Last week, I had the privilege of conducting a webinar with the Boston Chapter of the FBI’s Citizen’s Academy Alumni Association, where I could talk about how security professionals and concerned citizens could enhance their situational awareness to proactively recognize threats and get left of bang. In case you missed it or would like to learn more about our behavioral approach to recognizing violent people before an attack begins, you can watch the video here.
We ran out of time at the end of the presentation preventing a live Q and A with the attendees, so we have answered all of the questions that we received during the webinar here as well. We received some incredible questions, which allowed us to talk about how behavioral analysis supports acceleration through the OODA loop, learning where and how to begin your search for violent people, and the decisions that are available to people once they have recognized a criminal trying to hide amongst the crowd.
With nearly 20 questions that we answered and a transcript of an hour long presentation, this post became quite long, so we have put together a table of contents here so that you can find the section you are searching for. If our responses to the questions below creates follow on questions, please feel free to let us know by contacting us.
If you prefer to read a transcript of the talk instead of watching the video, scroll to the section below the last question labeled “Transcript” to be at the beginning of the speaking notes.
A Note On Questions
As we consolidated the questions that were asked, we realized that a number of them were about related topics, so if you don’t see the exact question that you asked in the following list, look for a related topic as it was likely rolled into that question.
- Question #1: Of the four pillars of behavior, what is the 4th one?
- Question #2: As a concerned citizen one of the main things I am interested in is identifying a threat that might be selecting me for a violent attack. How would you use these concepts to do this?
- Question #3: How would the concept of Left of Bang blend with the OODA Loop?
- Question #4: What is the first or series of steps to take should you feel that something is moving toward bang? More specifically, what exactly can I do if I assess a threat?
- Question #5: Would you shoot to kill an active shooter in a mall or office if you had a good chance to do so?
- Question #6: Is there a way to use the Six Domains after a baseline is established to narrow down what we are looking at to just aggressive clusters?
- Question #7: How can organizations get more information, schedule a presentation or receive additional training?
- Question #8: There is always a concern about the cost for prevention and how to quantify the need for budgeting/spending on prevention measures, how do you address this concern?
- Question #9: Can you comment on how law enforcement feels about having citizens with a CCW trying to assist?
- Question 10: Can you apply the “Four Pillars of Observable Behavior” to the Colorado movie theater shooting?
- Question #11: Would the person leaving the theater have been the “alarm” or the noteworthy behavior? If so, what could have been done?
- Question #12: If you can address the Colorado shooting would that person have been paying attention to the screen or be having a different attitude or clear visual that we would look for.
- Question #13: Are there specific things we can use in event/large public venue situations?
- Question #14: Where can we obtain a copy of the book?
- Question #15: Which of the courses offered by The CP Journal are most appropriate for concerned citizens?
- Question #16: What if the threat is the one nearest to you, e.g., a best friend of 30 years?
- Question #17: How long will it take for a person to become proficient at behavioral analysis?
- Question #18: How fast can anomalies be recognized in a crowd?
- Question #19: If I have a question after I read the answers to the questions that were provided, how can I ask that question in the future?
Questions and Answers
Question #1: Of the four pillars of behavior, what is the 4th one?
Answer: The 4th pillar of behavior is the way that we assess the collective mood. If you would like information about all four pillars of observable behavior, you can find that in this article here.
Question #2: I have read Left of Bang and find the topic extremely interesting. As a concerned citizen one of the main things I am interested in is identifying a threat that might be selecting me for a violent attack. How would you use these concepts to do this?
Answer: First, thank you for the interest. Second, the way that we recommend that people look for criminals who may have identified them as the target of their attack or crime is to begin your observations by assessing the intentions of the people who are approaching you. The very last thing that an attacker has to do before launching their assault is to physically close the distance between themselves and their intended target, meaning their behavior during that approach is the last opportunity we have left of bang to separate them from the crowd they are trying to hide amongst. Here is an article that elaborates on why this is the case.
Use the Baseline + Anomaly = Decision structure to use this observation. The baseline for people approaching you is the comfortable cluster. This is because of the reasons why a person is proxemically pulled towards a person or an object are positive in nature. When a person is approaching you with a violent purpose (a negative outcome for you), their intent could be identified if you observe a person displaying the dominant, uncomfortable or submissive clusters.
You should always keep in mind the potential non-violent causes for a behavior that you observe as well as violent causes as you look to recognize threats, but when you observe one of those anomalous clusters, you can begin to create a plan for how you can confirm your assessment, force the potential attacker to react, leave the area or prepare for a confrontation.
Also, if you read Gavin de Becker’s great book Gift of Fear, he even provides advice to potential attackers that they should launch their assault the moment their target comes into view because every additional second that a situationally aware person is in the area, the likelihood of the attacker being identified and thwarted goes up. So in case criminals takes that advice, starting your search with the people approaching you accounts for those who are quickly moving into a position to strike can help you focus on the most important people first.
Question #3: How would the concept of Left of Bang blend with the OODA Loop?
Answer: This question is really important because oftentimes a criminal can identify their target more quickly than protectors can identify them, meaning that our process has to support the rapid and accurate execution of the OODA loop to prevent violence. The behaviors and the process written about in Left of Bang and taught in our training programs are designed to help a person accelerate through the OODA Loop.
During the “Observe Phase” of the OODA loop, this is where a person is taking in facts about the people and the situation they are in. Behavioral analysis supports this is by limiting the number of “facts” that you take in about the people around you to one of four options – the individual clusters (dominant, submissive, uncomfortable, comfortable). By:
- Focusing the search only on the behaviors that ultimately lead to assessing a person as being in one of those four clusters
- Stopping the search for information once you reach three behaviors (the number needed to build a cluster) and
- Limiting the options available to classify a person as only those four clusters
an alert observer can quickly move from the observe phase of the cycle into the orient phase more quickly than they would if there wasn’t the structure provided by the four clusters that we use to assess individual people.
During the “Orient Phase” of the OODA loop, where a person puts those facts collected in the observe phase into the context of the surroundings to make sense of them, our process is again designed to help a situationally aware person accelerate through this stage of the process. By using the other three pillars of behavior (how we assess groups of people, how we assess the environment, and how we assess the collective mood), we can very explicitly define what the baseline is for the area being observed. By quantifying the baseline using the observations from those three pillars of behavior, trained observers will be able to quickly determine which of the clusters identified during the observe phase of the cycle mean that someone is part of the baseline or which people are an anomaly that requires a decision. By making this sense-making process very specific and explicit, the protector can get into and out of the orient phase more quickly than they would if it was left of gut feelings.
During the “Decide Phase” of the OODA loop, we intentionally limit our decisions to four possible options that we present in a decision tree. What these decisions are is something that will be answered in Question #4, but by limiting the number of options that a protector has to choose from, the goal is to prevent hesitation at this stage so that you can move through this phase of the loop more quickly than you would if you had an unlimited number of options available.
How behavioral analysis supports acceleration through the OODA loop is the topic of a longer article that will be published in the coming weeks, but by defining observations and the context of situations explicitly, we can help a person go through the deliberate process during classroom and scenario based training exercises so that the process can be executed intuitively when in the protector is in the field and needs to rely on their recognition-primed decision-making ability to get to the “Act Phase” more quickly than their adversary.
Question #4: What is the first or series of steps to take should you feel that something is moving toward bang? More specifically, what exactly can I do if I assess a threat?
Answer: This answer depends on the your legal authority. When people select one of our training programs, we encourage them to consider the decisions that they will be allowed to make once they make it to the decision step of the Baseline + Anomaly = Decision structure we talked about in the webinar. For members of the military, our decision tree is based on the standing rules of engagement. For law enforcement, it is based on their legal authority provided by the constitution, and for a citizen who is not in one of those two roles, the criteria is determined by the “reasonable person” standard.
