our nation’s protectors, and those we are tasked with protecting.

The theme of the September issue of The CP Journal is focused on perception of another kind: how well we have secured the areas that we are tasked with protecting.  When we fail to make honest and objective assessments about our security posture, we expose ourselves to attacks from an unseen enemy that has found and exploited our vulnerabilities before we could plug those gaps.  We start the September issue with an article that talks about the danger of a school believing they have created a secure anchor point, but actually treating the building as a habitual area.  We set out to ensure security providers can make honest assessments about an anchor point, test their own security measures, and find new ways to further enhance their own safety.

Most of the time perception is reality and, whether we like that fact or not, it is the world that we live in.  While it can be frustrating at times when our good intentions are misinterpreted and our words are twisted in the public’s eye, the worst situation you can find yourself in is one where there are only a few options available and none of them are ideal.  When we are aware of our own abilities, limitations and how outsiders see our actions, we can recognize situations for what they are and shape the outcome that we hope to attain. We hope with this issue of The CP Journal, we can take a look at ourselves and consider how well we are doing our jobs.

Thanks for reading and welcome to The CP Journal.

Patrick Van Horne


This Article Has Become Part Of An E-Book, You Can Download It Here


It’s not that they are an anomaly – It’s that they are an anomaly because…

August 27, 2013 in Applying The Observations

The below picture is one that I often use when teaching The CP Journal’s Tactical Analysis class to police officers that demonstrates how behavioral analysis not only helps police officers identify people of interest, but to communicate exactly why that person is important.  The picture is of onlookers to a Los Angeles gang shooting and was taken just as the first responders were arriving on scene. I typically lead the class through a discussion that ends with the students establishing expectations for what they think they would encounter before I even show them picture.  The goal is for them to simulate what would be going through their head if they were the officers who had gotten the call to respond to this type of situation and to be able to arrive on scene with an anticipated baseline already established.  Students find themselves not only thinking through the different clusters of behavior that they might observe (dominant, submissive, uncomfortable, or comfortable) but also the different causes for each type of behavior and why those different reasons are important.

The intent of the exercise is to establish a baseline for the situation with only minimal information available and to show how the domains of observable behavior can begin to reduce the uncertainty that is present when an officer responds to violent situations.  This applies not only to gang situations but also to domestic violence calls, drug-related crimes or in response to a terrorist attack.  I use the below picture as a decision-forcing case to put students into the shoes of the responding officers and force them to quickly determine which witness might have information about the shooting, which witnesses would not be an immediate priority and to justify the reasons why they made those assessments.

When I finally show the class the picture, they typically quickly determine that the Continue reading »

Stop Trying To Look At Everything – Using The Search Principle

May 21, 2013 in Applying The Observations

After James Holmes opened fire during the screening of Batman – The Dark Knight Rises last July, a lot of people (including me) were nervous about going to see the movie. This probably due to the fact that following an attack, there is always the risk of copycats or someone becoming inspired to take action similar to what occurred in Colorado, which causes us to become more alert when we are out in public.  As we go into a heightened state of awareness and begin attempting to consciously scan each and every person in our vicinity, we can quickly become overwhelmed by the amount of gestures, postures, expressions, walking styles, clothing choices, and every other observable facet that is available to us.  If there isn’t a mental framework that allows an observer to structure what they are seeing and quickly make sense of what they are looking at, increased situational awareness could lead to an observer becoming frustrated in the endeavor.  This leads to security professionals either giving up their search for criminal behavior or becoming too slow in the decision making cycle to be effective at preventing violent acts from happening.  But this doesn’t have to be the case.

Continue reading »

Observing On The Fly

May 16, 2013 in Applying The Observations

The Cues To Look For While On The Move

Making assessments about people while walking is a challenging exercise, as the amount of time that you have to make decisions is extremely limited.  As the distance between you and others decreases, the consequences of making incorrect assessments go up dramatically.  Think about a time when you were walking down the sidewalk or through the mall and because you are on the same level as everyone else, you aren’t able to observe many of the people around you.  Take a look at this video clip. How many people are you able to actually observe and assign to a cluster?  At what point are you able to actually assess each person?

