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, and I usually put it in the framework of Cooper’s Color Code. It allows us of structure the different levels of awareness that every person has as they go throughout their day. Cooper’s Color Code identifies five different states, five different conditions of the various degrees of awareness that a person might shift through throughout the day. Originally it was created by Marine Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Cooper but since then Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman has done an incredible amount of research that’s really backed up some of these observations, and it will show how we apply Cooper’s Color Code and these states of awareness to being proactive in reading behavior and recognizing criminals.

So really quickly I just want to go through each of the five different conditions and explain how it relates to being proactive while we are out on the street trying to find criminals.

The first condition that he talks about in Cooper’s Color Code, he refers to as condition white. A person who is in condition white has zero situational awareness. These are people who are driving down the highway, doing the speed limit in the left lane and have no idea that there is a line of cars of people trying to pass them. These are the people walking down the sidewalk with their faces buried in their cell phones, texting away. They have no idea that they are running into people or are about to walk into the middle of the street. A person who is in condition white is completely unprepared to deal with a threat should one arise, because they are not looking for anything. They are consumed in their own little world. Obviously, for security providers at any level, whether it’s private security, or law enforcement, or military, we never want to be in condition white, because if we are, and a threat does present itself, we have no chance of actually being able to be proactive or respond ahead of time.  From condition white, we escalate up to what’s referred to as Condition Yellow.

Condition Yellow is a relaxed alert. This is when a security provider, a security professional, knows that there are threats out there, knows that there are criminals out there that they should be looking for, but they haven’t found anything specific just yet. These are the people who are alert, they are aware, they are assessing their surroundings, and they are looking for the criminal but have not yet found something to really focus their attention on. Once that person has found something to focus their attention on, they shift from Condition Yellow into Condition Orange.

Condition Orange is what we refer to as a specified alert. You’ve identified something that stands out, whether it’s a person, an object, or a situation, you’ve identified something wrong, and you’ve started to create a plan for how you are going to deal with it in your head. Once you’ve created that plan, you shift from Condition Orange into Condition Red.

Condition Red is when you are executing that plan. Whatever it is that you have determined, however you thought was the best way to deal with the situation, in Condition Red, you’re actually taking action on it. From Condition Red, the last possible condition in the system is Condition Black.

Condition Black is when a person has become overwhelmed by the events, overwhelmed by the actions that are taking place. And has essentially experienced complete mental and physical breakdown. A person in Condition Black has the same level of awareness as a person who is in Condition White, but it’s for a different reason. It’s because they have essentially gone back internal.

How informed awareness relates to these five conditions can be identified by looking at the relationship between Conditions yellow, orange, and red. If a person is the most well-intentioned security, law enforcement, military professional out there, they are out there, they’re looking for threats, but if they don’t know what to look for, if they don’t know what makes someone a threat, what makes someone stand out from the crowd other than actually seeing a gun or seeing a weapon, they are never going to go into Condition Orange. They are going to go from Condition Yellow, right into Condition Red, and soon as they see that gun, they are now going to be reacting. There was no advanced warning. There was no planning time. There was no chance to set the conditions for success. They are simply responding and reacting to whatever it is that that criminal is doing.

The reason that we talk about behavioral analysis and identifying other indicators other than actually seeing a gun or other than actually seeing a weapon is because if we can teach someone what makes someone a threat, we can escalate from Condition Yellow into a Condition Orange. And whether it’s only a few seconds, or a few minutes, or a few hours, any time Condition Orange allows us to be proactive, it allows us to create that plan that we need in order to take action on our terms, and dictate to the enemy or dictate to the criminal how the situation is going to go down.

If we go from yellow to orange and then to red, we have now created that capability. But it all comes back to this first level. You have to know when you should start planning. You have to know when to start executing those plans and calling in backup or taking whatever action is necessary. When we look at behavioral analysis by identifying what a person’s intentions are, by getting away from looking for the variables that exist across all of these attacks, and focusing on the one and only constant; identifying those people with violent intentions, that is what is going to allow us to get into Condition Orange, and now make that jump from yellow right to red. This is the relationship between being proactive and being reactive on the street.

If we are left of bang, it means that we are being proactive. It means that we have identified some cue that alerted us to focus our attention on a specific person. It’s when we miss those cues that we end up being right of bang, when we’re reacting to the enemy. There are other companies out there that are very good in teaching people how to be better at being right of bang. It’s an essential capability, the quicker you can end some of these shootings, obviously you’ll save more lives than if the situation goes on indefinitely. The focus of our company, the focus of our programs though is to offer the opportunity to get left of bang, to teach people what to look for that allows them to be more aware of their surroundings, and to prevent violent acts from occurring.

Somewhere between 60% and 90% of all communication is non-verbal. Now depending on what study and research you believe is the most accurate. And regardless of where in that spectrum you believe is the most accurate representation of non-verbal behavior, an incredible majority of all communications are non-verbal. Yet in school, we’re taught to read, write and speak English, but we’re never taught how to read behavior, and when we’re making decisions without these indicators, without taking nonverbal behavior into account, we’re very naïvely making decisions without having that majority of all of the information that is available. And so when we talk about creating informed awareness, that’s why we choose behavioral analysis, because we can reduce the level of uncertainty that police, military, and security professionals have in their jobs by teaching them how to define the human terrain. How to define the people that are coming into the building that you are tasked with protecting. Or when you’re going on patrol, and you have to assess those people who are approaching, to determine very quickly and very accurately if that person intends to do harm to you or not.

So when we talk about informed awareness, we use it because there is no silver bullet. There is no one single indicator that if you see it, it’s an absolute indicator that the person intends to harm others or intends to commit some sort of crime. But if, by creating informed awareness, we empower our students to make those decisions on their own. We’re teaching them what to look for and then we can let them use their own judgment, and rely on their own experience to determine how best to deal with that person. But the earlier that we can put them into Condition Orange, the longer they have to actually fall back on the other training that they’ve gotten, and determine the best way to actually deal with that threat.

So when we take a look at behavioral analysis in general or the tactical analysis program, where we teach students how to go through the four different pillars of observable behavior and how to integrate that very fluidly into our decision making ability when we’re on the street, when we don’t have access to a computer and Google searches to determine what it is that we are looking at. When we have to rely on the judgments and observations that that individual officer is making, the more that informed his observations are, the more accurate that his decisions will be, and ultimately that is the goal of all of the programs that we have is to create that level of informed awareness.