For citizens without legal authority to take action, we recommend that once a person recognizes the anomaly, they decide if they have to “control the person, call authorities, or contact the person to learn about the cause of their behavior.” If you believe that as you are moving towards bang that a threat is imminent and you have no choice other than physically restraining/attacking the offender to save your life or the life of someone else, than that is the first decision – do I have to control this person? If not, you downshift to the second option, which is whether you can call the authorities to deal with this person? If the threat you have perceived is not imminent, meaning that you don’t have to take action and there is time available for first responder to arrive, than make the decision to call 9-1-1. If however, you identify an anomaly and while they have attracted your attention, you aren’t sure that they are about to become violent, we encourage people to contact the anomaly and try to determine what has caused the person to behave through conversation.
For police officers and members of the military who have legal authority to take lethal action against others when dealing with an imminent threat to themselves or others, the decision tree that we teach for the final portion of the B+A=D formal is, “kill – capture – contact.” For the same reasons why citizens only consider the control decision when there is no other choice, the “kill” decision is treated the same way. The decision is only made when there is no other option to save your own life or the life of someone else. Making this decision means that you have taken the legal elements (Graham v. Connor) into consideration as well as the moral and ethical elements to the decision. When a “kill” decision is not needed, protectors should move down the decision tree to the other options for further consideration.
This “control-call-contact” or “kill-capture-contact” decision tree is designed to consider how likely you perceive a violent act to be, while also ensuring your personal safety while left of bang.
Question #5: Would you shoot to kill an active shooter in a mall or office if you had a good chance to do so?
Answer: First, please read the answer directly above this in Question #4. Second, if you have the legal authority to take lethal action against another person (assuming a police officer here), the goal is always to use the minimal amount of force needed to reduce the threat while not exposing yourself to unnecessary risk.
The authority figure must meet the legal standards outline in Graham v. Connor, as well as the moral and ethical components to making a decision to kill or use force against another person. Should the kill decision be made, in my opinion, which comes from a background in the military, is that you shoot to kill. If a trigger is pulled, it means that there were no other options available to protect your life or the life of someone else, so shooting warning shots is not an option.
If the person can be subdued with less-than-lethal force, than those non-lethal weapons should be used instead of a firearm.
Question #6: Is there a way to use the Six Domains after a baseline is established to narrow down what we are looking at to just aggressive clusters?
Answer: Yes. First, I’d recommend that you take a look at this article where we explain why we have changed the way we teach the behaviors from the “Six Domains” to the “Four Pillars.” It might provide more context to the following answer as we have found the four pillars to be a more effective grouping of observable behavior and supportive of rapid decision-making.
Let’s say you are observing an area with “positive atmospherics” as the collective mood. When this is the case, most of the people in the area should be displaying the “comfortable cluster.” The first scan of the area that you believe to have positive atmospherics should be to confirm this assessment by assessing that most people are displaying the comfortable cues that we would expect.
Once that baseline has been confirmed, our search is now focused solely on any behaviors that would show a person is not displaying comfort. Is there anyone here displaying dominance, discomfort, or submissiveness? We are limiting our search to only those behaviors that would make someone an anomaly. This technique of confirming the baseline and then only searching for the anomalous behavior can help limit the number of behaviors and cues that you are looking for in any given situation.
Question #7: How can organizations get more information, schedule a presentation or receive additional training?
Answer: The short answer is to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with some details about what you are looking for and someone from our company will respond and schedule a time to connect. You can also learn more about our training programs here.
Question #8: There is always a concern about the cost for prevention and how to quantify the need for budgeting/spending on prevention measures, how do you address this concern?
Answer: That is a tough issue to deal with especially because it is nearly impossible to quantify or prove that an attack didn’t occur because of the preventative measure as opposed to an assumption that the building/person/area was never targeted in the first place. The way that we usually discuss prevention is in relation to the risk formula.
If you were to use the formula for the risk of an event is the probability of the event occurring multiplied by the severity of the event should it occur, you have a formula that allows an organization to prioritize the many risks they face. If you look at prevention, what we are really talking about is the first part of that equation, the probability piece, whereas reactive security measures are focused on the second portion of the formula and attempting to lower the severity of an attack once it has begun. If you are focused on the right of bang portion, the severity, you can never reduce the risk of that event to zero because once an event has begun, the severity is already greater than zero. Focusing on prevention is the only way to actually that the risk of a specific event to zero by putting measures in place to prevent the event from ever beginning.
While there will always be crime and violence, the pursuit of making systematic progress against the likelihood of the event beginning is how to reduce the risk quantifiably closer to zero. What this pursuit does require, however, is a commitment from an organization’s leadership to say that a certain risk is simply unacceptable instead of pursuing a goal of reducing the risk of an attack to an “acceptable level.”
If you would like more about how we look at various security solutions and risk, you can read this article here.
Question #9: Can you comment on how law enforcement feels about having citizens with a CCW trying to assist?
Answer: No. Since I am not a police officer, I can’t speak for them. Choosing to assist is a decision that you, and you alone, will make if you find yourself in the middle of a violent event. In addition to considering the laws for the area you are in, keep in mind the dynamics that are in place when police officers respond to a call of an active shooter, for an example.
When a police officer first arrives on scene, they are operating with the highest degree of uncertainty that they will ever have while the event is on going. There is uncertainty about the environment, as it is unlikely the first responding officers will be intimately familiar with the location. There will uncertainty about the adversary situation, as it is likely to be unknown with absolute certainty where the shooter is, what they are armed with or how many shooters there are. There will also be uncertainty about the friendly situation, as many officers will be responding to an active shooter event, including plain-clothes officers who might be on scene already or in the act of responding. The impact that the adrenaline, dopamine and cortisol being dumped into the body of the officer while their body prepares to a fight in the face of such overwhelming uncertainty will place limitations on their cognitive abilities and the situational awareness of the responding protector.
When those first officers arrive, if they see a person dressed in street clothes holding a gun, and with no police badge visible, that citizen will immediately become the sole focus of their officer’s attention. This could easily cause the officer to mistakenly believe the citizen-helper is the actual shooter they are searching for. Additionally, while the officer’s attention is focused on that person trying to assist, both the officer and the citizen become exposed to a greater degree of risk of being attacked by the actual shooter, because the officer is no longer searching the area, but is in now focused on the person holding a gun – the false positive.
So while that decision will be made by the citizen who finds themselves in that type of situation, I would absolutely encourage them to not only consider the legal, moral and ethical elements of making of taking action, but also consider how your actions will be perceived by a responding officer who has mentally prepared themselves to deal with an active shooter. I’d encourage you to reach out to your local police department as their thoughts on the issue as the first responders might further inform your decision.
Question #10: Can you apply the “Four Pillars of Observable Behavior” to the Colorado movie theater shooting?
Answer: There were a number of questions that related to the baseline for a movie theater and what behaviors would make someone an anomaly in that section. Before I provide our answer, please understand that there is a certain hesitancy to conducting a post-event analysis in an event where so many people were killed. There is always a balance to be considered when discussing an event that turned violent while also ensuring that we learn from those events so that they don’t happen again. However, with a movie theater, we can establish the baseline for a theater using related examples, as the national movie theater chains are usually very similar from one location to the next.
As we go through this example, we recommend that you download our “Cluster Cards” from our behavioral library to help understand what we are observing for each of these assessments.
Here is how we would assess the baseline for a typical movie theater.
The Hasty Search:
The first thing that we would observe when walking into a movie theater is the collective mood to determine if there is anyone who obviously warrants our attention before moving on with a deliberate search for subtle behaviors. Typically, movie theaters are going to be characterized as having positive atmospherics. We would likely observe an area that is kept clean, showing that people have a sense of pride and ownership of the area, and a place that is orderly, leading us to assume that people have a general sense of safety and security in the area. This would lead us to assume the area has positive atmospherics.
After we make this assumption, we would do a scan of the area and likely observe that most people are displaying the comfortable cluster, allowing us to confirm our assessment that the area has positive atmospherics, leading to a baseline of Comfort.
