critical issue in conducting a threat assessment is determining what questions t

timer Asked: Jan 10th, 2015

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i need a 3page onAnother critical issue in conducting a threat assessment is determining what questions to ask. Certainly questions concerning owning weapons or having a history of violence are rather obvious. Come up with at least 10 (and no more than 15) behaviorally-oriented questions to ask Pete from this case study and explain individually your reasoning for asking each of these questions


Pete is a 32-year-old man who has been working for a company for a little over 8 years.  He is a mechanic by trade, but drives a forklift for this company.  Everyone describes Pete as a “hothead” at times, moody and just generally hard to get along with. He recently claimed to have hurt his back on the job and so is off work, but because he has abused his sick leave in the past, he is about to run out of this, vacation and other paid leave he can take. Ted, Pete’s immediate supervisor, has just been informed by human resources that this is the case and he must now call Pete to determine his status---something Ted is not looking forward to, as he and Pete have had numerous run-ins over the last couple of months. In fact, just prior to Pete’s going off on this job injury, Ted had given him a written reprimand for not doing what he was told to do and arguing with his co-workers over an assignment.

  When Ted telephones Pete to tell him of his status he can tell Pete is under the influence of something – and it is only 10:00 a.m. Pete says he doesn’t have to come back to work because he has a doctor’s note. Ted keeps telling him no one knows about that and if Pete doesn’t come back to work by Friday eh will be terminated. Pete replies, “F…you. You’ve been after me since I started working there. You can’t fire me if you’re dead!” and he hangs up on Ted.

  Was this a threat or merely a statement of fact? Certainly Ted believes it’s a threat; he tells the human resource people, they contact the company’s attorney and the decision is made to have security contact Pete to explore his statement. For the sake of this scenario, let’s assume the company’s assessor has done everything right up to this point, following the guidelines for the assessment process we have been discussing in this text, including utilizing some of the tools in Chapter 4, such as the Assessment grid. Following the Response Grid in the same chapter, you have initiated a criminal background check, you’ve conducted appropriate interviews with Ted and others and you have reviewed Pete’s personnel file. Not surprisingly, there are numerous discipline notations (including a 2-week suspension for insubordination) and performance problems noted in his file and his criminal record includes convictions for driving under the influence (one) and public intoxication (two).

  The interviews produce important background information.  You confirm there are no organizational problems and there are no apparent personnel problems other than with Pete. Everyone tells you Pete has a quick temper, that he walks and talks like he is really tough and everyone just better keep their distance – which they do anyway. Everyone seems to agree Pete is a loner, and when he does interact with people, it is to try to con them into doing something that would benefit him. You also learn from a couple of his co-workers that Pete mentioned he once threatened to stab another kid when he was 14 because he caught him cheating on his share of the marijuana they were selling to classmates. Everyone seem s to agree that Pete smokes marijuana, snorts cocaine, seems to love to get drunk and then threaten to beat up those in authority – as long as they are not present.

  In addition, his supervisor tells you he is fearful of Pete and believes Pete wants to kill him. You know this supervisor and his reputation in the company; there is no indication he is unreasonable or has any problems with others. And finally, human resources tell you, through the privileged communication of the attorney, they would just as soon never have to see Pete again. Your “homework” done, you are faced with just one last question. What is the best way to contact Pete – or should you?

  Here is where a consultation with a violence assessment specialist or someone who is versed in understanding human behavior and also has the experience of dealing with potentially violent people becomes valuable – not only because of the ability to assess the violence potential, but to address the question of approaching Pete and how to do it in the safest fashion. It is also a good time to consult with a labor law attorney concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) issues, workmen’s compensation, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and other legal concerns. This will also allow you to speak quite frankly about what you have, what you want to do versus what you are legally required to do and what the legal ramifications are, in any, of one set of actions versus another.

  The advantage of psychologist consultants is that they could advise you that Pete is probably and antisocial personality. This comes from common psychological concepts that have been researched and developed over many years. Why is this important and what does that mean for you? It offers insight into the behavioral aspects on how best to approach Pete or someone like Pete as we have identified a likely personality trait that has some consistent expectation. It is important to note that it suggests some consistent expectations, because there are many variations even in this psychological category – some very extreme. For example, it could be said that Jeffrey Dahmer was antisocial, which is putting it mildly. But, at the other extreme, you may have a neighbor who is described as antisocial but has never committed a crime in his life.

  So, assessing Pete a bit more, it can be suggested that his “tough-guy” role is probably not only something he is comfortable with, but also perceived by Pete as the only way to get what he wants – or at least to guarantee that no one will take advantage of him. This also tells us his general demeanor is his crutch, his mask, his security blanket; call it what you like, it is critical to him. Is this the kind of person you can approach and not expect him to get angry? And what does his anger really mean? Will contacting him push him over the edge where he may harm someone?

  Actually, form a clinical perspective; you need more information before attempting to answer these questions. Thus, this may be a consideration as to whether you use clinical psychologists in such a matter, although they are often called upon to assist in these types of cases and explain many questionable behaviors. However, the best resolution can only be achieved after talking to Pete.

