Borderline Personality Disorder

Throughout the course of my blogs we will occasionally touch on some of the mental health issues we see when dealing with a variety of stalkers. If you are a cop or victim advocate; you should have a working knowledge of these mental health conditions. Today, we are going to touch on BPD or Borderline Personality Disorder.

The DSM-IV-TR, which now has evolved into the DMS-V-TR defines BPD as:

A person who may present with this specific disorder may exhibit a ” pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impuslsivity by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  1. frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5.
  2. a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships, characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
  3. identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
  4. impulsivity in a at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating). Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5.
  5. recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior. 
  6. affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria (def. a feeling of unpleasure-anxiety, coupled with irritability and oftentimes doubt.) irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days.)
  7. chronic feelings of emptiness
  8. inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
  9. transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.” 

I know this seems like a detailed definition, but sometimes it helps when the novice (that would be as well due to the fact that I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist) is trying to better understand exactly what this disorder may look like. By the way having a DSM-V-TR in your office or on your desk is a real help when you start trying to differentiate between behaviors.  We recommend anyone working with stalkers avail themselves of a copy. 

So what does this all mean when we see it manifest in a stalker we are reviewing. Like the definition indicates, stalkers with this malady have a rough time with anyone they have targeted leaving them. If involved in an intimate partner relationship, some will go to extreme measures to try and keep the relationship together. Many stalkers with this condition will cut themselves and/or talk or even attempt suicide. They will do both of these things to try and garner attention and sympathy from their target. We have had stalkers later diagnosed with this disorder to also be extremely sexual to the point of displaying inappropriate or unwanted sexual displays. One female stalker would offer up herself anytime she felt that her target was contemplating leaving the relationship. On several occasions once the relationship was done and she began stalking her target she would disrobe completely or expose certain body parts while her target was in a public setting. 

The other concern we have when dealing with this type of stalker is a potential for murder/suicide as well as violent outbursts of anger. 


What can we learn from cases like what happened in Santa Barbara?

In light of recent events taking place in the Santa Barbara area of California, this post is going to be fairly long and cover several different topics because it is a problem that we involved in threat assessment are always preaching about, but unfortunately too often find not enough listeners in the pews.

Let me begin by saying that I am very sorry for the families who lost victims in the mass murder scenario. This would also include the parents of the perpetrator of this crime because all too often we have found in our line of work that many of the parents of those with mental disorders try their very best to try and solve their child’s issues but get little assistance from society in accomplishing that end. It appears (judging by the limited information I have seen in the media) in this particular scenario that even though Elliot’s parents had resources they were continually frustrated in their attempts to work with him. (I am in no way excusing Rodger Elliot’s actions. He is fully responsible for what he did.) However, if you do not have a child or sibling that has a severe mental disorder, thank your lucky stars because a troubled family member can easily drain a families resources as well as beat them down both emotionally and physically. Of course, each situation is different, and there are parents that make little or no effort to assist a child in need; or worse have added to that person’s malady.

First topic concerning this and other incidents like it. Depending on which study you look at there are about 270 to 310 million firearms owned by Americans. About 100 million or so are handguns. The number of first time buyers of firearms-primarily handguns is on the increase with woman appearing to be the largest new gun purchasers. In 2012 about 8855 persons scummed to gun violence in the United States, the first uptick in the four years prior to that. Numerous other people were murdered in United States by a variety of other ways, autos, knives, bludgeoning devices, poison, etc. As a semi-retired homicide detective I have seen many people killed in a variety of ways, I would agree that the tool of choice is oftentimes a firearm. However, I will tell you if ever asked that is exactly what a firearm is a tool that is utilized, the fault lies with the person pulling the trigger.

