Profiling to prevent man-made disasters

October 9, 2017 0 Comments

As many of you know, I am currently going back to school for a dual masters in Emergency Disaster Management and Homeland Security. Because of the horrific events of Las Vegas, I’ve had many requests to share this paper with my readers. I don’t (and won’t) share my papers often, but this paper was a challenge for me to write in the wake of such a tragedy. There are signs and indicators if you know what to look for. Abnormal behavior dictates an abnormal response. Don’t be afraid to call law enforcement if you see something that makes your spidey senses tingle.  This paper’s premise is that there are indicators to man-made events (terrorist events) that are often so blatant and visible to the public, but the public fears of being labeled prejudice if they say anything.  If we can identify those events, we can be the first line of defense against terrorist attacks and other man-made disasters. Head of a swivel folks.

Please remember that I am still a student and learning through this process as well. I would love your constructive feedback!


TOPIC:  The need for more abnormal behavior based profiling of pre-attack indicators to prevent man-made mass casualty disasters.

The Need for More Profiling to Prevent Man-Made Disasters.

Problem Statement    

Man-made natural disasters are on the rise.  In the year 2016 alone, there were 11,072 deaths due to man-man disasters across the globe (Statista, 2017).  In the year 2015, there were 38 terrorist attacks (Statistca, 2017).  However, these statistics while sobering were attacks done by organizations such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS, not what is commonly referred to as a “homegrown terrorist”.   A homegrown terrorist may or may not be associated with an Islamic extremist group, but always originates in the United States (Mueller, 2006).

During 2016 there were 327 disasters, 191 of those were natural and 136 were man-made disasters.  These man-made disasters include fires, aviation disasters, maritime disasters, terrorism, and even social unrest (iii, 2017).  Not all man-made disasters are preventable. With proper profiling man-made disasters that are terroristic in nature, I hypothesis that can be more properly mitigated against.

My goal with this research proposal is to outline opportunities to boost the current profiling system to find individuals that are exhibiting pre-attack indicators.  Many suspects give off signals knows as “pre-attack indicators” which can signify that an attack, malicious in nature, is happening soon or is in the planning, reconnaissance, dry-run, or probing stages of the terrorist planning cycle. (Ang et al, 2017).

There is a level of political correctness that takes place in profiling.  There is also a level of prejudice that happens (Alpert, Dunham & Wilson, 2004).  Agencies need to strip away the political correctness and the discrimination versus prejudice of profiling and focus on the pre-attack indicators that are present in many individuals in our country.  With a clearer scope of profiling, regardless of race, political affiliation, religious affiliation etc, we can drastically reduce the amount of terrorist attacks by simply listening to what the suspects are trying to say non-verbally.

During this study, we will be taking a deeper look into the differences between being discriminatory and being prejudice.  There is a stark difference between these two terms and they are often misunderstood.  One can be discriminatory without being prejudice (Albert, Dunham, Wilson, 2004).  My goal with this study is to identify the differences between profiling with prejudice intent, profiling actions by seeking out pre-attack indicators and allowing those who profile the freedom to respond to abnormal behavior without fear of reprisal.

Need for the Study  

The need for this study is multifaceted. First, this study is needed so that good guys focus more on getting the suspects without fear of being accused of being prejudice. Second, to hone in on those pre-attack or pre-attack indicators that will separate a suspect from the rest of society. Third, to remove personal opinions, preconceived notions that establish a presumption of guilt as opposed to actions that indicate malintent.

The point of the study is to differentiate observing ones protected characteristics with their abnormal behavior.  A protected characteristic is age, disability, gender, marriage or civil partnership, pregnant, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation (Equality Act, 2017).  Notice however that behavior is not on this list.  One can observe the abnormal or suspicious behavior of an individual that may be making threats against a person or against a people group and deem that behavior to be out of the ordinary and that it may require some further investigation.