We would do a second scan of the area to see if there is anyone displaying a high level of intensity of either the dominant cluster or the uncomfortable cluster as being an anomaly we would have to investigate before moving forward with the deliberate search.
The Deliberate Search
Here we assess the step by step process that a typical customer would go through upon going to the movie and assign a cluster of behavior to each of those steps to have more detailed information and subtle behavior to look for as a means of identifying an anomaly that might not present itself through the more rapid scan occurring in the hasty search.
- Enter movie theater
- Baseline: Unfamiliarity because of unknown situation inside of the movie theater.
- Wait in line to show ticket to attendant.
- Baseline: Comfortable cluster if line is spread out and moving quickly or uncomfortable if line is compressed or moving slowly.
- Show ticket to attendant and be granted access to anchor point.
- Baseline: Submissive cluster. Relying on attendant/ticket taker to grant access to the theater.
- Walk to specific theater within complex.
- Comfortable cluster as the moviegoer is excited about going to the movie.
- Note: This step could be expanded to account for moviegoers stopping at concession stand or restroom before entering theater.
- Find seat within theater.
- Baseline: Comfort if options for seats available. Uncomfortable if theater is full and limited seat selection making it difficult to establish a temporary anchor point.
- Watch movie
- Baseline: Dominance over seat/area. Interest should be focused on the screen as that is the reason/need they came to this area to fulfill.
- Notes: possible deviations could include leaving theater to go to restroom/concessions during movie.
- At the end of the movie –
- Baseline: People proxemically pushed from theater as they return to their anchor point (home or car for example).
The reason we go through both the hasty and deliberate search are to establish a deep and comprehensive baseline for the behaviors we would expect in a situation. An anomaly could present themselves or deviate from the baseline at any point in the process or attract your attention for any subtle deviation from what would be considered a “normal” moviegoer.
Question #11: Would the person leaving the theater have been the “alarm” or the noteworthy behavior? If so, what could have been done?
Answer: What would make him stand out is any deviation from the baseline we established above in Question #10. Leaving the theater could have been one of the indicators that there was something different about the soon-to-be-attacker than everyone else. If we were to establish the pattern of the typical moviegoer, it wouldn’t make sense for someone to leave the theater out the side door instead of going out the back of the theater to where the bathrooms and concessions are located.
Additionally, a movie-theater is an anchor point, meaning it is a point that not just anyone can come or go from when they please. Anchor points are places where you have to meet some form of pre-existing criteria to enter. At a movie theater, that means you have to have a ticket to the movie and you must enter through the front of the theater where there is a security presence (the attendant) to control who is allowed inside and who is not.
As the attacker propped the door open with a plastic tablecloth holder was, in hindsight, an indicator that he planned to re-enter the anchor point by bypassing the security measures in place. If that behavior is observed, I’d look at the control, call, contact decisions that we outlined in Question # 4. Maintaining the exclusivity of an anchor point is a responsibility of everyone, and should you see someone break from the pattern, that might be the only information you need to enter in Condition Orange and beginning thinking through what you would do in that situation.
For additional reading, I recommend the following article about ensuring the credibility of anchor points in school settings: School Security: A Dangerous Contradiction.
Question #12: If you can address the Colorado shooting would that person have been paying attention to the screen or be having a different attitude or clear visual that we would look for.
Answer: Once you identify a behavior or an action that doesn’t fit the baseline, one of the first things that I consider is the amount of time I have available before making a decision (view Question #4 for more information). Assuming that you are in a situation that doesn’t require an immediate decision and have time on your side, I immediately begin thinking about intentions. Why is this person here? Why does their behavior not fit the baseline? What does their behavior reveal about why they are here? If a person is in a movie theater and not paying attention to the movie, their reason for being here is different than everyone else’s. Where their attention is focused could be a cue, in fact there is a picture of the two Boston Marathon bombers who are the only two people in the crowd looking in the opposite direction of everyone else waiting at the finish line. In hindsight, we know that is because they weren’t there to watch the runners, as was the case with the other people in the crowd.
But don’t limit yourself to just that one element. Look for any behavior that deviates from the baseline that we established in Question #10 as an indicator that would help you identify a person who is not there for the same reason (with the same intent) as everyone else.
Question #13: Are there specific things we can use in event/large public venue situations?
Answer: Yes. The specific things that would attract your attention are always things that deviate from the baseline for the event or the area you are in. Since being an anomaly is always a relative term, we can’t tell you what is going to make someone stand out, but we can teach you how to define what is normal, and then you can determine the indicators that make someone an anomaly for yourself.
I’d recommend reading the previous three questions and answers. The hasty and deliberate searches are how we establish a baseline for an area. Let’s say that your baseline is people displaying the comfortable cluster, than the specific things you would look for are people displaying the dominant, uncomfortable, or submissive clusters. If the baseline is people who are uncomfortable (think about the people waiting at an airport baggage claim or in an emergency room waiting area), then the specific things you would look for in that area are the dominant, submissive, and comfortable clusters as those would be anything different than the baseline of discomfort.
If you would like some additional practice, you can take a look at this practice video, where we establish the baseline for a McDonalds.
Question #14: Where can we obtain a copy of the book?
Question #15: Which of the courses offered by The CP Journal are most appropriate for concerned citizens?
Answer: We recommend that concerned citizens looking to improve their situational awareness go through either our “Security” focused program or “School” focused program. You can learn more about them here. The reason for that recommendation is because of the decisions that are taught to our students once they recognize a threat are more applicable in those programs than what we teach in the either the military or law enforcement programs.
The difference between the security and school programs is very minor, with different case studies and examples used. Whereas the security program is more broadly applicable to ensuring your safety in public areas, the school program focuses those case studies on educational institutions from the elementary through university level.
For additional reading, I recommend this article, “Which Training Program Is Right For Me?”
Question #16: What if the threat is the one nearest to you, e.g., a best friend of 30 years?
Answer: There are three pieces to the threat management process. There is threat recognition, which is done to identify all of the potential people that might pose a risk. There is the threat assessment phase, which confirms the threats identified in the recognition stage or eliminates the person as being a “false-positive.” And finally, there is the threat management phase, where the positive threats identified in the assessment step are put into a management process to reduce the risk they present.
Where we primarily focus our time here at The CP Journal is on the threat recognition portion of the process. It sounds like you may be into the second or third step. What I would like to do is connect you with a professional from the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP) who will be better qualified than I am in this area.
If you could please send an email to email@example.com, reference this question in the body of the email and provide a bit of context, we will get to work right away connecting you with a Threat Assessment/Threat Management professional.
Question #17: How long will it take for a person to become proficient at behavioral analysis?
Answer: There are two components to learning behavioral analysis; the first is how quickly a person learns to recognize the observations that go into each of the four pillars of behavior. Much like learning any new skill, this is a matter of repetition, dedicated practice and a commitment to learning.
The second component relates to mastering the process of establishing baselines and deliberately searching for anomalies. While at first, this might seem a bit unnatural, but much like driving was unnatural for the new driver at first, it very quickly becomes a normal part of the routine with practice.
Question #18 : How fast can anomalies be recognized in a crowd?
Answer: If you have ever walked into an elevator or a nightclub and said “I’ve got a bad feeling,” and didn’t go in, than you have seen that these recognitions can be immediate. If you have ever walked into a room and after once glance at your spouse or children, you realize that there is something going on based on a facial expression or the way they are sitting, than you know that you can trust these rapid recognitions.
The reason why we make the process of establishing a baseline so explicit and enforce the observation of the behaviors that make up the four pillars is because through that process, we can talk through, simulate and analyze the component parts to a large situation. By doing that, we are in turn priming the brain to recognize certain behaviors that stand out so that you can trust your intuition when you get that immediate sense that there is something wrong about a person or a situation.
This process of intuitive decision-making is also referred to as recognition-primed decision-making, which you can learn more about in this article.
Question #19: If I have a question after I read the answers to the questions that were provided, how can I ask that question in the future?
Answer: We will happily answer any questions that you have, please send us an email by filling out the form on our “Contact Us” page.
