Anxiety related to school shootings has understandably increased over the past week. We want to hear about concerns and threats so we can be proactive in addressing them, so thank you for those reports made directly to us. Citizen anxiety is probably escalated after the most recent shooting as it has clearly demonstrated system inadequacies and showcased a person that seems to have committed violent acts despite reports of the potential threat. We have no interest in being part of any blame games in other jurisdictions, but we would like to address how we assess threats in Piqua so people will continue to report them. We also seek to serve a community that is not creating panic by inappropriately passing along false rumors and want to provide citizens with the knowledge and tools they need to feel safe.
In Piqua, we first take protective measures for uninvolved parties to a threat which could include closing a school/business or making an announcement to those affected. We then gather multi-disciplinary teams to assess information that could lead a reasonable person to believe a violent act could occur. We include law enforcement and a mental health component along with teams familiar with the situation or concern. In factories, this is frequently HR, senior management, and floor supervisors. At a school, this would include principals, in-school counselors, and other staff with direct knowledge. We are just beginning to establish threat assessment teams in houses of worship and defining what those might look like. These are confidential gatherings where the various disciplines may share information that is otherwise protected. The legal ability to share this information must be assessed by the entity that has the information, and the privacy exceptions can apply in the interest of protecting lives.
In Piqua, we have developed a tool based on several sources that have determined clear indicators of potential violence based on studies of previous incidents. Those indicators have not changed much even though we have seen a continuous evolution of active shooter trends. This multi-disciplinary team determines a “level of concern” for the threat. Low and medium concerns result in continual monitoring and usually follow-up actions by the school or business. If the team decides, after the review, that
• it is reasonable to believe the subject poses a threat to themselves or others; or
• the subject appears to be on path to attack, then
our agency takes control of the situation for arrest and/or involuntary mental health evaluation, and we continue communication with the school or business to conduct reentry plans for the subject to the school or work environment. Additional protective measures for other parties may also be implemented.
A threat assessment goes beyond determining whether a subject said something threatening. If they said something illegal and we can prove it, they get charged. We still assess the threat for both the intent and the capacity of the subject to carry it out. When threats are brought to our attention outside of school or work hours, we frequently prohibit the student or employee from coming to the potential target site while conducting the investigation.
We want to encourage citizens to report their concerns. They can simply call 937-440-9911 and ask to speak to an officer, or they can use our anonymous Submit-A-Tip system. We discourage people from getting on social media and asking if anyone else has the same concern, or issuing their own warnings to their social media audience that is based on second-hand information. “I have yet to see one of our cases benefit from private citizens issuing their own warnings or reports of threats to a broad social media audience.,” said Piqua Chief of Police Bruce Jamison, “And if you add to that equation a warning or the repetition of an unsubstantiated rumor, it interferes with our investigation and can actually create its own safety hazards.”
There are several other tip lines and anonymous tip services available. They will pass information specific to Piqua along to us. Likewise, we forward our tips to more appropriate agencies when we don’t have jurisdiction.
Please, don’t hesitate to report your concerns or threats that you witness directly to us. And, think twice before passing along any information on social media outlets when you don’t personally know that information to be true.
Submit-A-Tip – bit.ly/PPDtips
Media Contact: Bruce A. Jamison, Chief of Police, 937-778-2029