Now, there is a stark difference between having personal opinions and how they are integrated into society.  As we will see in the literature review section of this paper, many suspects broadcasted their malintent over the internet and were not taken seriously, if they fall into the category of abnormal behavior and/or pre-attack indicators.  The need for the study is to reiterate how all threats, no matter how slight, should be taken seriously.  If the threats from the Columbine shooters were taken seriously, that shooting may have been mitigated against and/or prevented.  The need for the study is due to the lack of knowledge between prejudice and discrimination and the lack of taking threats seriously.  If an individual is exuding abnormal behavior and making a threat against another individual, people group, or establishment, it must be assumed that they intend to harm them.

Target Audience        

The first target audience is all of society. They are the front lines of defense as far as profiling goes. They are the eyes and ears intermingling with the suspects that are the would-be perpetrators. The second audience is first responders, specifically law enforcement; local and federal. Too much of the population are “sheeple” and are unwilling to learn to look past their personal biases and see the odd behavior as a sign of malintent.  The term “sheeple” is defined as, “people who are too docile, compliant and easily influenced” (Merriam-Webster, 2017).  This concept means that many are often too lackadaisical when it comes to observing abnormal behavior, much less reporting it.  Therefore, the duty falls on the peacekeepers, whether they be local law enforcement or a federal agency, to look for the actions that would make a suspect stand out to indicate their bad intentions regardless of their race, religion or creed.  If the general populous were more adept and aware in reporting abnormal behavior it would make the law enforcements job easier in identifying potential suspects.


Objectives of the Research                               

The main objective of this research is to show that one can be discriminatory towards those who act suspiciously without being prejudice against their race, religion, or creed.

Merriam-Webster defines Discrimination as, “the act of making or perceiving a difference.” In profiling, we could say that we are perceiving the difference between a normal citizen who is doing socially defined normal things and an abnormal citizen who is doing socially defined abnormal things.

Merriam-Webster defines Prejudice as, “injury or damage resulting from some judgment or action of another in disregard of one’s rights. A Preconceived judgment or opinion. Irrational attitude of hostility.”

The main difference between these two is perception. With utilizing discrimination in profiling, profilers are perceiving a difference or seeing a difference in someone in society.  With profiling with prejudice, the profilers are allowing their preconceived ideologies to mar their conceptions of the suspects and create a situation where they are profiling people based on their race, religion, or creed unduly (Alpert, Dunhan, & Wilson, 2004).  The main objective is to educate the first line observers (peacekeepers) of suspicious behavior and to know and understand the difference between someone being different and uncomfortable in their surroundings versus someone that is there with harmful intent.


I hypothesize, through this research, that we can find physical actions that indicate suspicious behavior in order to target the actual criminals or terrorists, in an effort to stop man-made disasters before they happen. However, this can only be done through proper training of those tasked with ensuring peace and safety.

The current profiling world can benefit from additional training and a lack of fear of being discriminatory towards abnormal behaviors.

Central Research Question plus sub questions         

RQ1: In profiling what is the difference between being prejudice and/or discriminatory?

RQ2: How does the difference between prejudice and discrimination apply to identifying suspects?

RQ3: What are suspicious behaviors to indicate that they are in the terrorist planning cycle?

RQ4: How do we empower our citizens and peacekeepers to know the difference between prejudice and discrimination?

RQ5: How do we use this difference judiciously?

RQ6: How do we use profiling to identify those in the terrorist planning cycle?                              


Literature Review

There are many sources that speak to the need for profiling that discriminates against abnormal behavior without being accused of being prejudice of race, religion, or creed.

Andrew Rico wrote an article for the Transformative Works and Cultures Journal regarding the Columbine incident.  The Columbine shooting is a great example of pre-attack indicators being ignored. Both of the shooters were very vocal in their intent to harm other local students (Rico, 2015).  One of the Columbine shooters had a website that he divulged a plethora of information on how and why he intended to kill his classmates.  He even had a tutorial on a pipe bomb on his web page, which not illegal, but coupled with the other information of his intent to harm should have raised suspicion. The parents of another student saw this web page and took it to law enforcement in attempts to get action taken and they were sent away.  Had the local law enforcement treated this situation with discrimination against abnormal behavior, perhaps this might even may have been prevented. All the signs were there that an incident was going to happen. The two shooters did not attempt to hide their motives and plans. Yet, they were still ignored.  One would hope that race would not have been a factor here.  The two Caucasian shooters took the lives of 11 Caucasian and 1 African American.  Harmful intent is harmful intent (Rico, 2015).

