The Online Bodyguard®

The Online Bodyguard Podcast - Threat Assessment featuring Dr Reid Meloy

March 08, 2022 Philip Grindell MSc - The Online Bodyguard Season 1 Episode 4
The Online Bodyguard®
The Online Bodyguard Podcast - Threat Assessment featuring Dr Reid Meloy
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of The Online Bodyguard Podcast, he shares his expertise on how to assess persons of concern who may pose a threat to public and prominent figures. He discusses his extensive case history and expertise of proximal warning behaviours, communicated threats, mental illness in attackers, how they plan, escalate and appropriate interventions. Dr Meloy shares his thoughts of the future of the threat assessment industry, how to identify a professional organisation and finally shares some of his top tips for staying safe.

Dr. Reid Meloy is widely known as one the preeminent experts in the field of assessing threats of violence. Dr. Reid Meloy is a board-certified forensic psychologist (ABPP) and consults on criminal and civil cases throughout the U.S. and Europe. Dr. Meloy has authored or co-authored over two hundred fifty papers published in peer-reviewed psychiatric and psychological journals, and has authored, co-authored or edited thirteen books. He has been consulting, researching and writing about personality disorder, psychopathy, stalking, narcissism, criminality, mental disorder, and targeted violence for the past thirty years. He was a technical consultant to the television series CSI from its inception in 2000 until its final episode in 2015; and is the technical consultant to “Indivisible: Healing Hate,” a Paramount + television series exploring the historical roots of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection. https://drreidmeloy.com/

Philip Grindell:

Defuse is a boutique protective intelligence consultancy that combines psychology and intelligence to identify, assess and mitigate threats and risks to prominent people and brands. Our podcast 'The Online Bodyguard' discusses the issues facing prominent people and brands with the world's most up to date and recognised experts. It discusses how we assess threats, the use of psychology and profiling, targeted violence, the threats from fixated people, crisis and reputation management, cyber bullying, harassment, stalking, and so much more. Our objective at Defuse is to bring together the expertise available to assist our clients to feel safer in public life. This episode is very special. This episode is with what I've called the godfather of threat assessment. Dr. Reid Meloy. Dr. Meloy has been at the forefront of the science behind assessing threats and especially those directed at public figures for over 30 years. It's an absolute privilege for me to introduce Dr. Reid Meloy. I'm going to read his bio out. It's quite long, but it reinforces the expertise that Dr. Meloy has. Dr. Meloy is a board certified forensic psychologist and consults on criminal and civil cases throughout the US and Europe. He is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, and a faculty member of the San Diego psycho analytic centre. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and a past president of the American Academy of Forensic Psychology. He has received a number of Awards and honours including the first National Achievement Award in 1998. From the throat sociation of Threat Assessment Professionals and the Manfred Guttmacher Award from the American Psychiatric Association in 2021. Dr. Malloy has authored or co authored over 250 papers, published in peer reviewed psychiatric and psychological journals, and has authored co authored or edited or edited 13 books. He has been consulting, researching and writing about personality disorder, psychopathy, stalking, narcissism, criminality, mental disorder, and targeted violence for the past 30 years. His first book, 'The Psychopathic Mind', was an integration of the biological and psychodynamic understanding of psychopathy. He co-edited the book with Dr. Hoffman and Defuse's own, Dr. Lorraine Sheridan, 'Stalking Threatening and Attacking Public Figures' led to a commission study for the National Academy of Sciences on threats towards public figures published in 2011. The first edition of the International Handbook of threat assessment was published in 2014. And the second edition last year in 2021, Steven white and Dr. Reid Meloy created the WAVR21 version three, a structured professional judgement instrument for targeted workplace and campus violence. Dr. Meloy has been a consultant on criminal counterintelligence and counterterrorism cases for their behavioural and analytic unit, FBI Quantico for the past 20 years. His counterterrorism work began when he was retained as the consulting forensic psychologist by the US Attorney General in the prosecution of the defendant, big McVeigh and Nichols in the Oklahoma City bombing cases. He's the originator and developer of the TRAP 18 terrorist radicalization assessment protocol, a validated risk assessment instrument used by counterterrorism professionals in North America and Europe. He was a member of the fixators research group for the UK Home Office concerning threats to the Royal family of British political figures. And it's a consulting member of Work Trauma Services, headquartered in San Francisco, and team psychology and security in Darmstadt, Germany. He was a founding associate editor of the Journal of Threat Assessment and Management. Dr. Meloy is intermittently quoted in the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and many others. He was a technical consultant to the television series CSI, from its inception into 2000 until its final episode five is later in 2015 and is the technical consultant to indivisible healing and hate a paramount plus television series exploring the historical roots of the January 6 2021. insurrection. So here we are Dr. Meloy, welcome to 'The Online Bodyguard'. And it's an absolute honour, as I said, to have you here, because I've been studying your work for the last few years, and certainly all the time I've been in the world of threat assessments. So thank you so much for for joining us.