You will notice that when I talked about Elliot’s murderous rampage, I did not refer to it as has the vast majority of the press and others as a mass shooting. Number one it is not a mass shooting. Elliot stabbed his first three victims (his roommates) to death. Without talking to him I doubt that people will know exactly why he did it that way, but one can guess that he was looking for a way to dispatch them as stealthy and quietly as he could. It would be interesting to know where the victims where stabbed and how many times. Most stabbings are construed to indicate things like rage, a personable attack, etc.However, if the stab wound was more surgical designed to quickly kill the victim it could be done as previously indicated to take out the victim quietly. Where as  shooting someone; allows the shooter a greater chance of escape, and a lower risk of damage or injury due to the fact they are actually not usually making physical contact with the victim or victims. Elliot also used his BMW to try and dispatch another victim by running him over. [By the way, concerning the handguns Elliot had. He had purchased the handguns leagally in California. He had gone through the required waiting period, and the Cal. Dept. Of Justice had run a record check on him. Elliot’s check did not show any criminal activity, no restraining orders, nor did it show any mental health components. He had never bee arrested and processed for a 72 hour hold under 5150 of the Welfare and Institutions code in California. If he had he could not have purchased the firearm. So if the California State Legislature, wants to try and develop some type of index for persons who are undergoing psychiatric evaluation on a voluntary basis thus not allowing them to purchase a firearm, there may be some inherit issues. One of the primary things I can think of is that if any individual knows that he or she will not be able to purchase or have in their possession a firearm because they are seeing a therapist or psychiatrist, do you think they will actively seek out therapy?

Second topic: Mental health. In the United States mental health coverage is abysmal. The number of beds and mental health facilities have declined tremendously over the years leaving the streets, jails and prisons the areas that are poorly tasked with taking care of these individuals. If an individual is lucky enough to be under treatment for whatever mental condition they may be suffering the vast majority of patients are treated with medications, which in too many cases the patient refuses to self-administer or worse decides to try other things like alcohol, non-prescribed pharmaceuticals or street drugs to self-medicate.  In my opinion, psychiatry does not really have any cures for most of these disorders primarily because they usually evolve around issues of brain chemistry. My hat is off to the nueroscientists that are involved in trying to probe those areas and develop surgical solutions instead of a parade of Meds. to assist those in need. However until these incredible break-threws manifest themselves, our society as a whole needs to better house and care for those that are impaired.  The perpetrator of this mass killing was reportedly not taking his medications. I also do not know if he was expressing wanting to harm others due to his misdirected anger to his therapist, but if that was the case they had a duty to report same via the proper channels.

Third topic :violent video games. Concerning this incident and others like it many an “expert” has been interviewed concerning how violent video games may have by a catalyst for Elliot and others violence. Much research of late has been done on this. Many studies indicate that those that play violent video games on a continual basis, primarily teens can become addicted to the usage of these games; as well as “can develop antisocial behavior,” which can also cause them to become more disconnected from reality. (The DSM-V, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders recently added a new disorder entitled Internet Use Disorder, IUD, which also includes, the use of Internet Video Games.) I have experienced many youth including my two boys when they were younger having to be weaned off their violent games due to personality changes we experience with them in regard to anger, etc. One of the primary reasons for this was because most teens brains are not fully wired. In fact, they don’t get their circuits completely developed until they are in their mid-twenties at least. Now that my boys are in that period of their lives, we do not see the anger issues or the actual withdrawals symptoms that we initially saw when we removed them from playing said games for a couple weeks at a time. This does not mean that all kids who play video games are going to be serial killers or mass murders, but it is and will continue to be a problem; especially for those that are more susceptible to the suggestions of violence perpetrated by continual use of the game. We have seen kids get desensitized to violence in general. Which we believe is not a good thing. In 2004, I assisted on an murder investigation where the suspect, a 24 year old male, with a very high IQ,, from a upper middle class family, occasionally utilized methamphetamine, had problems trying to interact with girls, and continuously, played a video game that discussed ancient Chinese strategy on the battle field. According to his friends and family he was “addicted” to the game. This subject had issues with his mother, which our investigation revealed was completely dedicated to trying to assist her son to get better, but in the process tended to hover over her son (the murderer.) One day he closed all the blinds in the house, and would not answer the phone when his mother called from work. He knew she would come home to check on his welfare. He then went into their master bedroom, got a shotgun, loaded it, and waited on the floor until she came home. When she opened the door of the bedroom he executed her. When I arrived on the scene, I was taken by one of the other detectives to the doorway just outside of the master bedroom. There on the floor was a lock of the victim’s hair wrapped with a ribbon. When I interviewed the suspect, who continually referred to the tactics of the game as those that had helped him devise a plan of attack on his mother, securing the house, lying in wait, etc., he said that he had taken a lock of his “enemies” (his mother) as a souvenir of his conquest of battle.

