This video analysis is part of our recently released training center content.
*** The following is a transcription of a video that was done by Speechpad. We recommend that you watch the video, but if you prefer to read a transcription, please understand the difficulty in transcribing an unscripted presentation and ignore any grammatical errors that are unavoidable during such a transcription.
After I shoot a video that I’m going to use on either the journal’s practice pages for subscribers to practice establishing a baseline on, or for a class I’m about to teach, I go through a very systematic and detailed process to break down those videos after I shoot them. This is to make sure that the process that I’m using is thorough and I’m not missing anything within that video clip.
I want to pass this on to subscribers so you guys can take video of the areas that are important to you, so you can go through whether it’s surveillance footage or something that you shoot yourself, and establish a baseline for the different areas that you operate in, the same way that we do them here on the journal pages.
I like video because it provides a way to go through in a very repetitious manner to either focus on specific behaviors that we’re looking to observe or build habits out of processes that we need to observe the people that are around us. And recognize criminals whether that’s here in the states or insurgents and terrorists overseas.
The reason I go through a very systematic process is because when I come home after shooting the video, I usually have no idea what’s on the clip itself. Which is the reason I start by watching the video through its entirety three different times. I’m usually so focused on the people that are around me are trying to not get caught filming one of these public areas that I usually don’t know what’s on the video itself until I come home and watch it.
The reason I go through the video three times when I first start analyzing and assessing the behaviors that are shown on the video is because I want to focus on three different sections of the clip. The first time through, I focus only on the people and the objects and behaviors that are closest to the camera. The second time through, I’ll identify a middle section of the clip. And the third time through I’ll focus only on the people and behaviors; everything that is going on at the deepest part of the clip.
And I do this for a reason. As I’m trying to focus on the people that are a little deeper into the frame. If I was to get distracted by something that’s occurring closer to me, I might miss some important cues that are going on the backside of the clip. And so, by focusing only on one of these three sections at a time, I make sure that nothing happens and I’m observing all the behaviors, all the people throughout the entire clip.
Once I go through and watch it three times and have a good understanding of what’s happening throughout this video, I go through a very systematic process which you may have seen in some of the practice videos for establishing a baseline. The first thing I do here is I’m trying to establish a baseline and I’m simply asking myself, “What’s going on in this frame?” That’s what’s normal here, that’s what the baseline is. So, I start by just asking myself “What’s going on in this clip?” There’s a few different things that I look at in order to establish that baseline.
The first thing I do when I come into an area is I’m looking at is what we classify as the collective mood of everyone and everything present. If you downloaded the cluster cards from the CPJ Library, you can see that all of the different observations that we make, whether we’re observing individuals or how people relate to their surroundings. And in this situation, how people relate to the collective mood of everyone present.
I start off by making observations that you’ll see under either positive or negative atmospherics that are listed on the “other indicators” section. I’m looking to see noise level. The sense of cleanliness, the order, the disorder, the activity level of what’s going on in this area. This is something that you observe naturally and intuitively when you come into a new area. It lets you make very quick assessments about how people are perceiving their personal safety.
Once I make a quick judgment about the atmospherics of the area, I then move up on that card and look at all the observable domains of behavior, all the indicators that I should see if it’s positive or negative atmospherics. These become my expectations. So, in my first, real search through the scene, I’m looking to see if everyone here clearly matches the behaviors that I’m looking for in positive atmospheres. Or I’m looking to see if anyone clearly stands out from that anticipated and expected baseline.
Because this is not very thorough at this point, it’s going to be a very hasty search. I’m looking for the people who will very clearly stand out from the baseline. So, before I spend time going into a more detailed and dedicated search of the area, I need to know if there are possible threats that I need to focus my attention on right away.
Once I have done that first search, that hasty search using the atmospherics, I’m now ready to go in and begin to establish a more detailed baseline. To do this, I’m going to look at the process and the patterns that people establish and people display when they come into that area. To set this up, I take a look at the area as a whole. I’m determining if the place that I’m in is a habitual area or an anchor point. If it is either one, I’m looking to see if there’s any smaller anchor points within this setting, I then need to be aware of, I need to take into consideration. I’m looking at the pathways. How are people moving about the area? This lets me starts to figure out once someone comes into this area, where are they going and how are they getting there?