Dr Reid Meloy:

Thank you, Phil. Glad to be here.

Philip Grindell:

My first question really is, you know, you've been at the forefront of assessing threats, especially with regards to those directed at public figures and prominent members of society for over 30 years. What's changed in that time?

Dr Reid Meloy:

That's a That's an excellent question, Phil. And Molly Amman, who is a very close friend of mine, and a colleague and I wrestled with that question and decided to do a study. And so we looked at public figure attackers, and this was actually just limited to the United States. We looked at public figure attackers, from the mid 1990s until 2016. So or actually 2015. So we had about, about a 20 year history, because we wanted to compare our findings there with what Robert Fein, and Brian Vossekuil had found in their Secret Service study, which essentially looked at attackers in the second half of the 20th century public figure attackers in the US. And we and we did find some striking differences. Some of the things that stayed the same is that a number of the attackers in fact, the majority would typically have psychiatric problems. In other words, major mental disorders, not just more benign issues, such as anxiety or depression. But these were like major diagnoseable conditions, we found that also majority typically had some kind of some kind of criminal background, criminality, that was a part of their history. They were typically all males. It's very unusual for a female although it does happen to attack a public figure. But we also found some things that have changed. One of the most interesting things is that we used to see a lot of cases of public figure attackers, where the motivation was was fame. I give you a couple of examples of Sirhan Sirhan, there was a there was an ideological terrorist motivation there in Sirhan, but there is also a desire to be known. We saw that with Mark David Chapman in his attack on John Lennon, where he really was seeking fame by killing John Lennon. One of the other notable cases that were this was quite apparent was the Andrew Cunanan killing of Gianni Versace in Florida in the mid 1990s. But what we saw then change was this narcissism of seeking fame began to shift to a narcissism of entitlement that I have been personally aggrieved by this public figure, and I now have a right to attack them because of what they've done to me. And so you see the narcissism shift from a desire for fame, to an angry entitlement, that I am going to attack this person, for reasons of oftentimes have a grievance that affects my relationships or affects my work or some effects my personal life. Along with that, one of the most interesting things was that 1/3 of the public figure attackers in the United States during this most recent 20 year period, were actually known by the public figure. So this wasn't a stranger that came out of the blue and a third of the cases it was suddenly somebody that the public figure had known. So this so this personal, angry grievance aspect of the case, has really become much more intensified over the past 20 years than it was in the first half of the 20th or second half of the 20th century.

Philip Grindell:

So I think one thing always fascinates me is is the link between the attackers having a mental health condition and yet, their ability to behave very rationally, when planning their and planning and carrying out their attack. And that confuses people in terms of they have this perception that if you've got those sort of significant mental health issues that you must be mad, and therefore, how can you? How can you do that? How can you be so rational in your planning?

Dr Reid Meloy:

Oh, absolutely. I want to preface what I'm about to say, with the comment that, that most people that have a severe mental disorder are not dangerous toward other people, they're not going to be violent toward others, they're not going to commit a homicide. In fact, the severely mentally ill are much more likely to be victimised themselves or to commit suicide. That being said, we do see a prominent mental disorder in attackers of public figures. And the old traditional belief is one that you just articulated that how can somebody with a mental disorder be organised in mounting an attack. And that has been in a sense of counterintuitive finding that within a major mental disorders, such as a psychosis or specifically a delusion, where you have a fixed and false belief, there can be a rationality within the irrationality. So within the delusion, we have learned that individuals can play plan, research, prepare and implement an attack, despite their mental disorder. But here's something that I that I picked up a number of years ago, and I've written about it a little bit, but without any formal years of research is just my, my consulting experiences, is that sometimes, having a delusion brings a resolve and a commitment to attack the public figure that would not be there without the delusion. In other words, the delusion eliminates any feelings of ambivalence. And that's a quite striking finding, I think that also has appeared in in some cases.