Fourth Topic: The value of threat assessment: Just because we are involved in threat assessment doesn’t mean we view it as a panacea when it comes to stopping violent crime. We realize that it combined with other processes need to be utilized to be as an effective tool as possible when trying to stop violence. However, we do know that threat assessment does and will continue to work better as it is enhanced. Law enforcement needs to have at the very least one specific individual if not a team tasked with utilizing threat assessment to evaluate a number of potential crime scenarios including something like what transpired in greater Santa Barbara. Police must be open to looking at non-criminal behavior in order to evaluate and hopefully prevent a criminal event. Example: Example: Say that a subject’s  roommates came to the local sheriff’s department and talked to a desk officer commenting that the subject had been acting strangely, and was talking about being frustrated and angry at girls that had rebuked him and that his anger and resentment seemed to be escalating. If the desk officer/deputy had been trained in just the basics of threat assessment, and their was a protocol in place to get the basic information about said subject and what the roommate was relating he or she could then forward that information back to a detective or investigator assigned and well-trained in threat assessment. The subject in question would then be placed  into a file database. The investigator would then run a check to see if anyone else had been concerned about the subject in question. A firearms record check could be run to see if and when the subject had purchased any guns, The investigator could go on the Internet to see what if any postings the subject had been making. (Of course it would help if the desk officer had asked the roommate some of those questions.) Then if the subject started looking more and more like a possible threat, the investigator could then make an in person contact, possibly taking a mental health professional with him or her. This is how this works. Threat assessment is only as good as the information gathered. Citizens have to be made aware that it is ok to contact the police. Law enforcement has to become better trained and not routinely disregard what citizens bring to them. My partner and I have always trained others to work the small stuff because it can and oftentimes does lead to much bigger things. 


Hopefully, this post has not been too long winded. Pay attention to your surroundings and stay safe.

How did the stalking detective get his nickname, The Duck

ImageI have received several inquires as to why I am nicknamed the Duck. Basically I got the name because I was always in hot water. I couldn’t leave the station without getting into some type criminal situation. Whether it was a vehicle or foot pursuit, in progress crime, etc. I was what they call in nice terms a “crap” magnet, and you know what they say about a duck, that and other things just roll off a duck’s back.  Because of what I was always getting into my partner was nicknamed The DCO (Damage Control Officer) because he had to try and smooth all the feathers I ruffled when dealing with suspects or many times supervisors. Terry put over 40 years on the job, and I put in 33. During that time we worked robbery/homicide for over thirteen years. We were known throughout the county as very unusual homicide detectives. We always got results, but we did it in such a weird way they decided to write a book about us.(See attached photo, book is on Amazon.) We were fairly unconventional, but we had a lot of fun. We have to admit the book has gotten very good reviews. It is a true crime book which profiles a lot of our cases combined with a great deal of cop humor. So if you are into true crime, and  curious as to why they decided to chronicle our lives in the cop world, it would probably be a good read.

Stalking victims who are housed for protection need to have staff trained in the stalking phenomenon.


I am regularly contacted by people linking up with me on LinkedIn and elsewhere asking me questions like, I work in a woman’s shelter, or supply housing for battered women; what should I look for, or what should I Imageexpect when dealing with a woman that has been the victim of a stalker. Due to the fact that intimate partners that stalk their significant other can and usually are prone to violence these are good questions. Due to the fact that I get these questions regularly, and because I run across numerous queries when I teach victim advocates who are being trained to work with domestic violence victims, we decided to add information concerning this issue in Antidote For A Stalker. 

I will discuss some of the information we give out to those folks in this post. Due to the fact, that victim advocates go out of their way to assist broken and battered women and their children, they have a special place in our hearts. One of the factions that worked with us when we developed the FPU (Family Protection Unit) at our police department was an organization called WTLC (The Woman’s Transitional Living Center.) They were charged with making sure the stalking or battered woman had shelter. If we so deemed they walked the victim through the court process of obtaining a restraining order. Thus eliminating much of the stress of trying to do that by oneself. What we told these victim advocates and others we deal with is to always be on guard when dealing with a female that has been stalked. [There is an entire regiment of counseling that can and should be utilized for a stalking victim that unfortunately is not readily available, and we are not going to get into all that today.] The victim advocate needs to understand that stalkers are extremely devious and resourceful. They will attempt to search out their target’s whereabouts in order to make contact for a variety of reasons. This can and does put the advocate at risk from the stalker. He and sometimes she sees the advocate as a barrier between the target and him or her.  That being said, there are some tactics that can be utilized to deter this type of behavior. Again, that is why we wrote the book, so that people could research this information.   The photo in this post shows one of our Metro detectives bringing a stalking victim to one of our in house victim advocates who is in the process of filing out an application for a restraining order. 