In an article by Wills Robinson, he brings up the Charleston, South Carolina church shooting.  This shooting was done by a Caucasian male and he killed nine African American churchgoers.  The shooter also had a website that he filled with a racist manifesto and calling for a new war in America.  The shooters website was filled with abnormal behavior for someone in the American society.  Yet all of his pre-attack signals went ignored.  Not only by law enforcement but also by those visiting his website and those close friends with whom he shared his harmful intent (Robinson, 2015).

Seeing this trend continue we see, in the case of the Boston bombing that there were pre-attack indicators the FBI was very aware of, but the FBI did not share that vital information with the local Boston law enforcement.  In a journal article by Alicia Caldwell for the Telegraph Herald we see that the FBI had valuable information on the two brothers but the communication gap between federal and local law enforcement may have been the tipping point in this mass casualty incident (Caldwell, 2013).  This case is helpful in identifying the lack of communication between agencies regarding pre-attack indicators.

In research of the San Bernardino shooting, we see that the female shooter in this instance was a Muslim extremist who had pledged allegiance to ISIS before the attack happened, on social media (Abdollah & Skoloff, 2015). Another pre-attack indicator that should have been noticed by a cybersecurity unit of individuals pledging allegiance to known terrorist organizations while residing in the United States.  However, the timeline between her post to social media and the shooting incident were close together, which could cause some response issues with law enforcement.

On Sunday, September 24th, 2017 an African American individual walked into a church during service and opened fire killing one female and wounding several others (Williams, 2017).  Although this incident is still being investigated we can see that abnormal behavior was happening before the shooting took place.  Hours before the shooting occurred the shooter posted several cryptic and strange Facebook posts that could have alerted someone to the incident that may ensue.  Nearly three months before this incident took place the shooter was said to have made suicidal threats and had a past criminal history of domestic violence (Williams, 2017).

The point behind this literature of this specific peer-reviewed literature is to bring to light that during the most horrific mass casualty incidents there were pre-attack indicators that were missed or ignored.

In an article entitled, “Developing an early screen guide for jihadi terrorism: A behavioral analysis of 30 terror attacks” the authors state that: “As terrorist groups progress towards committing an attack, corresponding changes are reflected in the types of activities they engage in. Assuming that terrorists are rational individuals who seek to maximize their resources, the preparatory activities that sustain and promote radicalization may not be as disparate as is commonly assumed” (Neo et al, p. 232, 2016).  This piece of literature backs up the hypothesis of this paper in regard to the pre-attack indicators being present amongst many of the terrorist of mass casualty events.  The perpetrators of terrorist attacks and mass casualty incidents often follow a terrorist planning cycle.  According to Dr. George Habash, the founder of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine the planning cycle is as follows:

 Broad Target Selection > Intelligence and Surveillance > Specific Target Selection > Pre-Attack Surveillance and Planning > Attack Rehearsal > Actions on Objective > Escape and Evasion.

We can see how this cycle fits with the above literature that pinpoints the pre-attack indicators of mass casualty incidents.

Shortfalls in the Literature

The shortfalls in the literature are fairly subjective. Pre-attack indicators are not always solid, tangible signs.  It can be difficult to ascertain one’s motives behind what they’re doing and why the perpetrators are choosing to carry out a mass casualty incident.

There is a clear line of seeing pre-attack indicators and the possibility of doing something about those indicators being against a citizen’s constitutional rights.  This is why training is so vital to sift through what is being done or said in a way that protects their freedom of speech and where the suspects cross that line of broadcasting their intent to harm others.  This is a concept that is not present in the literature but should be covered.

Summary of Findings

In summary, the findings are that pre-attack indicators are present in many mass casualty incidents.  It is also apparent that at least some of the pre-attack indicators from the perpetrators went ignored and/or unnoticed.  The goal for this paper is to redefine what profiling is and how to identify what abnormal behavior looks like regardless of race, religion, or creed.