Christopher: Okay, let’s get started. Hello and welcome to the first and hopefully many educational sessions on threat preparation. My name’s Christopher DiCenso, I’m a member of the Boston chapter of the FBI Citizen’s Academy Alumni Association and our goal today is to share with you, through Patrick, insights on how you can improve your situation awareness and, if needed, prevent a threat against you or our communities.
Now we’ve conducted three in-person active shooter workshops here in the Boston area over the past two years and the topics have ranged from preparing for a threat to after a threat has occurred, how to deal with it. Lately we’ve been focusing more on situational awareness, which is what the topic is today. So we hope you enjoy it, and if you do, we’ll conduct more of these.
To give you a little sense, we have over, let’s see here, 500 people attending, registration list had over 46 states, including Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and Canada. As I look at the registration list, we had many chiefs of police, business owners, presidents, campus safety officers, federal, local and state law enforcement, a lot of directors of security for banks, hotels, churches, and retail organizations. But I must say what I really enjoyed seeing is many registered as concerned citizens and the woman who listed her organization as Neighborhood Watch Group and her title was housewife.
Let me tell you a little about the FBI Citizen’s Academy, if I can get my screen to advance, there we go. We’re a private non-profit community outreach organization promoting a safer community and a positive image of law enforcement. Today’s webinar is one way through this education that we try to build safer communities. I’d also like to thank all the chapters that helped to promote today’s event. There are actually 62 chapters across the United States, we have 24,000 active members, which is a lot, and most likely there’s a Citizen’s Academy near you. If you want to learn more, you can go to the FBI Boston website or our national website. There’s some links there that will help you out on that.
Sponsors, I want to thank our sponsors. Securitas has been sponsoring the Boston chapter for many years, especially of our active shooter workshops, so please consider Securitas if you have any protective or preventative needs. And I’d also like to thank Patrick and The CP Journal for providing today’s session. Patrick actually spoke at one of our active shooter events, our in-person events, last year, and so I know you’re going to like today’s session. The other thing that Patrick probably won’t tell you, but he has a great online training program, so if you like what you’ve seen today and want to learn more, you can go online and find that. So let me do this now. I want to introduce Patrick.
While we’re getting your presentation to come up, I noticed there was probably almost a two-second delay as I was doing my slides here. But let me introduce Patrick. As I mentioned earlier, he presented at our in-person workshop last year, and we’re very happy to have him here speaking today. He’s the founder and the CEO of The CP Journal based out of Boulder, Colorado. In his role, he designs and delivers educational programs and behavioral analysis, decision-making, and proactive threat recognition for our nation’s protectors and public security professionals.
Prior to starting his company, Patrick served as an infantry officer in the Marines for seven years, thank you very much, completing two deployments to Iraq. And after serving a number of command and leadership roles, he became the officer in charge for training team within the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program out of Camp Pendleton, California. It was in this last role that Patrick teamed up with legendary military author Steven Pressfield and the co-author of the book, Jason Riley, to publish Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life. This was to help people recognize dangerous individuals and violent situations before an attack begins. I will add on a little personal note. Patrick is recently engaged, so congratulations to you, Patrick, and your future bride.
Patrick: Thank you very much, Chris. Thank you for the introduction and for having me today. And also thank you to everyone who took the time to really tune into this webinar. We have seen that people are joining from around the country and I know how busy everyone is, so I certainly appreciate your time and effort to learn what it takes to get left of bang and actually prevent violence from happening. We will talk more about what that phrase means as we go through this presentation. But for public safety professionals, law enforcement officers, corporate security providers, and concerned citizens to really fulfill the expectations that the public has for us, we need to change the way we think about how we approach recognizing threatening people.
So take for example the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, on Friday, July 20th, 2012. During a midnight screening for the newly released Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, everything was as it was expected to be during a packed viewing. Batman fanatics had shown up in force to see the movie. People were waiting to get in, there were long lines at the concessions and movie theater employees were trying to get moviegoers corralled into the lines to wait before they entered the theater. Once they finally got in, they went through all the previews and public service announcements to turn off your cell phone and be courteous to the people around you that you would expect in a movie. But they were finally at that moment that everyone had been waiting for and the movie was about to begin.
About 20 minutes into the movie, a college student named James Holmes, who had bought a ticket and was sitting in the front row, stood up and left the theater through an emergency exit door that he propped open with a plastic tablecloth holder. James went out to his car that he had parked near the exit, changed into all black clothing, put on a gas mask, a load-bearing vest, a ballistic helmet, bullet-resistant leggings, a throat protector, a groin protector, and tactical gloves.
Ten minutes after he left the theater, he walked back in, and while some people were in denial and were surprised and thought he was playing a prank or was just part of a publicity stunt for the premiere, he surprised everyone when he threw 2 smoke grenades and opened fire with a 12-gauge shotgun into the crowd of nearly 400 people. Panic ensued in the theater as the smoke grenades caused the fire alarm to go off while he continued to shoot, and he fired a total of 76 rounds into the crowd as he transitioned from a shotgun to a rifle and finally to a handgun. Police were on scene within 90 seconds of the first 911 call, but despite an incredibly fast response, the shooting didn’t come without a cost.
The reports that we have read about this particular shooting have addressed the impact from three different perspectives. 82 people were casualties, and this was the price paid in the first 10 minutes. And while the impact of shootings, the impact they have on businesses is absolutely secondary to the lives lost in an event like this, many of the organizations that security and public safety professionals work with, they do consider the financial impact of violence. The Century 16 theater was closed for 6 months. Movies that were waiting to be released had to have scenes changed and scenes rerecorded and there were a number of other expenses that resulted from this attack to include enhancing security at other theaters with either contract security or police officers around the globe.
Finally it took a toll on first responders as well. Fifty-two police cars responded to this shooting and when you compare this event to situations like the attack last fall on Paris, should another location have become violent as part of a larger coordinated assault, it would have been challenging for authorities to shift and have the resources to handle multiple sites on their own. And regardless of which lens you view this incident through, the question is the same. How do you protect yourself from that risk? How do you ensure the safety of those you are tasked with protecting? I mention this because despite improvements in technology and equipment, the number of these attacks continues to rise. And whether you’re looking at attacks in public areas or assaults on police officers, we can’t rely solely on reporting of a potential threat by concerned individuals, because as we’ve seen, that doesn’t always happen.
More often than not, the path forward doesn’t appear to be very clear-cut either. The attackers we are looking for do their best to hide from detection, attack at seemingly random times and locations, study the security procedures and contingency plans so they can attack vulnerabilities. And they seemingly have the upper hand in each of these events. How we can accomplish this goal of ensuring public safety is going to depend a bit on your role in the overall process. So before we move forward, I’d like to learn just a little bit about those of you who are attending today so that I can tailor the rest of this message a little bit more explicit to you. Chris, are you able to put that poll up?
Christopher: I’ll launch it right now. The question, just to understand the audience a little, is really what best describes your role in public safety. So if you would click on just one of them, even if you’re in law enforcement, state or local, if you’re in the military, if you’re in what we call corporate security, or the public safety, concerned citizen or civilian. Just to give us a little sense, although when you registered, we did identify your role in your organization but necessarily what role in public safety that you participated in. Wow, we’ve got 80% voting already so this is going to be great. Okay, give me about 30 seconds. We’re going to close this and I’ll share it with you. And interesting, there’s one group here that’s missing, anyone want to guess what that is?
All right, so let me close the poll here and I’ll show you who is here. And everyone actually can get a good sense of this. Up until about a minute ago, there was no military, so we have 1% military, a good mix between corporate security and public safety, and a little bit of law enforcement. This is great. This is actually who we’re targeting the event to. Patrick, any comments on this?
Patrick: That actually helps a great deal, though, because there’s certain things that we can address that will fall more in line with the corporate side and the public safety, concerned citizen realm here as we go forward. So I certainly appreciate everyone taking the time to do that.