Philip Grindell:

And so when they have that fixation, and they're on that path, and they potentially are stalking, do they? I mean, do they just stop at their own valition is that is there times when they just think actually, I've changed my mind. And I've decided I'm not going to do this, I've seen seen the light, or I've just decided to stop.

Dr Reid Meloy:

Yeah, we do see that we see, attackers of public figures, oftentimes will have will have fixated on other targets before they settle on the one target, they're going to attack, a lot of times that decision is actually very rational, because they they're measuring the security of the individual. And we've seen that with some of the public figure attacks in the US. Molly Amman, in my research among the, the, I think we had 58 incidents, if I'm not mistaken, over that 20 year period. So there's about there's about about slightly less than three public figures a year that are attacked in the United States. But among those individuals, you will see them you know, thinking about other individuals to attack and then settling on a particular person. But in some cases, of course, just backing off and not doing that with a Sirhan Sirhan case, the individual that killed Robert Kennedy, there's actually evidence that he had, it literally came from videotapes, and still photos after the assassination, that he had actually approached Robert Kennedy on four different occasions, physically approached him and got actually quite close to him in a crowd, before he carried out the assassination, on June 6 of 1968. Now, we don't know if those approaches he was testing security, or those were, those were thwarted attacks, we just don't know. But we do know that there was proximity seeking. So you will get that proximity seeking. And of course, there may be numbers of cases we don't even know about where people have planned an attack and then backed off at the last minute. But that being said, it's also important to recognise that most people that problematically approach a public figure are not doing so to injure or kill that public figure. They're actually wanting to do any number of things. It could be to form a relationship with them, to form a romantic relationship with them, to be sexual with them, to have them solve a problem in the personal life of the individual to be help seeking. So there's two Lots of motivations of approaches. But among all the approaches, problematic approaches we see of public figures, there may be a few that then set out to actually injure or want to kill the public figure.

Philip Grindell:

I think that's a really interesting point. I know that you and I both obviously know Lorraine who's part of Defuse, Lorraine Sherridan. And we, as you know, that's one of the reasons that we we do use the kind of profiling that Lorraine does to, to really understand the motivation, because you know, we've had an example very recently where the particular stalker actually thought that the person they were stalking was in danger. And they were trying to help that individual. And actually what was happening was that the threat became directed at the security and the management, because they were thwarting that approach behaviour. So she never intended harm to the, to the the actual end end product if you like. But she became aggravated and escalated because she felt she was being thwarted.

Dr Reid Meloy:

Yeah, that's a that's a great example. I actually I actually did some writing on cases like that a number a number of years ago, where, and I call it triangulation. And a lot of times that will come out of the the stalker, believing that they have a romantic relationship with the public figure. And the public figure reciprocates and the public figure does love the individual and psychiatrically that is called rato mania, or erotomanic delusional disorder. And within that, very delusional, you know, psychotic within that psychotic experience develops the belief that third parties are keeping me from that person. And then the antipathy becomes directed toward the third party. And oftentimes that third party or the security people and there may not have been an actual, you know, stoppage or 14 of the of the approach was in the person's own mind. They believe that these third party security people are keeping them from the person. I did, Gwyneth Paltrow was was stalked a number of years ago by a fella named Dante Soyou. And this is this is public information. And I had the opportunity to evaluate Mr. Soyou, both prior to his hospitalisation for being actually, he was found to be not guilty by reason of insanity, because he did have this around automatic delusional disorder toward Gwyneth Paltrow. And then I also was able to evaluate him eight years later, after eight years of hospitalisation and treatment, when the court was considering him returning to the community, which he subsequently subsequently did. But within that particular case, this was illustrative that he actually believed that there were certain figures, mainly security people, and also other male actors that Gwyneth Paltrow had dated that were keeping him and her from being together. And he also implicated one of the Paltrow's mother, that she was, did not want him to have any contact with her. But see, he never thought a word consider the they actuality that Miss Paltrow's was actually very scared of him, knew about the case and was very frightened he was going to, he was going to do something, so that the actual rejection and dislike by Miss Paltrow's toward him was not something that he would consider within his delusion.