Now that I have this layout, I go into the very detailed and systematic search of the process that people go through. If you’re to look at either the Starbucks video or the McDonald’s video or really, any of the clips that we have on the journal pages, you’ll see that I establish a process. First, a person does this. Then, they move to here. Then they go on to step three, step four, and they ultimately leave the area. This is going to provide the context that I need to begin observing very specific elements of behavior.
I’m going to go through and watch all of the people coming through in each of those different steps in the process and identify a cluster of behavior that fits the people that I’m observing. People in line are very comfortable in this setting. When people order, I’m looking for dominant behavior. I’m looking for what’s normal, using one of the clusters of individual behavior to again, establish this baseline.
This first question of what’s going on here. As you’ll see in the practice and the baseline videos, this is Monday and Tuesday of the week. This is the first step, the first thing I’m asking myself. “What’s going on here?” I’m looking at it from the customer perspective. If you apply this concept overseas, you’re not looking for threats right now, you’re not looking for what the criminal is doing, you’re looking to assess what the population, what the civilians are doing. So, in case they have an advanced warning on something or say they know a threat or an attack is imminent, their behavior might help you realize that there’s something wrong before you’ve identified that criminal, that attacker themselves. So, this first part of the process lets me really focus on the customers – the people who are interacting with this environment who don’t work there, who aren’t there all the time. That’s the first step.
Once we get to Wednesday, when I start to break down the video, the next layer of observations that I’m making, I’m just simply asking myself “What am I missing by only looking at the customers? What am I missing when I’m looking only at the people who have entered this bar or this restaurant to sit down and eat?” I start by looking at who has access to the different areas. If there’s an anchor point; customers are not allowed to go behind the McDonald’s counter. I’m looking to see the people who can go behind the counter into that anchor point. What are they wearing? How are they behaving? How is their presence responded to by the people who are already within that anchor point?
This is going to let me focus my observations a little bit more on not only the customer side of the equation, but the complete picture. I’m looking to see who is familiar or unfamiliar with the area. Sometimes, this relates just to customers. Sometimes, this observation relates to everyone involved. But I’m starting to look at who’s familiar, who’s unfamiliar? Who’s in the crowd of people? And then just starting to ask myself why? Why are these behaviors important? Why is this person’s presence important here?
And by answering all these different questions on what’s going here and what am I missing, I’m starting to, again, systematically build my understanding. And at this point, it’s become a pretty complete, pretty in-depth understanding of what’s normal in this environment.
Once I know what’s normal here, I can now begin to focus my observation on who stands out? This is a bit of a trick when it comes to video because I didn’t contact, I didn’t recognize any anomalies while I was there or filming it. Otherwise, I would’ve tried to find a reason to contact them and confirm my observations. Because I’m looking at the people around me, I’m trying not to get punched in the face while I’m recording people in this public area, I don’t have the ability to confirm any of the anomalies that I find once I’m watching it in a video. But I want to complete the process because as we start to make this a habit, once we establish a baseline, we’re now going to begin proactively hunting for that anomaly. And I want to make sure I’m building this part of the observation process into my habits, so that I can do it intuitively and quickly when I’m on scene and I’m doing this in real situations.
So, as I watch the video, I’m just looking for an anomaly. I’m going through this process of how people are behaving in each step along the way. And I’m looking for one person who stands out. I’m going to then communicate specifically why. Why did this person attract my attention? And then communicate using as many of the terms, as many cues as possible to explain why this person stood off in the baseline.
We live in a day and age where simply identifying someone as an anomaly is not good enough anymore. We have to be able to communicate why. We have to justify our actions. And so this is part of the process and part of the learning of making sure that once I identify an anomaly, I’m communicating very specifically, using the scientific terms that we talked about on the site or in class to justify why this person attracted my attention.
Again, one of the reasons we use behavior analysis is because we’re not focused on race, we’re not focused on religion. We’re not focused on any of those inaccurate indicators. We’re looking at how behavior causes us to focus on specific people.