All right, so for really the corporate security and public security professionals, as we look for a way to deal with this threat, we can take a look at a very similar situation and look at how the military innovated to deal with really this exact same situation following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. So let me explain a little bit. Twenty-one days after the military launched Operation Iraqi Freedom, coalition forces occupied Baghdad. Our American military had just covered more ground, we had moved faster while taking fewer casualties than ever before in history. We had shown the world just how capable our entire military machine could be when we leveraged our advanced technology and our equipment and forced the fighters that were left into an adapt-or-die situation.
And as the Iraqi army was disbanded, the former Iraqi soldiers who were part of the growing insurgency saw first-hand that wearing a uniform and making your intentions known considerably shortened their life expectancy. So they learned very quickly that to undermine our technological capabilities, they had to discard their khaki fatigues and blend back in with the rest of the population. And despite one of the most impressive displays of force in the invasion, marines and soldiers lost the ability to locate and identify the insurgent because they were hiding within the crowd.
Throughout the insurgency, Marines were becoming very vulnerable to ambushes and sniper attacks and roadside bombs because since we lost our ability to identify the enemy, they became very good at avoiding detection. And for the marines that we were operating with overseas, the challenge came down to a single capability that our attackers had. By dressing like everyone else in the area, the insurgents could simply avoid detection. They were able to plan and launch their attacks without a great deal of risk of getting caught. Because our technology was so superior to theirs, we forced them to adapt and they learned how to adapt in this new reality more quickly than we did.
What really concerned the military, though, was the insurgents began to take the initiative away from us. They could control when they attacked because they could decide when the situation was in their favor and when it wasn’t worthwhile to them. The response from Congress to this situation was to simply require more, more of everything, put more body armor on Marines and soldiers, put more armor on our vehicles, require more marines to be present on the patrol just in case something went wrong. It came from a mindset that we couldn’t prevent these attacks from happening, that the only thing we could do is wait to get shot at and hope to protect ourselves from the inevitable so we could respond once the adversary had revealed themselves.
And while the armor is certainly a piece of protecting people, there’s a big problem with that as well. It means that often times, someone has to get shot at before we know who out there is trying to hurt us. And this realization led marine general James Mattis, who was just a true warrior, to direct the creation of the Combat Hunter Program because he saw this situation as absolutely unacceptable. He said that Marines have to have options beyond just putting on more armor and must have the ability to be proactive and not just reactive while we were out interacting with the local population. He said that Marines have to have the ability to get left of bang, and that’s the moment in 2007 when he started the Combat Hunter Course.
The goal for the Combat Hunter Program was very simple. It was make Marines capable of identifying criminals and attackers before the assault starts. The Combat Hunter Program was really teaching marines how do you read people’s behavior so that you can identify those that have a violent intent and were trying to blend in with the crowd. It changed the way marines looked at their own safety and security and it took marines out of the mindset that these attacks were simply unpreventable. It taught us that we could really be proactive, but when I look at the shootings, like the one in Aurora, Colorado, the reason I talk about this is because the thing that attackers are doing here at home is the exact same capability that the insurgents we were dealing with overseas had.
We can see a lot of those parallels just through some of our recent history. We’ve seen reports about the attacks in the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, and other violent acts that are occurring at religious centers. We’ve seen shootings at restaurants, where authority figures were targeted specifically. We’ve seen them in schools, from the elementary level all the way through universities, and even seen a number of incidences on military bases, places that you’d expect to have a high degree of security.
More often than not, though, there’s a great deal of collateral damage as the attacker is killing more people than just their intended target. And when you look at these faces and you look at the initial response to these shootings, it’s often the same as what the military was experiencing overseas in Iraq. In a very simplistic sense, there are only three ways we can approach security and public safety in order to deal with this type of threat. The first is to simply maintain the status quo, just keep doing what we’re doing. If we continue on, eventually everything will go back to the way we want it to be, there will be peace, love, rainbows, and unicorns, as long as we continue to just keep doing what we’re doing and not change course at all. While it’s certainly not the approach that we would recommend, we do see some organizations who do take that approach to security.
The second way we could deal with this type of threat is to increase spending. We could do the same thing that the military did in the early days in Iraq. We can continue to add more guards, more guns, more bulletproof glass so that we are ready to respond when something bad does happen and hope to deter an attack with a visible security presence. However, when this is done from a defensive mindset, it implies that we are operating under the assumption that these attacks cannot be prevented and that our best chance is to survive the first shot and then respond. When it’s done from a determent mindset, though, this approach typically leads to a more aggressive security posture in order to make the attacker second-guess their plan, call it off, or choose something else.
And while this works to a point, what the military found taking that approach was that the more aggressive we were as we tried to deter these attacks, the harder it was to work with the population, to earn their trust, and get them to provide the intelligence that we needed. And if you aren’t interested in only looking at one of those first two options, either just maintaining the status quo or simply increasing spending, the third option, and the one that we recommend is, instead of armoring up and instead of being reactionary, to get left of bang.
And so to explain the difference in the mindset and in approach of being reactive to being proactive, I want to spend a minute to explain the terminology and talk about what getting left of bang means so that we’re all on the same page. When I say “bang,” I’m talking about whatever act you are trying to prevent from happening. It’s the shooting, it’s the stabbing, it’s the robbery, it’s the assault, it’s the fan rushing the stage at a concert, it’s whatever you are concerned about and whatever event you don’t want to happen. To be left of bang, I want you to start by picturing a timeline and placing bang directly in the middle of that line. Bang is time zero. And we are left of bang. It means we are operating earlier on the timeline. It means that we have identified some of those pre-event indicators that exist before the event begins that let us know what is about to happen.
Being left of bang means that we have the opportunity to be proactive because we’ve identified some of those pre-event indicators, those warning signs that let us know bang is about to happen and provides us time to intervene before it actually occurs. When we’re right of bang, it means that we have missed all of those pre-event indicators and bang has already occurred. When you’re right of bang, you didn’t have any advance warning, and because you simply didn’t know or notice any of those cues that were out there. Being left of bang means that we have the initiative and the attacker is reacting to us. And whether we have two seconds or two minutes or two days, this is the absolute goal. To be and to get left of bang.
For this to be possible, though, it isn’t enough to simply say to you, “Hey, go prevent violence.” I understand that there has to be a how to follow that. And from our experiences working with marines and soldiers, from special operations command, working with police officers at the local and federal level, as well as private security professionals from Fortune 100 companies, when we ask them, “How are you going to do this?” The answer almost always comes back to say that we simply need better situational awareness. And while that is true to a point, situational awareness is not going to help us out enough. Your awareness needs to be informed. And to take situational awareness down to a very granular level and to make sure that your awareness is very specifically focused on those indicators that is going to help us get left of bang, means that you need to know two things.
The first is that you know specifically what you are looking for. And then you have to know how you are going to look for those cues. You aren’t going to find pre-event indicators to violence by aimlessly searching. It has to be purposeful. And if you are going to be able to recognize violent people with the success rate of better than 50/50, you have to have a process for systematically searching your surroundings to find those indicators. And having a level of informed awareness is the difference between information hoping and information hunting, and this is the level that we have to get to if we’re going to be able to stop all of those acts and all of these shootings that we’ve continued to see.
So with this understanding, let’s us go back to the very, very beginning of everything that it means to be able to recognize threats. If we’re going to know what to look for and we’re going to know how we’re going to look for these cues, we have to start by making sure that we have a shared understanding of simply what makes somebody a threat. Oftentimes this is a question we’ll ask in seminars that will stump people, they might not realize what it is that they are specifically looking for or they’ve never thought about how to answer this question earlier in their career, and very often, they define it incorrectly. They will oftentimes describe a threat using what we would refer to as the variables that exist in an attack.
They might look at things like something relating to attacker demographics, they might look for things like race, religion, skin color. They might have a preconceived idea of what an attacker looks like and the problem with that is there’s no set profile for an attacker. A shooter could be any age, any gender, any race, any religion. There is no profile that we can flip through a phone book and find a certain number of people who might conduct an attack. So if we are looking at an attacker demographic, we’re always going to be behind the curve, we’re always going to be right of bang because it is an uninformed search.