  It is impossible to effect an assessment without talking to the instigator –- in essence; in this case, a probable character disorder was chosen to label Pete.  From that label, reasonable assumptions can be made about his behavior.  One can certainly make an educated guess about likely conduct and, at the very least, if a certain action occurs, because it has been determined that Pete is an antisocial personality, reasonable recommendations can be made of the best manner in which to respond to that action to either mitigate a volatile act or direct him toward a more reasonable action.  But, in this case, the only are the obvious ADA issues to consider, but we also want to be sure Pete is left intact.  You’re not a therapist and are not your job to help Pete change his character disorder.  You want Pete to feel good about his position of control while at the same time convince him continued employment with this company is not reasonable or in his best interest.  This will require indirect interview with Pete.

  It is also important to learn the breadth of the focus of Pete’s anger.  The more narrow the focus (he wants to harm only Ted) the more ascertaining his specific thought process to accomplish this harm becomes in determining his true potential for violence.  If it is discovered he has narrowed his focus and devised specific plans for harming Ted, it may be necessary to attempt to broaden his focus, if possible, by talking to him.  The same principle is applied when negotiating with those attempting to commit suicide. If there is one basic human emotion all humans share it is a desire to feel in control – at least over our own lives.  The ultimate control what has is whether to kill oneself.  While perhaps not as dramatic in this case with Pete, the same role of trying to broaden those areas of control to the other alternatives not only seem realistic but attainable – to him, not to you – can make a difference between Pete’s acting out his threats and not. Additionally, even as not successful in this endeavor to help Pete see variable alternatives, you know how valuable insight into his process, as motivations and his reality for better determination of the true potential of violence.  Therefore, is not only necessary to talk to Pete, but the insights gained from the consultation with an expert will allow you to be better prepared for what to expect, how to respond in what should your main areas of focus or concern during the interview.

  Another concern is where to conduct this interview. Over the phone is out, as is allows Pete total control and he may not even answer the phone.  Calling Pete into the workplace is going to remind him of the anger still has for certain people, so this might be a disadvantage. Pete would feel compelled to demonstrate he is in control right away, which can be stressful for all.  And, if you ask him to come in and he says no, where do you do?

  Going to lose home is another option. Many would disagree with this approach, but Petewill feel in control in this environment.  Naturally, safety becomes a concern because going alone does not safe.  What if Pete should turn violent?  It is necessary to consider being prepared to use whatever force is required to neutralize his aggression.  That that would be a good time to consult a security expert or even local law enforcement to discuss the feasibility of this plan and to solicit one of them to accompany you.  Of course, you would still want to get a sense from the attorney what your liabilities are (for example, if Pete becomes violent, can he claim your presence was the catalyst?).  A behavioralist can offer opinions to this because a home visit would give some tremendous insight into Pete’s environment, these perceptions of his power, and then how he operates to maintain control and how he reacts toward the introduction of another element you would receive as a threat – is perception will tell him the visit is obviously meant to take back control.  However, were a case such as this, was an expert consultants would probably recommend against this option.  Unless you have a lot of experience, it could get too complicated.

  What about a neutral area?  Many experts prefer this, setting up a meeting at a hotel or even a coffee shop. While the issue of safety may be more easily dealt with in this environment, it is an unknown whether it will be comfortable for Pete – probably not.  But it is an option, if you feel you simply do not want Pete back on the premises.

  This would be an excellent time to turn to your team for discussion and advice. The recommendation would probably be that Pete should be called into work just as you would any other employee.  Remember, you still in employee you have some control over any don’t have to change any organizational procedures if you don’t have to.  You can make the interview area safe (hidden cameras, monitoring devices, others standing by, ect.) and hold it in any room you want (a room away from Pete’s co-workers, a room you can make a quick exit, a room for a way to his possible targets,ect.).  Remember, even though he will proxy with the concept of wanting to take control, he still has many years of accumulated behavior at the site where he has felt power, so he will actually be fairly comfortable.  In fact, this is almost an invitation for him to feel you can come in and clearly demonstrate he is in control and is going to take back his position of power.

  Now you need to put on a negotiators hat and plan your discussion with Pete.  Psychologists, behavioralists, security persons, EAP staff and many other workplace violence experts may be good to bring in for discussion on what might be the best way of talking to Pete.  However, one of the best resources may be experienced negotiators from a local police department, providing they have many years of experience.  Talking and negotiating with the Pete’s of this world are not uncommon events for these people.

  A hostage or crisis negotiator would tell you the following: With antisocial personalities three main rules are consistent:

1.  Since we know Pete’s primary motivation is for power in control, the word or concept you want to stay away from is “no.” If you use the “no” in the conversation, you are taking away from him the very things he is trying to achieve –power and control.

2.  Since antisocial personalities are rebellious and antiauthority, the last thing you should try to use on him is the nice guy routine.  He is not going to listen to your rapport-building chatter and could care less about your concerns for his welfare.  Remember, you found that Pete was mostly a loner and about the only time he got close to people was when he was trying to use them.  So, like most other antisocial individuals, Pete is not prone to form attachments with others and thus is not about to start with you.  The antisocial personality generally as a complete inability to understand aspects of attachment or empathy.