Credible VS. Direct Threat when it comes to stalking

Unfortunately, time and time again, I am contacted by victims of stalking complaining about law enforcement either not understanding or not caring about the difference between a credible and a direct threat when it comes to stalking. That is one of the reasons we spend some time in our  book discussing the difference and giving so many different examples. So let us take some time on this post to differentiate between the two. We also spend some time when we train law enforcement and victim advocates concerning this issue.

Direct Threat:  A direct threat is pretty simile in definition. It is a threat  to clearly (at least on the face of it) do harm or damage to the victim or those they are in an intimate relationship with. This could also mean a threat directed specifically at family members. An example of a direct threat would be, ” I am going to kill you.” ” I am going to break your arm.” ” I am going to go get a gun and shoot  a member of your family.” We think everyone can figure that is a specific threat generated by a stalker towards their target. Generally most penal code sections incorporate the transmission of this threat can be done verbally, or by electronic device, and/or by a third party. In other words, Tom tells Mary, he is going to cut Jerry up into little pieces. Mary, then communicates this information to Jerry causing him to fear Tom. Depending on jurisdiction, there may be no requirement that the individual making these threats actually intend on carrying them out. (Another thing to that may be taken into consideration concerning the transmission of third party threats is does the person making the threats have a reasonable expectation that the person he is uttering  the threat to will actually convey that threat to the person it is intended for.)Of course, there would have to be enough evidence presented to a prosecutor to charge the individual with something like criminal or terrorist threats. (We don’t want to get into all the variables. We are also not law professors or attorney’s so we are not going to try and teach a class on criminal law. Our purpose is to just give you some idea on the basic differences between the two types of threats.)

Credible Threat:Under the California Penal code section for stalking, 646.9, a credible threat is defined as: ” means a verbal or written threat, including that performed through use of an electronic communication device, or a threat implied by a pattern of conduct or a combination of verbal, written, or electronically communicated statements and conduct, made with the intent to place the person that is the target of the threat in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family, and made with the present ability to carry out the threat so as to cause the person who is the target of the threat to reasonably fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family.”  Now while trying to define credible threat we get back into another term that is included in most if not all stalking sections at least in some form or another; that being course of conduct.

In California Course of Conduct is defined as “two or more acts occurring over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose.”  “Constitutionally protected activity is not included within the meaning of ‘course of conduct.”

In the book we give examples of several other states and some other countries definitions. However, to clarify, let us give you an example of how a credible threat might take place evidencing  a strange course of conduct. A woman starts to be followed by a stalker. That stalker shows up at various locations and events she attends. One day she awakens, comes out her front door and finds that “someone” (later found to be her stalker) had turned over all of her front yard flower pots and made little graves on her front porch. Other victims have continually gotten a series of unwanted, notes, cards, letters, and then phone calls from an individual that the victim  does not want to have anything to do with. That individual then starts to show up at her place of business to profess his love. He then follows her to the movies, restaurants and other venues. At no time does the stalker ever state that he wants to harm or do damage to her; however this type of behavior causes the victim to become fearful and experience emotional trauma. Especially when he is advised on more than one occasion to stop bothering/harassing her.  Many times the gifts and letters may become darker; especially when the stalker is continually rebuked. An example would be instead of leaving fresh flowers on the victim’s doorsteps, the flowers that are left are dead. The stalker leaves a stuffed animal that his hung with a noose around its neck on the door knob. These acts all go towards formulating a case for stalking. We must point out that not all stalkers make direct threats towards their targets, but their behavior can be so bizarre as to cause the victim to fear and have emotional distress.

The issue a stalking victim oftentimes encounters is that the law enforcement personnel he or she encounters, say the first responder such as a uniformed patrol officer may not be trained in all or even most of the elements of stalking. Therefore, it is incumbent on the victim to then try and contact an investigator who is reportedly versed in how to handle a stalker. Hopefully going that extra mile will get the victim the assistance they require.

Saudi Women pushing for stronger domestic violence legislation

On my website, I have an email that is designed for communication not only to law enforcement personnel, but to assist anyone who is struggling with stalking (which for the most part is domestic violence related). I do my best to reach out to those that contact me. Unfortunately, when I get requests from countries such as India, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the like, most of the time I can only advise some steps that might assist the requester, or in some situations explain to them why their stalker is doing what he or she is doing. The reason being that in those countries; especially where sharia law is the mandate of that country; law enforcement let alone the court systems are not in the least bit close to being trained on how to deal with a stalking scenario. It is my belief that most governmental officials may not even believe it exists.