The second variable sometimes people will describe violence as a person with a certain cause or a certain motive. The problem is people have conducted attacks for every possible ideology, for political, religious, or cultural reasons. Having a specific belief doesn’t make someone a threat on their own, so if you’re looking or defining a threat that way, again, we’re always going to be right of bang because it could include anyone, that’s a factor that is always changing.
When we talk about what makes someone a threat, we focus on the one and only one constant that exists in each and every single attack that we can actually prevent. And that one thing that never changes in a preventable attack is that the attacker has a violent intent. If you break threat recognition down to its absolute most basic elements, it’s really just looking at someone and asking two questions, does this person intend to kill me or hurt me and are they capable of doing that? Intentions and capabilities. The problem with capabilities is that we don’t always know who might be carrying a gun or that you could kill us in any number of ways, whether it was a gun or your fist or a knife or a bomb. But if we want to be able to get left of bang, what we have to improve is our ability to scan a crowd and look through a bunch of people who we don’t have any personal knowledge about and identify those people who have that violent intent.
And with this definition of what makes somebody a threat, it actually really specifically informs those two components that we’re trying to get to. We can start by taking a look at how we are going to look for threats. This is arguably one of the most important parts because this is what lets the search for violent people be deliberate and be repeatable.
Without a process for analyzing the people around us, we are really just kind of hoping that someone does something to attract your attention. And while that might work in some situations, I don’t want to just rely on luck. And so it has to work in situations that you need to determine if it’s a threat when you only have a limited amount of time and a limited amount of information available to you. And a lot of the situations that you find yourself in as a public security professional or as a police officer or as corporate security, you never have perfect information about the people around you, you never have a lot of time. So the formula and the structure that we are going to use to allow us to make accurate decisions very, very quickly is this simple three-step formula, this process that’s going to structure all of our observations and all of the assessments that we make about people.
So let’s go through each of these elements here of baseline plus anomaly equals decision. A baseline is simply what’s normal for the area you are in and the people you are looking for. Everything and everyone has a natural flow to it. Establishing what is normal and identifying that baseline is the first step in the process. Once we know what’s normal, we turn our search to that second part, the anomaly, that thing that stands out from the crowd, that stands out from the baseline. While recognizing an anomaly is the absolute goal, this is what’s going to get you awards and promotions and public recognition for stopping an attack. Being an anomaly or recognizing the anomaly is not the most important part of this little formula that we have.
If you think about what being an anomaly is, being an anomaly is a relative term. To stand out, you have to stand out from something, and that something is the baseline, which is oftentimes the most important part of this entire process. If we don’t know what’s normal, we’ll never have a very good definition of what it is that we’re looking for, something that’s going to stand out for being not normal.
When we went to seminars, we sometimes will ask the students that were in, especially those who’ve never been in the room that we’re sitting in before, what they expected when they walked into the room, what did they know was going to be in the classroom? As we start to look at how we’re going to establish a baseline, most of the time people bring up things like tables and chairs for the students to sit in. They’ll bring up the things a student needs like handouts, pen, paper, coffee. They’ll bring up the instructor and everything that we bring with us, a computer, a projector, a screen to display the presentation onto. They will bring up all those physical and tangible things that they see as being part of the baseline for that class or that office building that they work in.
But oftentimes that’s where they stop and when they only look at physical characteristics, they expose themselves to a lot of uncertainty about what’s normal in their area. So when you talk to, or sometimes we’ll talk to someone and ask, “What makes someone a threat?” And they’ll talk about the Columbine situation, of looking for people wearing trench coats or wearing ski masks. While that might be an anomaly in some situations, if that’s the only thing that you have in your baseline of people wearing a trench coat in the summer as standing out, all that attacker has to do to defeat your understanding of what’s normal is not dress differently than everyone else, to put on the same clothes that everyone else has. And as we look at how we’re going to establish the baseline for the areas that we are in, what we are going to begin to talk about here are what we refer to as the four pillars of behavior.
These four pillars of behavior that I’ll highlight here are uncontrollable and universal elements of nonverbal behavior that allow us to apply the same process to any situation and anywhere we go in the world. So we’ll start with the first pillar of observable behavior. This is how we assess individual people. People can be assessed as being in one of four categories at any moment in time. We’re going to cover this a little bit more on the second half of this presentation. But people are either dominant or submissive or uncomfortable or comfortable. Every single person, at every moment in time, is in one of these four groups. The second pillar of observable behavior that’s going to contribute to our baseline are how we observe and assess group dynamics. Groups of people are going to be assessed by looking at the amount of space and the amount of distance that people keep between them, to identify one of four different relationships that might define and highlight that specific group.
The third thing that goes into how we’re going to establish the baseline is going to be the environment. Areas are either a habitual area or an anchor point based on the behavior of the people within. And finally the last thing that we notice about an area or the last pillar that goes into how we’re going to establish a baseline is going to be the collective mood. This reveals places that have a general sense of safety or are lacking a general sense of safety. If you’ve ever walked into an area and said, “Oh, I have a bad feeling about this place,” or, “I have a good feeling about this place,” the way that we naturally and intuitively assess the collective mood is oftentimes those indicators that you are picking up on and identifying.
And so these four pillars of behavior are going to make it very hard for a person to simply avoid detection by dressing like everyone else because they are going to almost always create conditions where you can be an anomaly for other reasons. And these four pillars of observable behavior come from behavioral analysis, and before we get into really how to assess people as being dominant, submissive, uncomfortable or comfortable, I want to take a minute and just explain what goes into these behaviors, because it’s a very, very important part of understanding the overall approach that we use to recognize threats.
The first is that everything we’re talking about here are universal and uncontrollable elements of non-verbal behavior. The universal is important because we can’t learn Northeast United States threat recognition or California threat recognition or even American threat recognition. The behaviors that we look at have to apply anywhere we go in the world. They cannot be geographically limited or only looking at behaviors of a certain culture. So everything that we’re going to talk about that go into those four pillars are universally applicable. The other part of this, about being uncontrollable is also very important, because if you look at some of the other things that you might hear about as being behavioral cues of a potential threat, let’s say a workplace violence situation, sometimes you will hear about that you’re looking for people that have substance abuse problems or marital problems or financial problems or they come to work and talk about their gun collection every single day, and those are things that you’re looking for to identify someone as a threat.
The problem with looking for those types of indicators is that you have to have very specific knowledge about the person you are searching for. And oftentimes, you’re simply not going to have that. If that’s all you have to look at, there might be only three or four people in your life that you can really assess as being a potential threat. So by understanding that these behaviors are universal and uncontrollable, we’re going to be able to scan a crowd of people that we know nothing about, which is an important part of the process.
All of these behaviors come from science, which is really important for three reasons. The first is simply a matter of confidence. By understanding that the things that we’re going to talk about are objective observations about a person’s intentions, people are less likely to question and doubt themselves when they see something that attracts their attention. So by understanding that they can believe in the observations and assessments they’re making, our goal is to help empower them to make more informed judgments and decisions on the ground. The other thing by ensuring everything comes from science, this ensures that inaccurate indicators about what a threat might look like don’t play in. We are not talking about profiling. I don’t care what color your skin is, I don’t care what God you worship or choose not to worship, on their own, those indicators do not help us recognize people who intend to harm others.
And so by ensuring that every observation we make using this baseline plus anomaly equals decision formula are based on objective observations. Again, we can help that element of accuracy ensuring it doesn’t come into play. But the most important part of having everything come from science is that we can provide a language and a terminology to help you explain what led you to make a decision in the first place. It wasn’t that you had a hunch or a gut instinct or something just felt wrong. There’s going to be a very quantifiable way that come from those four pillars to describe and communicate and articulate everything that you observed.