Philip Grindell:

Which brings me on to another point then. So, you know, many prominent people that we work with, and I'm, you know, you've you've been doing this for a good deal longer, you know, whether they're celebrities, politicians, business leaders, etc. You know, they often have somebody who's managing their social media or managing their communication. So very often the target, if you like, is unaware that something is going on? How does the what what should those security or the Secretary or whoever's managing the gatekeeper, what should they be looking out for? What are those sort of red flags that they should be looking for?

Dr Reid Meloy:

Yeah, that's a that's a very important question. Because typically, security folks want to shield the public figure that protect it from a lot of this data that's coming out them. And we're in you know, we're living in a tsunami of threats coming through social media, things like that problematic approaches, things of that nature. And so you want to shield your protecting from that. But the decision point becomes, when should you inform the Protectee? And I think the, the point of informing is where there's a judgement that this is is a higher imminent risk case, and you want to protect it to be able to visually recognise this person, if they should find themselves in a situation where they're being approached. So that would be the the decision point that needs to be made. But then how that decision should be made. And when, of course, is another issue. One of the one of the key things that we look at in our, in our warning behaviour, typology proximate warning behaviours are, is what's what we call last resort behaviour. And this is where the person begins to communicate to others, I must act, and I must act now. Now, this could be in the context of violence, you know, I must act violently and I must act now. And my good friend Chris Mohan , years ago, labelled this a violent time and action imperative. It could be it could mean violence, but on the other hand, it could be just a absolute commitment and determination to make this fake physical approach to the person and you know, I must be with this person, I must be with them now. So I would want last resort behaviour to be an important part of that decision making. And then, of course, we're going to weigh capability of the individual, we're going to weigh what is the opportunity for them to approach and then and then has there been any change in motivation. So we're looking at motivation, capability, opportunity, and then weighing those very carefully. And in deciding, and, as you know, Phil, the the Secret Service uses that model all the time. And whenever the protectee the main protectee the president of the United States, we'd like visit a city, the Secret Service will actually have contact with any problematic approaches in the community, any people that may potentially pose a pose a threat to the President, and then we'll actually monitor those folks. While the President is in town, in that monitoring may mean, believe it or not having lunch with the guy and meeting with him and finding out what he's thinking and what he's doing and what he's up to, and whether he has any has any plan. So a lot of time there's a, there's a social work component to threat assessment, that's a very important secret service does it other people should be doing it, it's a very important part of, of monitoring and managing the, the threatening landscape toward public figures.

Philip Grindell:

So when I've looked at your research and others, one of the things that jumped out at me was this concept around those that communicate threats don't necessarily pose that threat. The kind of Hunter and Howler concept which I which I loved, but the bit that confused me a little bit was then one of the warning behaviours is making direct threats. So how did you kind of explain that? That dichotomy there?

Dr Reid Meloy:

Yeah, good question. The one of the early findings in the research was that was this notion of Hunter Howler? was people that hunt, don't howl in other words, don't, you know, loudly express their threats? And then people that howl don't hunt? Well, it was a good and overly simplified categorization. That, I think, was a sea change in terms of threat assessment, to acknowledge that most attackers of public figures do not directly threatened beforehand. And that, that shouldn't necessarily just the direct threatener should not be the only focus in protecting public figures. But that kind of simple binary notion of hunters and howlers, howlers can be a bit misleading too, because there are hunters that howl, and there are howlers that hunt. And even though the percentage of individuals that attack a public figure that have directly threatened is actually quite small, probably no more than 5% They're still 5% And so you have to take every direct threat seriously, even though you know that attackers that actually try to consummate what they're doing are typically not going to have threatened directly beforehand. What they do instead so that so it's in the mix, you know, it's in the typology because we want all threats to be taken seriously. And you do have a small portion. But consistently, we found in our research, that the, the direct threats are very a very low frequency toward public fears, as well as an all targeted attackers, whether it's a public figure or not, and it's a targeted attack, typically, you don't have a direct threat, in most cases, but what they do, and one of the things I want to say to your audience is, what targeted attackers do is they engage in leakage. And leakage is communication to a third party of an of an intent to attack a target. So it's very different from a direct threat communication to a third party, that could be social media could be posting somebody it could be, it could be a tweet, you know, it could be a direct message to a friend, whatever it might be. But leakage is very common in 60 to 90%, of targeted attackers, including public figures, there will be leakage of intent to a third party 60 to 90%. And so leakage oftentimes, is the first proximal warning behaviour that people like you and I will become aware of in a case and it opens the investigation. And then of course, we're looking at other proximal warning behaviours within the case, to see if this person is actually on a pathway to violence or not. Now, there's another paradox in here too. And that is that most people that leak, you know, that engage in leakage communication of intent to a third party, eventually do not, do not go on to attack. So you have this other paradox, which is that most leakage is what we call false positive data. In other words, we think that they may attack but in fact, if we just let them go forward, they wouldn't do that. So it's, it's more complicated than it looks. But that leakage is very important for opening the door on the early investigation into case,

Philip Grindell:

but I'm very conscious that your work is around, you know, you're very clear, it's not predicting who's going to attack, it's preventing those that that do in terms of identifying or narrowing the focus, if you like, around, you know, you've got lots of lots of people making threats or making it, you know, being abusive, etc. And the proximal behaviour, indicators there to narrow that focus, to identify the people of concern, but it's not about kind of, you know, mass prediction of these 20 people are going to attack these ones are,

Dr Reid Meloy:

you know, many ways, it's like, there's lots of, you know, there's lots of analogies here, but it's a you know, essentially it's a it's a public health model. It's an epidemiological model, where you're looking at primary prevention and secondary prevention, you know, and I use the Secret Service as an example. You know, the primary prevention idea is that you have a preventive bubble around the President of the United States that travels with him wherever he goes, whether he's in the White House, or whether he's on the road, that there's a bubble around President Biden, and that's essentially a, you know, primary one aspect of primary prevention, the Secondary prevention is where you get your identifying people of concern that come to your attention, and then you investigate them, and, you know, to to assess whether they actually pose a viable threat toward the prevention, or, you know, viable threat of an attack toward the president. So this, a lot of good threat assessment work draws from that public health model as you take prevention steps in the broad society to do protective things. And then secondly, you zero in on cases, where the a person of concern emerges and then identify that risk, assess that risk, and then manage that risk.

Philip Grindell:

So can we just talk a little bit about those behaviours of concern because they'll be unknown to a lot of people? And you know, I, I'm obviously aware of them. I've studied your work. And, you know, as I've discussed with you, I've used it to help stop attacks in, in the UK in Parliament, so I know that it works. Can you just talk a little bit about what you know, the primary kind of behaviours that if people are not, they're not psychologists, they're not in that world, they might be just a security person or not, so they might be a security person or they might be a management of a celebrity that what are the ones that they think so that's that's a bit odd. I need to know about that.

Dr Reid Meloy:

Yeah, among the among the proximate wearing behaviours, so we should we've actually done a lot of research on this now of over the past over the past decade. Among our proximal learning behaviours. The ones that we're most concerned about are Three, big and I'm going to say these three because these have differentiated attackers from non attackers. Non attackers are people, the way I'm defining it are people of concern. But an end result is that they don't go on to attack. So that's what I mean when I say non attackers, but these three the first one is pathway pathways a very old, one of the first of behaviours identified by Robert Fein and Bryan Vossekuil in the Secret Service in terms of how individuals will get on a pathway toward violence. And what we look for in pathway as approximate behaviour. Proximal warning behaviour is any research planning, preparation or implementation of an attack, so you're looking at very specific behaviours the person is engaging in such as, you know, weapons access, you know, practising building a bomb, looking at I did a case last year where there was, the individual was looking very closely at Google Maps for approaching public corporate figures on the website. And they also modified a, a semi automatic weapon against the laws of California, he, he modified it, so it would fire automatically. And these are just very specific tactical behaviours that would strongly suggest that the person's on a pathway to violence, so we're looking at that stuff very carefully. And that, again, we refer to as late stage markers on the, on the pathway to violence, so anything tactically related, anything where there's specificity, specificity, about a target, any reconnaissance that the person is doing to, you know, exploit the, the habitual behaviours of the target and know what they are, would be very important. The second one is what we call we call identification. And identification does also separate attackers from non attackers. And this is where you move from being preoccupied or fixated on a target to becoming a soldier or an agent to attack that target. Now, in the broader contents context, for instance, of terrorism, the fixation may be on a person or a cause. We've, we saw this in a magnified, of course, very intensely on January 6, in the United States, with our, with the with the attack on our capital. And I can use that here as an example the fixation or the preoccupation would be the false belief, the extreme overvalued belief as Dr. Tahir Ramana and I would put it, that the Trump won the election, the election was a fraud. You know, that's the fixation. It's simple. It's binary, it's absolute, the election was a fraud, Trump won it. Millions of people have that fixation. Hey, but the movement to identification is the shift in thinking from I know that this is true that Trump won the election, too. I'm now a soldier for the group that is going to overthrow the certification of the vote. I'm now a soldier for my cause, or I'm an agent for my cause. So it goes from fixation to self identity. And there's literally a movement from feeling of being victimised to now being a soldier for the cause that I'm advocating for. So we look for identification as a very important marker that may indicate mobilisation for violence by the individual. And the other way we look at identification oftentimes is because people most people have very poor operational security. So they will display a self ID you know, they'll they'll display these identifications of Sam gasoline and Texas Professor guisan calls it identity claims. You know, they'll put out these identifications, they'll have a flag they'll be wearing the uniform that we wear in the patches. They'll be wearing a helmet that says Antifa Hunter on it. You know they do things that communicate what their identity is now becoming. So that's the second one identification. And then the third one that that oftentimes strongly suggests imminent risk is the last resort behaviour I'd already talked to you about. I must act, and I must act now. And we have seen that time and again, in both ideological terrorism, as well as non ideological mass attackers is they come to this position that they must act, and they must act now. Now, to elaborate on that just a little bit, because I know I'm talking a lot the the, the mandate to act maybe just may just be psychological pressure that you've that you've developed within yourself, there may not be any external reason to act, or it actually could be an anticipated event that's common. The example I would give you again, boy, going back to January 6, there was a certification of the vote on January 6, so that became the anticipated event, I must go to Washington to stop this. And this is very much on my mind, because we've just recently had the first individual plead guilty of of insurrection yesterday here in the United States. And the the group, the particular group that was planning and preparing for the violence is referred to as the Oathkeepers. And a lot of these guys are now indicted. But another example of this last resort, where there's an anticipated event is Malik Hassan, who carried out the mass attack at Fort Hood in Texas in the United States, a massacre now over over a decade ago. And his last resort behaviour was prompted by the fact that he was going to be deployed as a psychiatrist, likely to Afghanistan. He at that point was a radicalised jihadist believe the West was at war with Islam. He did not want to go to Afghanistan, all his legal efforts to keep from going to Afghanistan failed. And he carried out his mass attack on the day that his unit was being medically processed to be deployed to Afghanistan. So there we have last resort stimulated by the anticipation of a specific event. So in our work that we do, we're always asking ourselves, is there an anticipated event here, that could stimulate last resort behaviour.

Philip Grindell:

So if we go back then to the pathway, because I kind of see it this way, in terms of the correlation there between that that movement from grievance to violent ideation where that tipping point where I had this grievance, I've looked to try and resolve it in whatever way I have chosen, I can't resolve it. And therefore my only option is now to go towards violence. And that's that kind of tipping point movement.

