Behavioral Profiling gives an Advantage

Pretty much anyone that watches television has heard of behavioral profiling. Some call this offender profiling. Behavioral profiling in this context, is the task of observing, interpreting, and anticipating what someone is going to do, based on their behavior. A simple example that describes behavioral profiling, as a child, I knew if I saw my great grandfather sitting in a chair, and he leaned hard to one side, there was a good possibility that he was going to break wind. Albeit this example is a bit crass, it shows that we knew what was coming from his behavior, and we took evasive action (it’s OK to laugh).

By the same token, there are ways to pre-identify potential shooters and bombers. While they are not 100% accurate, they can give us advanced warning for the times that they do hold true. Some examples of behavioral profiling What we don’t see can sometimes have as much as an impact on us as what we do see. We will watch for the actions of the person.

When we understand the behaviors of those that want to do harm, we can intervene. That intervention might be excluding them from the church or church function, and to notify law enforcement.  Actions we can take prior to law enforcement’s arrival may be to lock them out of the church, to isolate them from other congregants, or in extreme cases, have one or more persons keep them busy while awaiting the arrival of law enforcement. It is important to note that we want to be fairly certain that they are a potential perpetrator before taking any action, as this could be detrimental to the mission of spreading the Word of God

Some specific psychological behaviors can also tell us that the individual may have bad intentions. They may have no facial expression, or they don’t smile or laugh when most people would. These are all behaviors that can be linked to a “fear of discovery” by criminals or terrorists. Other signs that a perpetrator cannot control include:

  • Nervousness
  • Unusual sweating
  • Twitching
  • Fidgeting
  • No facial expressions or inconsistent facial expressions

We can sometimes identify the physical behaviors of those carrying a firearm or that might be a suicide bomber. In most instances suicide bombers or those carrying firearms have certain looks and mannerisms. One, or more, people with a keen eye can in many instances spot these individuals in the parking lot or as they enter your church.

Signs that someone may be wearing a suicide vest include someone wearing clothing that is uncommon for the season like a large jacket on a warm day, or they may be wearing a coat, suit jacket or windbreaker that appears to be too large in comparison to their face and legs. This is a behavior that is uncommon.  They may be walking uncharacteristically gentle, or in a robotic manner, or they may be acting nervous. They may have controlled or shallow breathing, and in most instances they will not look anyone in the eye. In most instances they will stare straight ahead, sometimes as if they are looking right through you. In cases of radical terrorists, you may see light skin on their face where they recently shaved a beard, or they may be mumbling prayers  They may keep one or both hand inside their pocket, or in the case of a backpack or bag bomb, they will be especially careful not to bump it, or they may keep a hand on the bag or backpack at all times. There may be wires  that can be seen going from the backpack or back into their clothes. In many instances they will keep their hand in their pocket or the bag, so they can keep their hand on the detonator. While the vast majority of suicide bombers are male, it should be noted that there are female suicide bombers too. Trained church personnel may be able to identify these individuals and isolate them from others. Similarly, someone carrying firearms can also provide hints that they are armed.

Those carrying firearms can hide them in a variety of ways; someone carrying a handgun may carry them in a holster on their belt , on their ankle, or in a shoulder holster. They may carry them in a jacket or pants pocket, in a boot , or they may carry it in the waistband of their pants . If they have a long-gun such as a rifle or shotgun, they may wear long clothing to help conceal it. No matter where they carry it, if you are observant, you can tell that something is not quite right. Those carrying a firearm will regularly touch or adjust their firearm . This includes only pulling up one side of their pants , or putting their hand on the weapon or in their pocket when they stand up or climb stairs. They may look down at the area where the weapon is to make sure it is not seen. If they have the firearm on their leg, many times the seam of their pants will not be centered and they may regularly shake one pant leg or adjust the seam with their hands. They may turn away from people on the side that has the firearm to adjust their clothing. The may walk in a way that is not normal, favoring one side over another and on the side with the firearm, their arm or leg may be stiffer or more mechanical  The may have a bulge in their pocket or they may have pocket sag on one side. Pocket sag is easy to notice as a jacket or pants seem crooked from the weight of the firearm. They may hold one side of their jacket to make sure it doesn’t open or be pulling their clothing down over the area where the firearm is to make sure it is concealed . Whether a long-gun or a handgun, you may see bulges in the clothing and with long-guns, they may wear a long jacket and/or walk hunched over because they are trying to conceal it. Just like the explosive devices, they may also wear larger clothes or coats when it is warm.

We need to remember situational awareness is the key to preventing and surviving evil in our church. By being more aware of their behaviors, we can make a positive step to doing that!