10 Threat Assessment Guidelines for Executive Protection

Executive Protection & Threat Assessment

Executive protection and threat assessment go hand in hand with each other. The executive protection specialist is making evaluations on a daily basis, about whether an inappropriate pursuer is a violent threat, or just a nuisance.  These pursuers attempt to make contact via letters to the principal, calls to the principal, and the occasional, unwanted attempt to meet the principal in person.

“Threat Assessment”

Threat assessment means many things to many people. After all, the executive protection specialist is assessing threats all day long. For our purposes here, I am referring to assessing inappropriate pursuers, either as violent threats or as a nuisances.

The Process Stated Briefly

First, we make an initial assessment based on very limited information for the purpose of expediency and urgency. We engage in more fact finding, then reassess. Then we apply our intervention strategies (even if that’s only “watch and wait”). Then we reassess again. And how do we know if we can “close” a particular case? Well, unless you can prove a negative: prove that the subject will not approach/attack the target. Then there never is a nice, clean “close.”

Executive Protection & Threat Assessment: Need-to-Know Concepts

  • Hunter: “The concept of behaving like a hunter applies to those individuals who act in furtherance of committing intended violence.” Think back to our reading: “How to Look for Trouble” by Stratfor. For an adversary to carry out a successful attack, they have to complete the entire attack cycle. And we know that the target is vulnerable to detection when they are conducting surveillance, acquiring weapons/equipment, etc.
  • Howler: “The concept of howler describes those individuals who communicate inappropriately, ominously, even threateningly, or who communicate emotionally, but who never act violently.”
  • Intimacy Effect: “the greater degree of intimacy between the subject and the target, the more likely threats of physical harm will be carried out.”

“10 Guidelines for Managing Hunters and Howlers”

The list below is taken word-for-word from “Threat Assessment and Management Strategies: Identifying Howlers and Hunters” by Frederick S. Calhoun and Stephen W. Weston.

1. Always assess and manage the subject by keeping in mind the context and the circumstances in which the subject acts.
2.Always determine the impact of the intimacy effect within the context and the circumstances in which the subject acts.

3. Always be prepared to reassess the situation once a threat management strategy is applied, new information comes to light, or the subject acts again.

4. Always avoid causing or allowing a last straw to fall.

5. Always approach the problem flexibly and innovatively.

6. Always remember that hunters engage in attack-related behaviors and howlers engage in inappropriate communications.

7. Always Keep your word and be prepared to do what you told the subject you would do.

8. Always treat the subject with respect and ensure the “dignity domino” remains upright.

9. Always stick to the facts as you know them and avoid playing the ‘what if?’ game.

10. Always manage the case for as long as it needs managing.

Travis’ Addition to the List
(11.) Once an “active” management strategy is applied it cannot be undone. Once you have confronted the subject of the assessment, it is very difficult to retreat back to a strategy of “watch and wait.”

What’s the difference between an “active” and a “passive” management strategy? An “active” strategy is any strategy that involves confronting the subject of the investigation (example: civil order, administrative actions, arrest, etc.). “Passive” strategies are those strategies that are non confrontational (example: watch and wait, information gathering, or third party monitoring).

End Note: If you take one idea away from my entire series on threat assessment, let it be this: If the subject wants to attack a public figure, they are less likely to communicate that to anyone anyone because they do not want their plan undermined.

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About the EP Nexus Blog

The EP Nexus executive protection blog, is a comprehensive resource for security professionals involved in executive protection, protective intelligence, threat assessment, and related fields.

Launched in March of 2016 as a resource for executive protection professionals, command center gurus, and close protection know-it-alls, EP Nexus is quickly becoming a resource for those seeking to quench their thirst for executive protection reading.

The most popular section of the blog is Executive Protection HacksEP Hacks is a series in which we address complex topics (one topic per issue) in a convenient collection of tools & writings. I am actively collaborating with industry leaders to produce future issues. If you're interested in taking an active approach in moving your industry into the future, contact me below.

Outside of EP Hacks, I explore the following topics in writings, tutorials, and webinars: online tools for executive protection professionals, open source intelligence investigations (OSINT), threat assessment, protective intelligence, travel security, and more.

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