Dr Reid Meloy:

Yes, yeah, exactly. And we don't actually, in our late stage markers of the pathway, we have already typically investigated whether there's a personal grievance, and then ideation, you know, or or intent, but you're absolutely right, those are very important stages on the pathway. They're much further upstream than tactical planning and preparation. But they're also typically a necessary prelude to planning and preparation. Typically, we think of personal grievances, having four elements to it a loss, humiliation, anger, and blame. And if you eliminate any of those four elements typically don't have a personal grievance. And, of course, all of us have had personal grievances, but typically, we don't move to the next step, which is intend to be violent, where there's actually a decision made, that I am capable of being violent, that I can accept those consequences. And this is my only alternative in this particular case is to be violent. I'm involved right now in a civil suit of concerning a mass attack that happened here in the United States. And in the, in the it's very clear in the civil suit that this individual had tried many different legal recourses to solve his problems and and was in the cases were dismissed by by the courts. Progressively. He finally got to the point where he had no other legal recourse and it was at that point, he decided, yes, I'm going to mount this attack and then he essentially shifted his priorities to then spending the next two years of very carefully and methodically, and in the most meticulous attack I've ever seen, of a civilian mass murderer, was able to then successfully carry out this attack. But there was a there was an inflection point, a decision point where he decided that that was his only recourse,

Philip Grindell:

do you think the, the internet has made it easier or more difficult to identify these people have confirmed?

Dr Reid Meloy:

Yeah, I think it's made it more difficult. Just because you can do a lot of research now, on the internet, in the privacy of your own home, you don't have to be visiting gun stores, you don't have to be trying to purchase ammunition physically, you know, going to a place to do so. So it's, it's made it it's made, it's made it very hot, hard to ferret out these individuals in the early stages of, of their movement on the pathway. Now, as you move on the pathway, excuse me, behaviours tend to be more on the ground, by necessity, rather than online. So, so on the ground behaviours also tend to be more visible to us than then online behaviours. But that's why I think, increasingly, we are going to see various kinds of AI various kinds of artificial intelligence, and algorithmic processes, to sort the data that's been seen on the internet and in social media to be able to decide which which cases warrant then human investigation. So you have the and this is actually this is already happening. So the algorithm sorted all the data, and then present to the human investigators, of the cases that are of greatest concern. And those algorithms are based upon the kinds of research that we've been talking about. So I think that's clearly the direction that the field is moving in.

Philip Grindell:

So you foresee, then that they'll come a point where there'll be software or programmes where they you can plug in the, the attack behaviours, the proximity behaviours, and that will do a lot of the work. But I'm guessing you're still going to need a human to actually look at it, because a lot of it for me has always been about context. You know, okay, we're doing lots of things. But what's the context behind what they're doing?

Dr Reid Meloy:

Yeah, yeah. The Yen algorithm is an opinion expressed in math. And it's never going to account for the idiosyncratic and individualised nature of the cases that we see. So there's always going to be room for human intelligence, and human investigators to have to look at the individual case. But I see these, again, working jointly together. There are already programmes. Some of these are, of course, proprietary that that have been developed by, for instance, some of the big tech firms that are using algorithms in their security operations to sort of, you know, any kind of signals that come up that may be of concern to them. There's also some publicly accessible programmes. There's a one in Sweden called the Dechefr, and they're doing a lot of good work on developing a threat assessment programme. That's, that's an AI programme, that's based upon the kinds of research that we're doing and other people are doing. But there's always going to be I think, of a marriage between the two. And we have to be careful to, in a sense, kind of honour that marriage and not get too enamoured by just algorithms, like we don't have to do anything. Now we can just let the algorithms do the work. On the other hand, we don't want to be so kind of all guard these old dinosaurs that don't want to acknowledge the importance of the development and use of artificial intelligence. But recognise that it has to be joined with human investigation, and they both need to be there.

Philip Grindell:

So on that note, then when you're if you are a public figure or a prominent person, a celebrity, VIP, whatever, what should you look for then in a threat assessment company, if you've got an issue what well, how would you how would you sort the wheat from the chaff?

Dr Reid Meloy:

Yeah, I think it's, again, excellent question. Threat Assessment is what I call strategic prevention. When when the when the first when the first trigger is pulled threat assessment has failed, and threat management has failed. But to address this stuff upstream, you've got to have a very strong threat assessment threat management component in your, in your company, a component that's based in the research that's based in the behavioural science. So what folks need to avoid is the and oftentimes the pompous guy that comes forward and say, says, Well, you know, I've been doing this for 35 years, I know what I'm doing, trust me. And here's the contract. You know, you can be playing golf for 30 years and still shoot 100. And that's an personal experience is not science. And that's really a hard thing for people to understand that personal experience is not science. So I would want my company to really be up to speed and based in the science, because there's a lot to be known now. And there's a lot that we do know. So that's the first thing. And the second thing is that they be really strong in, in tactical reaction. So it's a marriage of strategic prevention, and tactical reaction, where they both have great respect for one another. But when the guy's coming through the door, or heading for the podium, threat assessment is done. What you're totally dependent on then, is body project body protection. And the tactical skill of the officers are the agents that are there to protect the individual. And that's where, oftentimes, personal training and personal experience is, is most powerful. So you want to balance both those you want to have both of those elements in the company. And also, you want those elements to be based not just on experience, but also in the science of the field.

