This horrific shooting at the Charleston South Carolina AME Church was an act of a mentally disturbed twenty-one year old male, bigot who decided to perpetrate violence on innocent God fearing decent people. The tool he utilized to execute these fine people was in fact a gun. Again, that was the TOOL he used, it was not the reason that this heinous crime took place. However, one of the first things some politicians and pun-dents direct their comments toward in regard to stemming the tide of these types of crime is the need for greater gun control. When what we actually need is better threat assessment concerning these individuals so they do not commit more of these types of crimes.
I worked as a cop for over thirty-three years. Thirteen of those years I was a homicide detective. I have seen people murdered with guns, knives, swords, clubs, baseball bats, steel pipes, boot heels, forced drowning, strangulation, cement blocks, being run over by vehicles, forced drug overdoses, etc. Yes, a gun is oftentimes the tool of choice for a variety of reasons, but it is the individual who commits the murder that is responsible perpetrating that crime, not the item that is brought to bear to complete the felony assault or homicide.
Our law makers either don’t understand or haven’t been shown that the only way we are going to slow these type of perpetrators down is to develop training and programs within our law enforcement communities directed at threat assessment as well as profiling. Most agencies in the United States and elsewhere do not have any type of threat assessment team, nor do they train line personnel in how to threat assess. Too often when a citizen calls or comes to the front counter of a police department with concerns that may not be construed by law enforcement as a crime, but which eventually may lead to one they are turned away. Instead, there needs to be a system in place where the officer out in the field or at the station listen, and document in some fashion the information given to them by their citizen contact. That information then needs to be submitted to a detective or unit within the police department tasked with monitoring potential threats. Once that piece of information comes to the attention of a detective or threat assessment unit, it can compared to any other information on the subject in question. When it looks as though there maybe an issue developing, then that detective or unit can at the very least make contact with the subject, his or her friends, companions and/or relatives to see if there is something that needs to be done. When possible, that same detective or unit should delve into Internet communication. This may require new laws allowing search warrants to obtain this type of information. In short law enforcement needs to be become a great deal more pro-active as well as reactive. This threat assessment unit or detective should also have some way of working in conjunction with a mental health professional to assist in an evaluation of the potentially lethal individuals in our midst. Besides working homicide and stalkers, I came from a unit known as the FPU, the Family Protection Unit, which had a social worker, a mental health professional, a probation officer, and a domestic violence community case worker assigned to the unit. The Los Angeles Police Department’s TMU (Threat Management Unit) has a very well-trained mental health unit tasked with assisting them on cases. Many of the individuals that commit these violence atrocities have moderate to severe mental health disorders which can and do tend to exacerbate their violence quotient.
As a public, we all need to become more aware of those that we encounter. We are going to have to become better reporters about something that we see that causes us to feel may be a problem. I strongly believe if law enforcement is more open and responsive to citizen contact, then a greater number who reside in our communities will make a more concerted effort to come forth.