The 3 R’s of risk assessment for violent extremism

Geoff Dean (Griffith Criminology Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)
Graeme Pettet (School of Mathematical Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)

The Journal of Forensic Practice

ISSN: 2050-8794

Publication date: 8 May 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore two distinct yet complimentary “structured professional judgement (SPJ)” approaches to terrorist/extremist risk assessment on the vexing issue of how best to deal with the subjectivity inherently involved in professional judgement.

Design/methodology/approach

An SPJ methodology is considered the best practice approach for assessing terrorism risk. Currently there are four specific terrorism risk instruments that have been published in the literature. Two of these SPJ tools are examined in detail, namely the Violent Extremist Risk Assessment tool (Pressman, 2009; Pressman et al., 2012) and the Structured Assessment of Violent Extremism (SAVE) tool (Dean, 2014). The paper critically unpacks the conceptual and methodological stumbling blocks of an SPJ methodology for controlling human subjectivity.

Findings

The paper presents the case for adopting a “controlling in” approach rather than a “controlling out” approach of an analyst’s subjective tacit (in-the-head) knowledge inherent in their professional judgement. To have a quantifiable SPJ tool that triangulates the multi-dimensionality of terrorism risk which can validate an analyst’s professional judgement is the next logical step in terrorist/extremist risk assessment work. The paper includes a case example of this “controlling in” approach and the validation methodology used by the SAVE software system.

Practical implications

The implications for practice range from incorporating the SAVE system in operational policing/national security work with its quantitative nature, triangulated risk scores, visualisation output of a prioritised case report with in-built alerts, to the required training for system calibration to enhance user proficiency.

Originality/value

This is a highly original and innovative paper as this type of quantified SPJ tool (SAVE) has up until now never been applied before in terrorist/extremist risk assessment work.

Keywords

Citation

Dean, G. and Pettet, G. (2017), "The 3 R’s of risk assessment for violent extremism", The Journal of Forensic Practice, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 91-101. https://doi.org/10.1108/JFP-07-2016-0029

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Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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