And finally, as we start to look at the four pillars of behavior and specifically how we’re going to assess individuals, know that this came from the military. This was something that the Marine Corps had to create simply because of the threat we are facing overseas. But even though it was created inside of the military, this is not a militaristic program. There’s nothing about tactics or room clearing or anything that is super aggressive. Everything that we are talking about has been redesigned for a civilian environment. Everything works within the Constitution and the laws that govern whether it’s law enforcement or corporate security or simply public safety.
And so with this understanding of where those four pillars of behavior are going to come from, let’s take a look at very specifically what you can do here. If you are anything like me, when you sign up for a webinar or to attend a class, you’re hoping that you’re going to walk away with something specific, whether it’s a new skill or just simply something you can apply when the class is over. And when we teach, we always make it a point, we don’t want to just talk about just theory or large higher-scale ideas. I want to make sure that you have something very specific that you can do when you walk away. And so let’s start by learning how we’re going to assess the intentions of those around us.
We’re going to start by looking at just the first pillar of observable behavior. How we are going to assess individual people. This is hands down the most important pillar of those four that we just highlighted. If you can’t observe and assess an individual, you’re certainly not going to be able to put them into groups. If you can’t observe an individual, you’re not going to be able to understand how they’re relating to their environment. And if you can’t observe an individual, you’re certainly not going to be able to look at and assess the intentions of the collective mood of everyone that’s present.
While I don’t have enough time to go into the full explanation of what goes into what we refer to as clusters, how we are going to establish and read clusters of behavior is one of the most important elements of our program. Sometimes we’ll talk to people who are learning to read and assess what a person is communicating non-verbally and sometimes we’ll hear that someone might have read a book or attended another class on body language before, and as soon as they go out in town, they’ll find that they struggle with it. They’ll go into a busy restaurant, like the one here, and they’ll try to look at every single hand gesture and every single facial expression and every single thing that a person is doing with their torso or their feet or their legs. And they’ll realize very quickly that they are struggling to either collect information that actually leads to a decision or they’ll spend three and a half hours trying to look at every single person here and not necessarily be any better off for that effort when it’s over.
Because we are trying to recognize people who warrant our attention very quickly and very accurately, what we’re going to do to look through this room and identify the people who we have to pay attention to is to observe clusters of cues. A cluster is simply three or more gestures, postures or expressions that all lead to the same conclusion. And we do this for a few reasons. The first is simply for accuracy, since there could be a thousand different things that a person could be doing or meaning if, let’s say, you observe them crossing their arms. By finding three indicators, we are going to get to a reasonable level of certainty that what we’re observing on a person is accurate, that we’re not letting first impressions play too large of a role.
And the second is for speed. By limiting the number of options that we have to observe and assess someone to four options, a person being dominant, submissive, uncomfortable or comfortable, we’re going to be able to move through that room very quickly. We would typically spend a lot of time talking about why these clusters are important and talking about how the brain controls our behavior and more specifically how these clusters are a result of the body’s freeze, flight, or fight responses to stresses and threats and how these are uncontrollable and how these are universal elements of behavior. I’ll happily go into some of that when we go into the Q and A in about 10 minutes or so, but if something comes up, please bring it up. But just understand that we have to short-circuit some of the back story in terms of why these behaviors are important.
So let’s start with the first cluster of behavior, the dominant cluster. When we are assessing people who are being and displaying dominance, what we are looking for are people who are using their body to either take up more space by making themselves look larger or by making territorial displays. The dominant cluster is a manifestation of the fight response, and while we aren’t necessarily fighting everyone or everything that poses a threat, we often display this behavior when we want to control a situation or by displaying authority. If you take a look at this picture here, and I know there might be a delay, but as soon as it comes up, you’ll see two people about to engage in a bit of stereotypical road rage overseas. If you take a look at the guy on the right side of the screen, you see how his feet are spread wider than shoulder width apart. People don’t walk down the street with their feet that far apart. His feet are in a fighting stance. When we talk about using your behavior or using your body to take up more space, that would be one of those three indicators that we’re searching for to assess someone as being dominant.
You see the man in the white shirt beginning to raise his arms, something that you might otherwise refer to as posturing as he’s making himself look larger. As soon as the slide changes for you, in the bottom right corner of this, screen you have Marine General James Mattis, standing with his hands on his hips. If you were to drop your arms down to your side right now and then place them on your hips you’ll see that your arms are now taking up and commanding a greater amount of space around you than they were when they were just simply at your sides. And when we look at Phil Jackson pointing out towards an audience during a speaker event, you can see that he is gesturing in an authoritative way. By being very direct, it’s another way people can display dominance.
And as you see people point at others with their palms and wrists facing downwards, it helps us identify those people that are in that dominant cluster, and it also leads into talking about territoriality as well. I know that from some of you I spoke with before today that you are listening to this in a conference room or with a group of people. I’m willing to bet that one person came in, put their bag or their jacket or their arm over the chair next to it, claiming it as their own. Those are the sorts of territorial displays that we’re talking about. It’s no different than when you’re flying and you’re trying to battle with the person next to you for control over that armrest. That display of territoriality, those are things we’re looking for in the dominant cluster of cues. And these acts of making yourself look larger are things that we can observe every single day and in a variety of situations. But instead of using words like “aggressive” or “posturing,” we’re using the word “dominant” to ensure that everyone knows what we are looking at.
And that takes us to the second cluster, how we are going to assess people who are uncomfortable. A person who is acting uncomfortably will be exhibiting signs of a person you might otherwise describe as anxious or agitated or nervous, all right? This comes from the body’s flight response to stresses and threats, whereas the dominant cluster is the fight response. What we’re looking for the uncomfortable cluster is the flight response to stress. And so when we talk about behaviors that might be considered blocking behavior, these are things that a person instinctively does to protect vital areas of their body. When a person crosses their arms across their chest, they could be doing that to protect all the vital organs in their torso. Think about when a boxer or a woman raises their shoulders or tucks their chin into their chest to protect their neck from a blow. I know my younger sister is listening to this in Boston. If you put your hand and you watch her daughter put her hand anywhere close to her neck, you see her shoulders come up and her chin tucks down because she feels very uncomfortable when people touch her neck. Those are those indicators from the uncomfortable cluster.
You see presenters standing behinds podiums when they’re nervous and use that as a barrier the same way there’s probably really at least one dad listening to this who has turned their chair around backwards when they want to have that awkward conversation with their son and using the back of that chair as another barrier, something to put between themselves and the person they are talking to. The uncomfortable cluster is the flight response and our body will generate energy to put separation between ourselves and others. And when we’re in situations where that can’t be released through actual flight or through distancing ourselves, you’ll often times identify the uncomfortable cluster through what we refer to as pacifying behaviors. These are those little anxious, nervous, shifty things that you do when you’re in a situation that you can’t get out of. And whether that’s rubbing your hands together or rubbing your neck or drying sweaty palms on your pants, these pacifying behaviors reveal the uncomfortable cluster and can be seen how many people use their cell phone while waiting in line or fixing themselves to look as presentable as they can before meeting with someone.
Our third cluster that we’ll move through pretty quickly because I know we’re getting close to the hour is submissive behavior. This is our third cluster and is the exact opposite of dominance. These are people who are displaying a lack of a fight response in response to a perceived stressor or threat. We’ll identify this by looking for people who are maybe using their body language to make themselves smaller, they might retract their arms or legs into their body as a way to take up less space. This might be behavior you might otherwise call shy or meek or timid, and this is something that you might often see when you look at an abused spouse or an abused child in the presence of the abuser if they’ve decided that the best way out of a situation is to simply make themselves smaller, not fight back, and not protect themselves. But at the same time, this is something that you will see when a person respects and has a true degree of admiration for others. And if you think about how you might behave when your boss walks in the room or in front of someone that you have a good deal of admiration for, some of these behaviors simply help us identify those people who are showing a bit of deference to others.
