Can threat assessment help police prevent mass public shootings? Testing an intelligence-led policing tool

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine whether threat assessment, an intelligence-led policing (ILP) tool, can prevent mass public shootings. Design/methodology/approach: In order to gauge the potential effectiveness of this ILP tool, the authors conduct a retrospective analysis of 278 mass public shootings that occurred in the USA between 1966 and 2016. This retrospective analysis allows us to determine how successful threat assessment protocols could be in preventing mass public shootings by examining how successful this tool would have been in identifying the offenders in our data. Findings: The results show that threat assessment has the potential to be an effective tool in the ILP arsenal to identify and prevent impending mass public shootings. However, our results also point to several obstacles for the effective implementation of this ILP tool. The underreporting of threats and using the content of threats and characteristics of threateners are problematic in correctly assigning risk. The authors make suggestions for how to overcome these obstacles. Originality/value: This study makes several contributions to the intelligence-led policing and mass murder field. This is the first study to test the potential effectiveness of an intelligence-led policing tool to prevent mass public shootings. Additionally, this is one of the first studies to examine the leaks, types, context and follow-though of threats made by mass public shooters in the United States. Consequently, it provides unique information on the foreshowing behaviors of mass public shooters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-30
Number of pages15
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 4 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Public Administration
  • Law

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