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ASSESSING THE THREAT


August 21, 2013
By Leila Daoud

653 words – MR _CATEGORY HEAD: PROFILE__

Threats not something you ‘put up with’

by Leila Daoud

Det. Colin Leathem understands how serious threats can be. The seasoned investigator devoted more than two decades of his career to policing in the United Kingdom and later as a member of the Special Branch, Britain’s counter-terrorism agency. Throughout his career, Leathem has sat across the table from the people society fears most.

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“I’ve interrogated a wide variety of potential threats, from common, everyday threats to ardent members of provisional IRA, IRA sympathy groups and Loyalist terrorists. I’ve even interviewed Osama Bin Laden’s bodyguard when he was flagged coming in to the UK under an alias.”

Leathem took on a new adventure six years ago when he moved to Canada to join the Edmonton Police Service as a detective in the threat assessment unit. It receives between two and three threat notifications a day and creates and manages an average of 15 threat assessment profiles a month. Leathem takes all threats seriously.

“We never write a file off and close it. The whole point of threat assessment is that we keep ongoing files on individuals and we keep monitoring the situation.”

Leathem explains that sometimes the biggest challenge in dealing with threat assessment comes from the police officers who feel threats of harm against them or their families is a normal part of their job, something they have to put up with.

“Many times they have this attitude of ‘I’m strong, I’m a police officer, I don’t need to run to threat assessment or employee assistance. It’s just part of my job,’ but it’s not,” emphasized Leathem. “Your job is to patrol, protect and to serve but you also have a responsibility to yourself and to your family to be safe.”

Sometimes officers don’t want to bring up a specific threat made to them because of the fear of having to disclose what happened during an incident.

“Confidentiality is a huge thing in this office. Let’s be honest, if the member is worried about a professional standards branch complaint, the member will hold back information about what was really said or done during the conversation with the threatening individual. When they are through the doors of my office, they have to be honest; they have to know that what they say here stays here. Knowing that this office is fully confidential, that allows the member to open up.”

Once a member comes to the unit with a report Leathem will conduct a threat assessment profile using standardized tools. For the next six months the unit will keep up with the member, asking about any other threats, activity, concerns, etc. Leathem makes sure members know he is there for them if they need anything.

If the situation escalates there are a number of things EPS can do for the individual being threatened, including:

• Personal protection plans;

• Providing advice to officers on how to change their routine;

• Making sure members are walked to their car;

• Home panic alarms directly linked into HQ or the RCMP if the member lives outside of Edmonton; and

• Recommendations at the divisional level to allow the member to bring their CAW, OC spray or service weapon home.

Accurate threat assessment is a passion for Leathem. The experienced officer with a quick smile gets serious when explaining why it means so much to him.

“I have six good friends from my school days. The kind of friends you can go months without speaking to, but when you call, you just pick up where you left off. Of the six of us, only two of our fathers died of natural causes. The others were killed by sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. Threat assessment isn’t just my job, it’s personal for me.”

BIO

Leila Daoud is a communications advisor for the Corporate Communications Section of the Edmonton Police Service. Contact her at leila.daoud@edmontonpolice.ca for more information.