The University of Alabama

UA Issues Threat Assessment Guidelines

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In the continuing effort to increase campus safety, The University of Alabama’s Office of Emergency Preparedness recently enhanced its capabilities by hiring a threat assessment specialist and adopting UA’s newly approved behavioral threat assessment guidelines. These directives provide the framework on how UA addresses potentially violent behavior from students, staff, faculty or visitors.

Charles Dorsey

Charles Dorsey, UA threat assessment specialist

UA’s threat assessment specialist is Charles Dorsey, a 1975 UA alumnus who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology before beginning a career with the FBI. For 13-plus years of his federal law enforcement career, he was assigned to the Bureau’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. While working at the BAU, Dorsey was tasked with conducting criminal profiling work which included providing threat assessments to law enforcement agencies within the United States and from around the world. 

Q. What is Behavioral Threat Assessment?

A. It is a fact-based method of assessment focusing on an individual’s documented pattern of thinking and actions in an attempt to determine whether, and to what extent, that individual is moving forward towards exhibiting violent behavior.

Q. What is the difference between the Behavioral Intervention Team and the Threat Assessment Team? 

A. UA’s BIT is a Student Affairs-sponsored group comprised of representation from the Dean of Students Office, the Housing and Residential Communities, the Office of Student Conduct, UA’s Counseling Center, the University of Alabama Police Department, and the Emergency Preparedness and Response Policy Group (Policy Group). The BIT is tasked with reviewing a UA student’s alarming/concerning behavior and providing an early intervention and support system to the students who present these concerns.

UA’s TAT is a multi-disciplinary assessment team comprised of representatives of UAPD, the Office of Emergency Preparedness, Legal Counsel, and a UA mental health professional. The TAT reviews individuals exhibiting significant alarming or threatening behavior and makes recommendations to UA’s Emergency Policy Group in an effort to mitigate these matters on a case-by-case basis.

Q. What is the function of the BIT and the TAT?

A. The purpose of both the BIT and the TAT is to specifically identify and address behaviors of concern and to provide the necessary and appropriate resources to ensure a safe working environment within the UA community.

Q. How are cases addressed and handled?

A. All cases are initially systematically screened by the threat assessment specialist and any case or issue which is deemed as an imminent threat is immediately reviewed. All cases, regardless of the immediacy, are appropriately reviewed and managed in the manner most specific for their situation.

Q. How does behavioral threat assessment differ from profiling?

A. Behavioral threat assessment is designed to be a proactive process used to identify warning signs of inappropriate behavior and to intervene prior to someone engaging in violent activity against themselves or others. Profiling, from a criminal investigative perspective, is a reactive investigative tool in which possible behavior traits of an unknown subject are gleaned from an examination of a specific, unsolved criminal act.

Q. Does the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act prohibit UA from disclosing student information as it relates to an active TAT matter?

A. No – FERPA specifically allows for the sharing of any information as it relates to an ongoing concern for the safety of others within the UA community.

Q. How do I report a threat?

A. UA’s behavioral threat assessment website, threatassessment.ua.edu, provides the specific manner in which to report a threat depending on who is exhibiting the concerning behavior.

Q. I am not sure if my information is important. What should I do? 

A. UA strongly encourages anyone with any potentially relevant information to provide that information to the proper UA authorities in a timely manner. Although the information may not seem overly important, it may be related to other incidents or issues, unknown to the reporting party, and assist in the development of the overall big picture.

The major goal of UA is to identify all potentially violent situations and to intervene prior to any negative behavior occurring. UA’s behavioral threat assessment guidelines encourage the reporting of all concerning behavior without fear of retribution.

Q. What if I think the threat is immediate or an emergency?

A. Any information or situation indicating an imminent threat to one’s safety or the safety of others should be considered as an emergency and immediately reported to UAPD. To contact UAPD, call 911 or 348-5454.