Philip Grindell:

And would you say that, increasingly what we're seeing is, yes, you have the physical threat and everyone obviously, first and foremost, am I in danger? Is this person going to attack? But the secondary issue nowadays seems to be this reputational threat. Yeah. Yeah, do the same indicators to they come into play when people are looking to target reputations.

Dr Reid Meloy:

Um, yeah, there are there are similar indicator indicators are also they're also different ones with the with the reputational stuff, oftentimes, it's it's harassment of the boat figure. And then also, sometimes communication through disinformation or misinformation to the public at to the, to the public, as an entity that tends to you know, tarnish the reputation of the individual. And there have to be also approaches to that. So you have to have people that are managing. And this is not an area of expertise for me, but you need people that need the know how to manage and counter, for instance, social media attacks on the reputation of the individual. But you need a high level of sophistication of social media in these in these contexts. What that reminds me of one of one of the things that I wanted to say was that, as we do this kind of work to, we have to recognise that most of our subjects of concern, live online and live on the ground simultaneously. I have a 17 year old and she gives me an example of this every day, that she lives online, and she lives on the ground. And this is what folks much younger than I are doing now. And so we have to extend expect that our persons of concern are also are also doing that. How that practically translates is that if a case comes to me with with data on what this guy is doing on the ground, my next question is well, also what's he doing online? And then if the case comes to me, just with online data, my next question is, okay, what's he doing on the ground? And you have to be looking at those simultaneously from both an assessment and a management perspective. And that would tie in more to your question of, you know, represent reputational suffering that is also very much a part of threat assessment.

Philip Grindell:

So finally, finally, because I know we've taken up so much of your time I'm hugely grateful. What would be your in what would be your sort of top tips for people who are, who are in this world or rep or looking after public figures, in terms of, you know, what, what, you know, here I am I'm looking after a celebrity or looking after a politician. What are the top tips about what do I need to keep my eyes open for?

Dr Reid Meloy:

Oh, well, yeah, my top tips is going to be different a monitor your own narcissism.

Philip Grindell:

Okay, interesting.

Dr Reid Meloy:

Narcissism is like blood pressure too much or too little as a problem. And there's, there's healthy narcissism, you know, and we call it out, you know, the pop terms now are resilience, grit, but it's healthy narcissism, it's knowing how to take care of yourself, and do the good work, to be able to take care of the people that you love. So that would be the first thing that I'd say. Secondly, remember that your work is their reputation. And what that means, of course, is that if a if a group, or a person, a public figure retains you remember that everything you do is also for them a reflection on their own judgement. And so if you if you bumbled the case, or you mail practice, that negatively is going to affect how they view themselves. And it's also going to very much tarnish your reputation. So remember that that your work is their reputation. And then the last thing I would say here would be to actually two more things. One is follow the rules, but think outside the box, be very creative, you have to be able to put yourself in the mind of the subject of concern and recognise the creative way they could plan and prepare for an attack. And then the last thing is my one of my favourite all time saying from Korzybski, who is a scientist philosopher, and that is the map is not the territory. In other words, we have lots of maps. We talked about a lot of them here, the proximate warning behaviours, other other signals of risk. But each and every case is going to be a slightly different territory. And we have our maps and our maps help help us navigate on the territory, but the territory will present its own idiosyncrasies, and its own anomalies, and each case is different. Brilliant.

Philip Grindell:

Reid, thank you so much. It's been such a pleasure. I could sit here all day talk to you, and you know that but you get tired long before I would, but thank you so much. It's been it's been, you know, informative, educational and inspiring. So thank you. Thank you so much, indeed.

Dr Reid Meloy:

Thank you, Phil. My pleasure.