So when I read articles like the one in the May 17, 2014 Economist Magazine, Unshackling Themselves, p.45, it heartens me that the women’s movements in Saudi Arabia may finally be getting their governments to move in the right direction concerning the rights of their women. However, until it dramatically changes and people like me are allowed to enter into those countries to train their law enforcement and judicial communities concerning a variety of issues concerning domestic violence, not just stalking, I am afraid not much will be done to assist the oppressed in those jurisdictions.

OCD is one of the disorders we see in stalking scenarios

In our book  Antidote For A Stalkerwe have a specific section that deals with a variety of mental disorders that we commonly see in many of the stalkers we have and continue to deal with. Now does that mean that all stalkers express symptoms of a mental disorder, no, but many of the them do “suffer” from some type of mental malady. Again, and we will continue to stress, that is why anyone who is consulting on or working on a particular stalking case needs to have some knowledge of mental disorders; at the very least access to the consul of a mental health professional. 

Today we are going to discuss Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorders (OCPD). Most people do not realize that these are two distinctly diagnosed disorders. In regard to OCD, basically it is defined as patterns of behavior or (behaviour for those readers in the U.K.) that interfere with that individuals ability to normally function. (You can also find this disorders behavior classified under anxiety disorders.) You probably know this type of person, they must check to see that they have locked the door numerous times. They may have to wash their hands or clean surfaces excessively. They are overly concerned about problems at work, school, or in a home environment. Some pray continually, or mouth words or phases over and over again. Most of these behaviors are designed to try and reduce stress in their life. Persons with this disorder, for the most part know that it is them that is causing these frustrations and not some outside entity. They don’t like its manifestations. 

On the other hand, OCDP is defined in the Dictionary of Psychology, “as a persistent personality pattern characterized by extreme drive for perfection, an excessive orderliness, an inability to compromise, and an exaggerated sense of responsibility.”  Many of these individuals are into scheduling, following “certain” rules. They are highly inflexible with life tasks.  Many do not have many friends. Oftentimes cannot delegate power or projects. Many times it takes these individuals an incredible amount of time to finish anything. 

We have had stalkers with these disorders, write down everything they do during the day. Even to the point of exactly what they ate, where they got the food and what it cost. As detectives we love these guys because when we do search warrants we look for their logs and ledgers which contain information like how and when they stalked their target. We even had one write in his notes that he had researched the stalking penal code section and felt what he was doing fit the section and that I (Detective Proctor) would not be happy with what he was doing.  When they are arrested, they will drive their defense attorney’s nuts with incessant calls concerning their case and how they think it should be handled. 

Like we said that are numerous other disorders that stalkers can and do exhibit, throughout the course of this blog we will discuss more of them. 

Threat Assessment is crucial when dealing with stalkers

Over and over again, I get requests from domestic violence groups requesting that I evaluate a case that they are involved with. Most of the time I do not comply with their requests because I usually don’t get involved with evaluations unless the law enforcement entity that is handling the case invites me in. The primary reason for that is because when I deal with a police agency I am afforded the availability of all the pertinent information in that specific case. In other words, I am not just getting one side of the story. 

That being said, myself and the vast majority of trained stalking investigators strongly feel that compiling a threat assessment is mandatory when conducting an on-going stalking investigation. In our latest book Antidote For A Stalker as well as the stalking protocol we provide to law enforcement we show a stalking threat assessment form that we utilize and encourage those that we train to utilize as well. In order for you as an investigator how fast you can proceed or at least the direction you are going to go you must get a lethality reading on your stalker. In other words, is he or she an immediate danger to the victim and/or those she or he associates with. What are the chances the stalking is going to escalate into violence. If your lethality reading is low, you may have more time to put your entire investigative case together. If your reading is high, then you must react immediately and get the stalker into the system as best you can. This evaluation also gives you an idea of how the stalker may or may not react to a restraining order. The threat assessment gives you a direction on how you are going to case manage your victim. What precautions you need to take concerning her or his safety requirements. 

We strongly suggest that anyone involved with working with stalking victims either in the guise of law enforcement or as domestic violence advocates to get any training they can on how to better conduct a threat assessment.