3.  Since Pete wants to feel power in control, did not present a powerful in control and presence.  This is not the time to show that you are in change.  Thus, never be confronting, although they may be many good fact you could use to be so.  Instead, use the infamous “Colombo” approach.  Demonstrate that you can listen well, but you need direction and assistance, hence you seem to fall right into his game of manipulation and conning.  You ask him to repeat his thoughts or demands, “to be sure you’ve got it right.” This ruse also helps you play dumb regarding what might happen, perhaps saying, “Gee, I don’t know how that’s going to work.  You know how management can be sometime.  But it sounds reasonable to let me go and check,” clearly lets Pete feel you may be on his side without demonstrating you want to be his friend.

This also gives you the opportunity to stop the discussion for a while if you feel is appropriate as you can now claim you need to go and consult with others.  You will generally do this when you sense that Pete needs time to collect his thoughts or develop his game plan to better “con” you.  Sometimes you might want to do this when he is coming on too strong because this lets him believe you are a simple person who cannot take a lot and thus you are even more “manageable” then he first surmised.

  This brings up a final rule every negotiator lives by that is true for any personality you may face.  You are not the final word…..even if you are.  In this case, this really works to your advantage if you can convince Pete that you and he are working on resolving this problem through his controlling con of you.

  Human behavior does not require some study.  But, once understood, the “read” on an action, a behavior or a statement can take you to an even stronger point of negotiation or, at least, understanding.  Thus, you may even want to consider asking a consultant to conduct the interview with Pete.  Anyone skilled in these types of cases would want to start pushing Pete a bit to test his potential toward violence.

  For example, using Pete’s “faults” for the interview process would mean trying to get him to see that his current status and way of handling things are not in his best interest nor will they gain him control.  Thus, after a brief introduction of who you are and your purpose (in this case, to determine the true nature of the conflict and how to resolve it that) you might begin by asking Pete simply to tell you what is going on in why he thinks the situation has reached this stage.  Obviously, Pete will relate a story that makes him look good, and innocent victim and how others in control (supervisor,ect) are out to get him.  This allows him to spin his web of deceit and rationalization in his attempt to con you into control.

  In so doing, you can point to many of his details as possible shortcomings for him to achieve the power you know he wants (“I know how management seems to think they can just make these crazy demands of us all.  But do you think by not doing that task it will really cause them to back off?”).  This is a way of suggesting he may not really be achieving the power he is looking for without challenging his obvious perception of being in control by simply not doing what he has told.

  On the other hand, you must also be careful not to try to trick such a person.  Pete and those like him have years and years of experience at this game and they can spot someone trying to con them a mile away.  At the same time, realize that if he senses you are not responsive to his con, he may tire of you in begin raising the stakes.  These personalities generally need a fair amount of stimulation.  Hence, if you do not keep him involved in this process, may decide to make up a whole new scenario to make things more interesting. (For example, “well, if Ted hadn’t propositioned me last year, this whole thing would never have happened.  Naturally, I couldn’t tell anyone about this earlier because he’s my boss, but I’m just not in two guys.”)

  It is also important to remember the Pete’s of this world cannot focus on long-term concepts of gratification, such as suggesting that his present behavior is unlikely to get him a raise next year.  They are into satisfying the impulses of the here and now.  They did not grow up in an environment where they can learn how to model their “parent self” (what psychologists refer to as the superego).  Hence, they are dealing with the instant gratification demands of their little kid (the id).  And what we know of the little kid is that it basically really understands only two things very clearly –pain and pleasure.  Pete is going to be able to focus only on short term concept; consequences are too subjective, too far away.  The best results are achieved by getting Pete to find an immediate resolution with an obvious concrete negative consequence if the resolution is not achieved (“if you resigned today, you would take away their ability to fire you.”).

You are also not going to intimidate or cause Pete to feel anxious about his position or his actions.  Antisocial personalities have no fear of hurting others, disappointing someone or feeling of guilt, shame or embarrassment for what they have done to others.  And, since anxiety requires a capacity for empathy, the antisocial generally cannot feel anxious.  Thus treats that he could be fired would have little defect on Pete.  About the only anxiety Pete might ever feel is the fear of getting caught for committing some illegal act, but even this is transitory.

  It is also interesting to note that these personalities have no real life goals; they live for immediate

gratification, so how can they have any goals?  Thus, appealing to their future is not only a waste of time but may steer you into a whole line of useless discourse.  If Pete decided to run with this, he would lie and rationalize something socially acceptable he believed you wanted to hear. If you buy into this, he might try to rationalize and con you into seeing how, since he is now the persecuted victim in this case, he should be allowed certain rewards and fewer punishments for his actions.

  What are antisocials looking for, beyond the obvious need to feel they have the power or are in control? They need to feel strong in self-sufficient.  Since others are obviously out for their own power and control, then this additional need the antisocial has means he must do unto others before they do unto him.  People who do not believe in this principle are weak and deserve what they get.  Thus in talking with Pete, allowing him to feel he is directing his opportunities in the process becomes an important element. 




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