As the risks – both actual and perceived – of an act of targeted violence such as mass shootings continue to rise, analysts are needed to help “connect the dots,” particularly here in the United States. That’s one of the key messages I shared a few weeks ago when I was invited to address an elite gathering of Georgetown University’s Master of Professional Studies in Applied Intelligence students. I was honored to speak to these graduate students, who came from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds, including security, law enforcement, technology, research, analytics, and military and defense.

Demand for Intelligence Analysts Is Growing

Security analysts are a valuable resource and will be in high demand for years to come. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for information security analysts is projected to grow 28 percent from 2016–2026, while employment for operations research analysts is projected to grow 27 percent over the same period — each much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations.[1]

Active and Mass Shooter Events Are On the Rise

This is particularly true in the United States. Law enforcement and intelligence analysts in this nation are more likely to be tasked with work related directly or indirectly to active and mass shooter incidents compared to analysts in other developed nations. The U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health released a study in 2016 that found the U.S. had more public mass shootings than any other of the 170 nations investigated. The study warned that the U.S. and other nations with high firearm ownership rates may be particularly susceptible to future public mass shootings, even if they are relatively peaceful or mentally healthy according to other national indicators.[2]

During my discussion with these students – who are responsible for coordinating secure information sharing within their public and private sector organizations, particularly in law enforcement, homeland security, and business applications – I emphasized the essential elements of behavioral threat assessment in the United States.

I shared with them that acts of targeted violence in most instances could not have been predicted, but could likely be prevented by applying the basic principles of behavioral threat assessment – particularly in three areas: (1) what we have learned about attackers, (2) what we know about attack-related behaviors and (3) how to advance case management when there is no evidence of a crime that has occurred. I emphasized that a threat assessment program involves undertaking protective intelligence activities, conducting threat assessments, and maintaining the threat assessment program.

How a Criminal or Intelligence Analyst Contributes to Violence Prevention

I also explained where their skillset and expertise are most valuable to the threat assessment and intervention process. Analysts support programs and systems aimed at identifying and preventing persons with the means and interest to attack a person or company from getting close enough to mount an attack. Proper application of these programs and systems can also reduce the likelihood that said persons would decide to mount an attack. It has been proven that analyzing a risk of violence is minimized if persons with the interest, capacity, and willingness to mount an attack can be identified and rendered harmless before they approach a protected person. This involves three key functions:

  • Identification of persons who might pose a threat
  • Assessment of persons who are identified as a potential threat
  • Case management of persons and groups deemed a threat to a protected person

Where a Criminal or Intelligence Analyst Should Look for Positions

What an organization expects from criminal and intelligence analysts depends on their activities. For instance, an organization like the U.S. Secret Service, with responsibility for protecting the President and other national leaders, needs to have the ability to respond immediately to information that a person or group may pose a threat to a protected person. Likewise, a police department in a major city may have a substantial need to fulfill ongoing protective responsibilities as well as intermittent needs to support other targeted violence investigations. A security organization such as Hillard Heintze is responsible for many clients and their personnel and places a very high value on the role of protective intelligence expertise.

It is an exciting time be a criminal or intelligence analyst. If you have capabilities in this arena – or don’t yet, but have committed to developing them – you will help all of us in the violence prevention environment and, working together, we will make a difference.