Considering the fact that proximity negates skill, the limitations of being on the ground level make the need for informed judgments even more important. To overcome the challenges of being so close to so many potential threats, we need to understand which observations are the most important when observing on the fly, and which observations can be reserved for situations where you have time for more detailed analysis.

We don’t have time to do a detailed search while walking because by systematically scanning the area in overlapping layers, we would quickly become overwhelmed as people moved rapidly through our view.  Even attempting to analyze each and every person in a detailed way would ultimately cause us to miss most people.  Instead, we have to rely on a series of continuous hasty searches to ensure our safety.  A hasty search is conducted by doing quick scans of the area and look for a limited number of cues to determine if a person is an anomaly or not.  The number of potential observations is intentionally limited so that the number of people nearby doesn’t overwhelm us, facilitating quick decision-making.  This supports a yes/no decision based on this very restricted amount of information.  We do this because our baseline is constantly changing with every step and every corner that we turn.  The brain will naturally look for easily confirmed indicators that have proven to be effective in the past to overcome the complexity of this rapidly changing baseline. This can prevent the subtle indicators and the anomalies below the baseline from revealing themselves. While on the move or profiling at very close range, you are going to have to rely on the anomalies above the baseline, the extra indicators that are present, to alert you to a person requiring further attention.

While on the move and observing at close range, I begin by relying on indicators such as mission focus and dominance as two of the cues in my hasty observations.  These indicators allow me to focus on those moving with a purpose or those whose body is preparing the fight response.  Once I am done searching for those who have made their intentions clear, I begin looking for quick indicators of a person trying to conceal their violent intentions.  Factors such as situational awareness, extreme discomfort, and patting or touching of areas are the cues that I am continuously cycling through as I am looking to orient on anomalies as quickly as I can.

The reason these five observations (mission focus, dominance, discomfort, patting, and situational awareness) are the ones that we rely on is due to the fact that they are anomalies in most areas and for most people.  This is because recognizing these observations are a good enough reason for us to focus our attention on specific people while at close range. While there may be culturally specific situations where dominance and discomfort are common, these five behaviors reflect typical fight or flight responses, making them reliable regardless of where I am.  When there isn’t enough time to develop a thorough baseline, these five observations are reliable to bridge the gap until that norm can be established.

Watch the video above one more time, and determine how deep in the screen you were able to focus.  Often times, people are focused on those people closest to them.  While this is a dangerous range as your ability to respond would be limited, it is common when learning a new skill.  Think about where brand new drivers often focus their attention their first few times on the highway. More often than not, they are focused on the cars that are right in front of them and aren’t yet able to look far enough down the road to steer clear of bad drivers or objects in the road until it is too late.  However, with more time and more experience behind the wheel, drivers become comfortable assessing the intentions of other drivers that are both nearby and those further ahead.  This is no different when learning to consciously analyze the behavior of those around us. By continuously practicing these five reliable observations and making them a habit, your ability to quickly recognize them will improve, allowing you to shift your focus further back in the video, ultimately gaining the time needed to take proactive action.

This video is taken on the ground level (directly below the point) from where the video used in this issue’s Video Training section was shot from.  If you watch the baseline video, notice the difference in how far out you are able to observe when in an elevated position compared to when on the ground.  In a situation where there is a high quantity of traffic and people can only be observed for a few seconds at a time, whether you are on the ground or elevated, the observations are still limited to these five basic behaviors.  It is for this reason that Marines, Soldiers, Police Officers and security professionals should always employ the Guardian Angel concept, keeping a team of observers in an elevated position to observe further out than the patrol on the ground can.  When you have the comfort of time and space, each additional domain of behavior observed will provide additional insight. However, since more time will be spent on patrol or walking a city’s streets, begin by ensuring that these five reliable cues are ones that you can make in any situation to improve your ability to orient on anomalies despite the inherent difficulty.

This Article Has Become Part Of An E-Book, You Can Download It Here

One For Contact – One For Cover

May 16, 2013 in Applying The Observations

Observing and Orienting In Conversation

The basic principle of “contact and cover” has been a mainstay of law enforcement training for decades.  The idea of one officer initiating the contact with a person and another officer(s) providing the cover for the contact officer has served law enforcement well in regard to force protection.  Savvy officers however, those trained in the art and science of behavior analysis and threat recognition, know that the cover officer’s role goes far beyond a simple show of force.  A properly trained cover officer can be a tremendous asset in observing the cues that are often indicative of a threat.