In the literature above we see the perpetrators consisting of different races, religions, and backgrounds.    This is where profiling with discrimination against abnormal behavior comes in.  All pre-attack indicators are abnormal behavior.  As we saw in the Columbine shooting case, one of the shooters put a manifesto on the internet, it was seen by a fellow student’s parent, they took it to law enforcement and nothing was done.  This is an oversight, on the law enforcements part, that should not have happened.  That shooter was exhibiting abnormal behavior and should have been questioned at the least.


Selection of Method(s)          

The methodology for this concept of non-prejudice profiling starts in the training center.  The training center needs to enhance their curriculum to teach their law enforcement officers to put away their own bias and prejudice and attune themselves to the suspects behaviors and the facts.

Further training must be done on the terrorist planning cycle, pre-attack indicator identification and assessment.  Training the peacekeepers to identify abnormal behavior and that abnormal behavior requires an abnormal response on their part.

Furthermore, the department or agency should have a policy in place that protects the officers from being accused of being prejudice if they can reasonably articulate that the actions were pre-attack indicators.  While there is a line between freedom of speech and pre-attack indicators it is a gray one that must be examined in extreme detail so each officer can make an educated decision in that moment.

A guideline of what actions constitute a pre-attack indicator in comparison to simple freedom of speech and freedom of movement or activity.  This is a vital concept as an officer must be able to reasonably articulate that the actions they witnessed were pre-attack indicators as opposed to freedom of speed and/or peaceful protests or other activities.

Essentially each department needs a cohesive training curriculum on mass casualty incidents, the terrorist planning cycle, and pre-attack indicators.  With enhanced training in these areas, it will be easier to spot individuals behaviors that fall in line with pre-attack indicators. Once identified, the suspect can be questioned so it can be determined by the officer if more investigation is warranted or if no crime was committed or was about to be committed.

Pre-attack indicators are absolutely abnormal behavior of normal society.  Some examples of pre-attack indicators are signaling between individuals, correlated movements, movements that interrupts a specific individuals’ pathway, focusing on an individual or target intently or inappropriately, awkward movements, constantly looking over one’s shoulder, yelling in a public setting, and much more.  These indicators, while not always suspicious, can be part of the signals for a mass casualty incident (Protective Concepts, 2012).

Communication is also an integral part of this process.  Signs of pre-attack indicators should be distributed to contract security guards, law enforcement, federal agents and prosecutors and defendants as well.  The more agencies and organizations that have access this information the more cohesive a force against mass-casualty perpetrators there will be.  Proper interagency communication can ensure that miscommunications such as the Boston bombing pre-attack indicators not being dispersed to local law enforcement, does not happen again.

Data Collection Process and Analysis

The data collection process for this method of training is fairly simple.  For each department, their current curriculum is the baseline for profiling. The enhanced curriculum, including pre-attack indicator signs, is going to be the new baseline introduced and incidents going forward are going to be recorded.  After a trial period, the information pre-and post-new curriculum will be studied to see what, if any, incidents were mitigated.  The data collection process will also keep track of incidents where an officer encountered a suspect and the outcome of this field interview and how the situation was handled and the outcome.

With the subjectivity of this concept, the details will be vital to keep track of.  Any officer that responds to a suspect exhibiting pre-attack indicators must file a report during the trial period with extensive detail to ensure that they acted discriminatorily and without prejudice.

After the trial period for this new curriculum, a minimum of 24 months, the data will be analyzed by those instating the new curriculum and profiling method.  If it is deemed helpful then the curriculum is kept.  If the curriculum is deemed unfit then each department goes back to their baseline profiling methods and the policymakers start over and ensure they are bringing the best, most up-to-date curriculum to the agencies around the country.

Researcher’s Perspective

Potential Bias Issues   

Profiling is inherently biased.  That is the point of the profession. However, there must be that differentiation between prejudice bias and discriminatory bias.  The point behind profiling is to take a close look at society and see whose actions are noticeable for being suspect or abnormal.  There may be moments where some of the public assume that the specific profiling incident was prejudicially motivated.  However, over time the statistics will become clear that it is people from all walks of life that can exude harmful and abnormal behavior.  The training is crucial and must be reviewed in a short quarterly seminar to reiterate the signals that each officer should be aware of.