Once I’ve identified an anomaly and once I’ve justified my reason why, I’m now going to begin preparing for the contact. So, if I was in person, if I was observing this in real time, what information could I pick up about that person that I could use to establish some control questions or create a reason for approaching that? I’ll watch the video through and I’m focused only on this one person. I’m trying to find every fact that I can about this person. Why are they there? What sort of behavior have they been exhibiting? What type of clothing are they wearing? Do they have any tattoos that show me their beliefs or affiliations? Do they have kids with them? Are they with a group of people?
All the different things that I can pull and assess about this one person. So, if I was to go contact them, I’m incorporating behavior into my actual observation and decision-making process. We’re not observing for the sake of observation. The goal is to use this as part of our normal, operational routines when we’re on patrol, when we’re on the streets. When we’re observing and trying to search for those threats.
So, I make sure that as I’m going through this process, I’m doing everything as I would if it was in real-life. So, that we’re building those good, solid-habits that when we’re out there, we’re not forgetting things, we’re not trying to shortcut the process unnecessarily.
This takes us through Monday through Thursday of the different observations we make each day of the week in the baseline videos. Friday is a chance for you to go from making these observations in front of a computer, on your iPad, however you’re watching this video. And take those observations from theory and make them practical for you. If we’re observing the McDonald’s scenario, go to a fast food restaurant that’s near you. Burger King, a KFC, a Taco Bell, whatever it is. Take this baseline that we’ve established over the course of the week and go out to this area and confirm what we’ve identified, the behaviors that we observe and see how they apply in your specific setting.
There are some things that are going to be similar, some things that are going to be different. The goal is to figure out how this applies to your life and the areas that you visit. And if you only look at it on video, if you never take it to the areas that you actually visit, you might never transition this concept into your long-term memory as part of that process of your observation. So, make sure that once you’re done watching the video Friday or over the weekend, go out to the field, go to these areas and practice making the observations.
There’s a few reasons we go through this process. One, we can talk about mental priming. And so, by reading through this baseline before you go to the area, you’re preparing yourself, mentally, to start observing. That helps. We start to systematically build the file folders for specific cues that we want to observe. And not only those specific cues, but also, the process of observing an area so that we can do it as effectively as possible.
As I mentioned, the goal of all of this is not for you just to come to the site and practice on the videos that we have, but also, to take these skills and these observations. And use them to pass on these lessons to maybe some of the officers that you recruit or are mentoring. Make yourself more effective on patrol. And that’s going to require some effort on your part to practice over and over and over again.
So, by outlining this process, you can take the video that you have of your area. Whether that’s here in the states or somewhere overseas or take surveillance footage of building that your task was securing. And establishing a baseline for that area, so you can begin to notice all the different cues that might cause someone to stand out.
As you’re going through it, there’s a few keys to success that I want to bring up to make sure you’re getting the most out of your video, getting the most of how you break down a video. The first is to establish a baseline. We always want to find the criminal. That’s the goal. We want to find that attacker before they conduct the attack. And behavior will cause them to stand out from the baseline but to stand out, you have to stand out from something. That is that baseline.
So, the more time we spend building our habits, on establishing a baseline, going through this process of a hasty search and then a deliberate search through the areas. We’re going to build a foundation we need to do this very quickly and very accurately. We don’t want to spend an unnecessary amount of time when we’re on scene analyzing the baseline. That’ll take too long and we risk a criminal observing us before we can identify him. So, by doing this ahead of time, by going through this process and videos, make sure that you’re using the building habits and building that foundation, so you can do this very quickly and very accurately once you’re on scene.
The second key to success here is use the cluster cards. Download them from the CP Journal’s library and here’s why. Let’s say you’re observing a video and you recognize someone as uncomfortable. You probably have a couple of cues from the uncomfortable cluster that you pick up on very quickly. And there’s probably some other cues that the person is giving off that you haven’t noticed; they’re not the observations that you routinely make.
So, by going down the list of possible observations that relate to uncomfortable behavior, as you’re observing that person, you’re going to start to pick up on more and more cues that cause you to classify them as uncomfortable. This helps you in other settings when maybe you’re preferred observation is not there. But you notice one of the more minor cues that you started to learn and build on through the videos.
