INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Law enforcement officials often have to make quick calls when it comes to threats to public safety. But, the process of determining what is a threat is actually a complicated one.
Security expert Peter Beering says the problem with connecting the dots, is often knowing defining what a dot is.
Beering, who has more than 3 decades of law enforcement experience, says the process of determining the veracity of threats often starts with critical questions, such as the identity of the person making the threat, whether said threat is something that can actually happen and if that person making the threat actually has the capacity to carry it out.
“That can be a simple process, or that can be a complicated process depending on the who’s, the what’s, the why’s and the wherefores that are involved in the threat,” Beering said.
In the case of the Florida school shooter, the FBI has admitted that they received a tip regarding his desire to kill, but ultimately failed to follow up.
Beering says tracking and determining the veracity of online, or social media threats can often take investigators down a convoluted path. The days and weeks following tragic events can be especially difficult, as it’s typical for plenty of “copycat threats” to emerge.
“It’s now possible online to make all sorts of threats where the internet can bounce it around at lightning speed,” he said.
Over time, Beering says the process has become more complicated, largely due to the fact that threats are now less often made from organizations like Al Qaeda, and more often made by so called “lone wolves.”
He adds that navigating the waters between national, or public security interests and infringing on public rights and freedoms can also muddy the waters.
“At the end of the day the challenge remains. The bad guys just have to get it right once, but the good guys have to get it right every single time,” he said.