The purpose of the contact and cover approach is simple in nature.  While one officer (the contact officer) is conducting questioning, a pat-down or search, evidence collection, such as a breathalyzer, or taking a suspect into custody, the cover officer is positioned to view the suspect and take appropriate action as necessary to aid and protect the contact officer.  A suspect is less likely to launch an offensive attack on an officer when outnumbered.  In the event that a suspect does go on the offensive, either in an attempt to escape or do harm to the contact officer, the immediate presence of another officer keeps the odds on the side of law enforcement.  This, however, is only one dimension of the cover officer role and responsibility.

Experienced officers acting in the cover role realize that aiding and protecting the contact officer is more than simply standing by in the event that a physical confrontation develops, then providing the necessary use of force to overcome the resistance.  While that role is certainly important and should not be understated, that is only a part of the cover officer’s duties.  The contact officer, while concerned with a number of tasks such as questioning the subject, recording information, handling radio traffic, and a host of other duties, is not always capable of making the shrewd observations necessary to determine the subject’s true intentions.  The cover officer, while being offset from the contact officer and not bridled with the same responsibilities, can more closely observe the subject for critical cues associated with threat.  The cover officer can observe and assess subtle behaviors of the subject that the contact officer many times simply cannot.  A good cover officer recognizes their role in threat recognition based on the profiling domains of Kinesics, Biometrics, Proxemics and Iconography.

Many law enforcement contacts involve mere questioning of persons with no preconceived intent on the part of officers to take the subject into custody.  During this process, however, a skilled, well-trained cover officer will often times observe those biometric cues triggered by the limbic system associated with “flight or fight.”  With the rush of hormones such as adrenaline (epinephrine) norepinephrine and cortisol, the body displays visible signs of stress and prepares itself for action.  This may include increased heart rate, respiration, sweating, shaking, pupil dilation and blushing or paling.

These Biometric Cues are important observations for the cover officer to make.  Something has triggered a fight or flight response in the subject that calls for further examination.  Perhaps it was a “hot button” question or questions posed to the subject.  A careful review and follow-up of the questions asked (and the subject’s response) would clearly be in order.  The subject may have answered untruthfully, heightening his consciousness of guilt.  It may also mean the subject is preparing to launch a physical attack against the officers, or perhaps the subject is preparing to flee.

By continuing to view the subject through the remaining lenses of Kinesics, Proxemics and Iconography simultaneously, a clearer picture begins to emerge as to the subject’s true intentions.  Is the subject displaying Kinesic cues associated with flight or fight?  Are the feet oriented toward the officer, or facing slightly away, as if prepared to flee?  Is the subject attempting to pacify himself through the rubbing of his hands, running his hands through his hair, rubbing his neck or forehead, or engaged in repetitive movements such as bouncing his leg(s) or tapping his feet?  Is the subject slowly closing the distance with the contact officer, knowing that proximity negates skill?  Or perhaps he is slowing moving beyond the prescribed “arms length plus a foot” distance, hoping to advance his lead should he decide to run.  Has the subject taken on a look of “mission focus,” or is the subject looking past the officer as he scans for a likely escape route?  Finally, are there any signs, symbols, emblems, icons, tattoos or other markings that may give an indication of the subject’s affiliation, social standing, political, or religious views that may be consistent with anti-government, anti-law enforcement and/or general criminal behavior?

An astute cover officer who is properly trained can make these observations and far more, and can make the correct assessment of the subject’s intentions.  This allows for proper action on the officers part before the contact turns physical or the subject flees.   The aforementioned cues sometimes manifest themselves in very overt ways, thus not requiring special training to notice.  However, many more times the cues are far more subtle and varied, and must be viewed in the proper context only after a baseline of behavior has been established.

While it is always reassuring to have a cover officer present who has the physical strength and skill to overcome resistance or give foot chase when necessary, in my own experience, I always wanted more in a cover officer.  I’ll take the street savvy officer, well-trained, with all the accouterments of patrol work, including solid profiling skills.  Give me the cover officer who can keep me left of bang.

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