Home Law Enforcement Preventing Active Shooter Incidents by Increasing Support for Concerning Behavior Reports

Preventing Active Shooter Incidents by Increasing Support for Concerning Behavior Reports

Start a Emergency & Disaster Management degree at American Military University.

By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

Active shooters and terrorists on American soil have drastically changed the world in which Americans live today. After multiple active shooter incidents and acts of terrorism have occurred, numerous individuals have said that they saw something or knew something they would describe as "concerning behavior."

In some cases, those individuals reported their concern over this behavior. In other situations, they did not.

Since September 11, 2001, government agencies and law enforcement have urged American citizens to report anything suspicious that they see. After reviewing cases of active shooter incidents, the need for individuals to report what they see has been further emphasized. It is increasingly apparent that reports of concerning behavior may be one of the only ways law enforcement may become aware of an individual who can later become an active shooter.

In many instances, however, citizens may not feel comfortable reporting suspicious activity. They may feel that what they witnessed isn't actually the wrong behavior and they may get an individual into trouble who is actually innocent.

As a society, we need to create more of a supportive environment to help individuals report any suspicious activity. That is especially true when reports of unusual behavior is a key factor in stopping an active shooter incident in its tracks.

FBI Study Confirms that Active Shooters Demonstrated Suspicious Behavior to People They Knew before Attack

Recently, the FBI published a study that reviewed several cases of active shooters after they committed a crime. The report argues that there is concerning behavior that many active shooters exhibit prior to the incident they commit.

While the FBI study doesn't specifically state what these specific concerning behaviors are, it reports that family, friends, classmates, coworkers and others who knew an active shooter noticed something suspicious about the shooter's external behavior. Some reported that concerning behavior to law enforcement or to a trusted person.

What Is Concerning Behavior?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) lists a number of ways to determine what concerning behavior qualifies as suspicious activity. For example, concerning behavior may include an individual asking strange questions about the security of a building that is above and beyond a level of normal curiosity or their particular profession.

Furthermore, as the Department of Homeland Security suggests, concerning behavior is not limited just to its list. Suspicious behavior can include any type of behavior that makes another individual feel uneasy.

Creating More Supportive Environments for Reporting Concerning Behavior

When it comes to these situations, law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security have generally been very supportive of individuals who want to report suspicious behavior. However, some organizations may feel uneasy about an employee wanting to report a suspicious individual.

Take a small business, for example. Reporting an individual might mean that a small business is reporting a good customer. If the report turns out to be false, it could create a strained relationship between that customer and the business, as well as future difficulties for the small business.

In other instances, some employees may tell another employee what what they saw doesn't really constitute as concerning behavior. That practice makes individuals second-guess their own judgment.

Ultimately, organizations and individuals should be supportive of people who want to report unusual, potentially criminal behavior. After all, that person may have seen or heard something that could be a key factor in preventing an active shooter incident in the future. Furthermore, society needs to be more accepting of concerning behavior reports, so that individuals are able to make these reports without feeling stigmatized.

False Reports of Active Shooters Also a Possibility

False reports can create all sorts of issues. For example, one individual may file a false report just to get even with another person. Of course, these types of false reports cannot be tolerated.

Reporting Concerning Behavior Saves Lives

Ultimately, it is important for individuals to report any suspicious behavior to help law enforcement to intervene and prevent active shooter incidents. Reporting concerning behavior, while difficult for some individuals, will have a positive impact in stopping an active shooter incident in its tracks.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.