So, make sure you use the cluster cards. They’re always being updated to make sure they have as many observations as possible. And the goal is to really build a file folder not just for one specific cue that you’re comfortable with. But for as many possible cues, so you can recognize the behavior and classify it, again, as quickly and as accurately as you can.
The third thing is, you want to be objective when you’re looking at people. When you find the anomaly and you start to communicate what’s causing them to stand out, you’re going to be tempted to start to look for the cause, the reason their behaviors attracted your attention. If you only look at uncomfortable people and say, “They’re uncomfortable because they are not familiar with this area. They’ve never been in this food court before. They don’t travel often, so they stand out in a baseline for an airport.”
And if you only look at non-criminal reasons why someone might behaving that way, you’ll never see why someone would act that way for criminal reasons. And at the same time, if you look at every single person’s who’s uncomfortable and say, “That’s a threat. They’re trying to conceal their intentions. They’re smuggling some sort of weapon. They’re trying to avoid detection and they’re very uncomfortable because of it.” If you only look at it through the lens of “Everyone’s a criminal,” you’ll never see the people who are behaving that way without that criminal intent.
Look at every observation that you make from both lenses. This is going to help you be very objective when you’re looking at the reasons, the causes, the triggers that are triggering the behavior that you’re actually observing. Especially when you’re going through a video. When you don’t have the ability to confirm your observations. When you don’t have the ability to contact someone and try to determine why they’re behaving a certain way. This is absolutely important.
So, that, again, as you build the habits, you’re much more relaxed when you’re watching it on video. You can think through the process, think through the reasons in a much more coherent way than you can when you’re on scene, when there is more stress. When you’re trying to do things in real-time. So, make sure that when you’re doing the video, you’re being as objective as possible.
The goal of all this as I said, is to master the process. And that’s why we keep putting videos up. So far, it’s been mostly habitual areas that we’ve established the baseline for. But we’re beginning to build some videos now for anchor points so that we can establish that practice and establish that baseline for as many of the different areas that you visit. We want to make this a process, so that we can take something we learn and really make it a habit in front of the computer when there is no threat to us. So, when we’re on scene, we can do it very quickly and very accurately.
By making this a process and making sure it’s repeatable, this allows us to make sure that as we go through these videos, we’re not missing anything. So, when we’re tired, when we’re hungry, when we have the tendency to take a mental shortcut and skip over something. By going through a detailed process, especially when we’re practicing, we make sure that we’re not taking those shortcuts and making a mistake, that can have some serious consequences when we’re doing it on scene. So, make sure, especially in video that you’re going through a full, repeatable process.
The other reason is thorough. As I said, we’re not missing anything. You’re looking at all the behaviors, all the people through these clips to make sure that you’re not only focusing on the very obvious people. You’re also identifying the subtleties that again, could help you go from observing the area as a whole, to focusing on the specific people who require your attention. And the more often you do that, as you build those file folders, as you build that database of experience that lets you recognize people and predict their actions very quickly, it’s a process that can become very fast. It’s a process that can become very intuitive. But it takes practice, it takes some dedicated practice to make this a habit.
And once it’s a habit and you’re doing this both consciously and unconsciously, taking your lessons from the computer and applying them in the field, that’s when this is going to really pay off for you. So, you can quickly establish here’s what’s normal, here’s the baseline, here’s what’s going on in this scene. And the more quickly you can do that, the faster you are of identifying that baseline, the sooner you’ll be able to turn your attention to really looking for the anomaly. Who stands out from this crowd and really putting the opportunity in your hands instead of the criminals’ hands to identify them before they can identify you or before they can conduct their attack.
Especially as you’re taking something that’s perhaps a new skill for you, behavioral analysis. Looking at not only the behaviors, but understanding what’s causing them. It’s very important that you go through a very systematic and dedicated process, so, you can really take this from the computer, from the safety of your home or your office and do it in real-time and be as effective as possible on the streets. Thank you,
Patrick Van Horne is the CEO of
Active Analysis Consulting and
the President of The CP Journal
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