As seen in the literature review those who wish to harm others come in all races and religions.  While this is a normal aspect of living in a culturally diverse country, the training to subdue one’s personal prejudice (if any) is of the utmost importance.  Putting one’s personal bias aside is extremely vital within a public servant role.  The peacekeepers and public servants are there for the safety of the public; even if that means saving the public from a suspect or a threat that looks just like them.

Another potential bias is paranoia.  Once training has taken place and an officer gets into the general public, it can be easy to assume that everyone is a threat (Calgary Herald, 1989).  Again, this is where proper training on pre-attack indicators comes into play.  Paranoia can be combatted by having the knowledge of the facts of abnormal behavioral profiling.

Anticipated Ethical Issues     

The potential and anticipated ethical issues would be each officers prejudice.  While not each person has prejudice, it can be difficult not to stereotype this based on what the media covers.  While many may not admit, or even know a prejudice is there, each officer must remain non-prejudicial of each person’s race, religion and look past skin color to their actions and intent.

Another potential issue is the clear line between circumstantial evidence and criminal action.  This speaks to the difference of a pre-attack indicator and freedom of speech.  There is a fine, yet definitive line, between those.  The line is usually found around the suspects intent to harm others. The perpetrators know about the bias that other people have and could use that against the officer.  The perpetrators could also be attempting to create a false incident to do an intentional, obvious dry run to test responses to the planned mass casualty event.


Abdollah, T., & Skoloff, B. (2015, Dec 07). Wife may have led San Bernardino shooting plot.
Prince George Citizen Retrieved from https://search-proquest-

Alpert, G., Dunham, R., & Wilson, G. (2004). Prejudice in police profiling: Assessing an
Overlooked Aspect in Prior Research. American Behavioral Scientist, 47(7), 896-909.
Retrieved from edu/doi/pdf/10.1177/

Ang, J., Khader, M., Ong, G., Neo, L., & Tan, E. (n.d.). Developing an early screening guide for
jihadi terrorism: A behavioral analysis of 30 terror attacks. Security Journal, 30(1), 227-
246. Retrieved from

Caldwell, A. A. (2013, May 10). FBI did not tell police about Tsarnaev warning. Telegraph –
Herald Retrieved from

Discrimination | Definition of Discrimination by Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Habash, G. (2007). Terrorist Planning Cycle. A Military Guide to Terrorism in the Twenty-First
Century, A1-A6. Retrieved from

Insurance Information Institute. (2017). Facts + Statistics: Man-made disasters | III. Retrieved

Mueller, R. (2006, June 23). FBI — The Threat of Homegrown Terrorism. Retrieved from

Paranoia can deter law enforcement officials. (1989, Mar 30). Calgary Herald Retrieved from

Prejudice | Definition of Prejudice by Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Protected characteristics | Equality and Human Rights Commission. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Rico, A. (2015). Fans of Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Transformative
Works and Cultures
, 20. Retrieved from

Robinson, W. (2015). The making of a monster: Dylann Roof’s visits to slave plantations and
Confederate landmarks chart his transition from idiot racist to ‘mass murderer’. Daily
Mail, 20. Retrieved from

Sheeple | Definition of Sheeple by Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Statista: The Statistics Portal. (2017). • Terrorism: number of attacks worldwide 2006-2016 |
Statistic. Retrieved from

Suspicious Signs — Recognizing Pre-Attack Indicators | Protective Concepts. (n.d.). Retrieved

Williams, L. (2017, September 24). Antioch church shooting: What we know now. Retrieved


Mil-Spec Mom

Nila is an Army Wife, mother of two boys, and a firearms instructor. She is currently pursuing a double masters in Homeland Security & Emergency Disaster Management, while trying to balance the daily life of being a SAHM/WAHM. She loves ice cream and learning about self-defense as a mother. For more info please click the "About Mil-Spec Mom" tab at the top.