And finally a person who is feeling comfortable is a person who is not perceiving a threat. This is the fourth cluster and whereas dominance, submissiveness and discomfort all reflect a person who is perceiving a threat or perceiving a stressor, the comfortable cluster is our catch-all that shows when people are not displaying any sort of response to their situation or the people around them. And you look at people standing with one leg up on a wall or standing with their feet crossed. They’re certainly not in a position to fight or flight their way out of that area. When you look at people who are leaning in closer to each other, they wouldn’t close the distance between themselves and someone they trust or love if there was something there that was causing them to pick up on a stress. And these are all indicators from the comfortable cluster and you can also see this especially with the use of technology, when people are willing to let their situational awareness go down to zero. All right, they are obviously very comfortable in that situation, they wouldn’t do it if they necessarily felt threatened.
And these four clusters, dominant, submissive, uncomfortable, and comfortable are ones that you can make on each and every person that you look at. Everyone is falling into one of these four clusters, and the faster you can get at assigning people to a cluster and capturing the three cues that support your assessment, the more effective you can be in this approach. But just remember the overall strategy that we’re using, baseline plus anomaly equals decision. The baseline is simply the starting point. It’s the first cluster that you notice about someone and then you’re looking for changes which reflect the anomaly or you’re looking at the environment and trying to find a cluster of behavior that doesn’t fit in. These four clusters are what we’re going to use to begin identifying this because these are all uncontrollable responses to how people perceive their surroundings. And when we use our baseline plus anomaly equals decision structure we have a process for determining which behavior should attract our attention and which ones are just part of the norm. We have a way of identifying the individual within the crowd. We have a way of finding a specific tree within the forest and we can begin taking informed action on people, starting with simply identifying what cluster a person is in, dominant, submissive, uncomfortable or comfortable, and asking ourselves, “Does that fit our baseline? Does that make sense here?”
If it does, then you don’t have to worry about it. But when the behavior does not make sense, it doesn’t fit the baseline, you can be confident taking action with that person. Even if it’s something as simple as having a conversation or calling local authorities or calling for support. And do this by…we break individuals down into these four groups because they’re all-inclusive. Everyone can fit into one of those four groups, and then we can use it to quickly identify and break down the situations to figure out who warrants our attention. When we work with some of our clients, we’ve seen that they have used these skills in oftentimes three different applications. From threat recognition and personal safety, they’ve applied these behaviors in conversation, whether that’s interviewing or sales, or a de-escalation tactic to figure out how do you get a person who is displaying the dominant cluster into the comfortable cluster so that you can have a more rational and less emotional conversation. We’ve seen people use this on the corporate side for surveillance, detection, identifying those people who might be collecting information or intelligence about a specific building.
And if you’re interested in learning more, there are two things that I want to briefly hit on. The first is through our book, “Left of Bang,” which talks about all the behaviors that go into the program and that came from the Marine Corps Combat Hunter Program. And you can also find us online. In 2011, the CP Journal began as an outlet to teach behavioral analysis on a broader scale to audiences outside of the U.S. military and who are looking for a system to improve their ability to recognize potential threats. And through conducting in-person seminars, we realized that a lot of our clients wanted a way to scale this training to a broader audience, when people can’t be in the same place at the same time, how to build a common language and process to observe and recognize the people that stand out from the crowd, and how they can reinforce that training, which historically meant copying someone else’s notes. And with that feedback, we were able to build, as Chris mentioned, our online program, which allows organizations to scale this to anyone, anywhere, at any time. They can train with us as long as they have the internet. We can establish a universal language and we can also help establish a process in organizations who are looking for consistency, and at the same time, it’s not an overly systematized process, so it can be applied to any situation that you might find yourself in. And that is the absolute goal of getting Left of Bang, how are we using these behaviors to recognize people who stand out from the crowd.
I realize I’m running up to the hour and I was going to talk quickly about situational awareness but instead of the back story what I’ll give you is just the main takeaway. There are more or less five different conditions of alertness that you might be in awareness at any given time. When a person doesn’t know what to look for, what they end up being is being right of bang because they were looking, it’s a person who even if they had the best intentions was looking for threats, but they didn’t know what was going to make someone stand out other than visually seeing a gun or visually seeing a knife or visually seeing a fight. And if that’s the first time you realize that there’s a threat present, you are now reacting, you’re right of bang because you missed all those other warning signs.
The reason we talk about behavior and the reason we talk about these four pillars of behavior is because once you know how to establish a baseline, even in very time-constrained situations where you only have two seconds or two minutes, any time left of bang when you’ve identified a threat and had a chance to plan through what your response is going to be, as soon as we provide you with that time and that space to make those decisions we create more options and opportunities for you to actually prevent the attack instead of waiting for it to occur and simply reacting. Here’s just one final quote that I pulled from Gavin DeBacker and we are evaluating people all of the time. And when it comes to believing and trusting and being confident in those decisions, it’s something that many people lack because oftentimes we just let this happen at a subconscious level.
The reason we establish these four pillars of behavior is because we can break it down very specifically to observations that you can believe in. And the way that you do that is by working through these three pieces, baseline plus anomaly equals decision. And so if I only leave you with one thing, I’ll just ask that it would be this slide that’s coming up right now. If you were to translate that baseline plus anomaly equals decision structure into something you can use in any situation, just constantly be asking yourself these three questions. When you walk into an area, just ask yourself, “What’s going on here? What’s normal? What’s my baseline?” And once you know what’s going on here, you can answer that second question. If I know people here are comfortable, what’s going to make someone stand out? It’s going to be anything other than the comfortable cluster. It could be dominance or submissiveness or discomfort. If it’s not comfort, it warrants your attention. And finally, think through and anticipate and simulate what you’re going to do once you recognize the anomaly. You don’t have to wait for that gun to be drawn to feel confident taking action. But if you haven’t planned through the responses and thought through what you’re going to do, you risk hesitating and you risk really valuable seconds that could be the difference between unfortunately a successful and a very negative outcome. So please, as you go forward, just constantly be asking yourself these three questions.
And as we open it up to some question and answer time, one, I wanted to give everyone all of my personal contact information. If there’s anything that we can do to answer some questions, we certainly will. I know that many of you are going to have some schedules that you have to move on, so if you have questions, we’re going to open up for some Q and A now. Any question, though, that I don’t answer on Tuesday when Chris sends out a summary email, every single question that we receive will be posted on our website, we’ll provide that link in the email. So even if we don’t answer your question today, we certainly will. Thank you for your time and thank you for attending, and just one last message, just constantly try to focus on getting left of bang so that you can stay there. Thank you.
Christopher: Respecting people’s time. I’m going to end this now, thank you. I think that’s the second time I’ve heard you, I’ve gone through the book, been to your website and the training. So this is awesome, I really appreciate it. But I do want to ask if you could get those questions answered online. And what we’ll do to those listening, yes, we did record this, we’re still getting some questions about that, we have recorded it, we’re going to get it loaded probably on the Boston chapter of the FBI Student’s Academy Alumni Association’s website early next week. But everybody that’s here, anyone that’s registered will get an email with a link to that.
I do apologize, there were some audio issues early on, I really apologize for that, had this a few times with this service. But hopefully the audio you can play over and over again and really understand what Patrick was saying. First, Patrick, thank you again very, very much. I would also like to thank Securitas again as a sponsor and I’d like to thank all the chapters of the FBI Citizen’s Academy Alumni Association’s helping put this on. Getting a lot of questions still coming in. What I’m going to do, Patrick, and Jody and Barry are also listening in and helping out, I’m going to end it here and I’m going to put it on pause but I’m going to leave the program going, so if people want to put questions in, please do so, and they’ll keep Patrick busy all weekend, which is great.
You’ll probably also see an email from us. A, we’d like to get some feedback but also want to get maybe suggestions on what other topics you’d like to do. It seems like this has been very successful based on what we’re seeing feedback and I’m a big fan of situation awareness, which is why Patrick was involved and maybe want to do more of those. So, Patrick, thank you very, very much. Thanks everyone for listening. I’m going to put this on pause right now and then you can still type in any questions or comments. Thank you.