Behavioral Intervention Team

Behavioral Intervention Team

If you’ve witnessed someone acting strangely or saying things that make you think twice about that person’s safety or your own, who do you turn to? At JCCC, the answer is the behavioral intervention team (BIT).

JCCC created the behavioral intervention team after a number of violent episodes on other college campuses left people wondering if more could be done to help the aggressors before the violence began.

In the wake of shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007 and Northern Illinois University in 2008, a report shared with colleges and universities found that every campus needed a threat assessment team or a behavior intervention team.

Dennis Day, vice president, student success/engagement, said many colleges were not sharing information about persons showing unusual behavior. One goal of the behavioral intervention team, then, is to make sure multiple areas of the college – the police department, counseling, faculty and student success/engagement personnel – are sharing information.

“We needed a team that would help interpret communication reported to us,” Day said.

The six members of the team began training in 2008, attending workshops and webinars on how to categorize a behavior based on its level of threat.

The college also invested in a system where anyone can confidentially report strange or unusual behavior: KOPS, or Keeping Our People Safe. Concerned parties can either log into the Internet-based system or call a toll-free number (1-888-258-3230) and share the pertinent information.

Reports are then forwarded to the BIT. The team reviews about three to four cases a week, and an emergency meeting might be called every other month.

“It’s important to have someone follow up,” Day said. “The best level of defense for any threat is to identify something ahead of time.”

Day said the research has shown that before any outbreak of violence affecting a college community, the perpetrator usually had said something to telegraph the violent action. “That’s why we stress the idea of ‘If you see something, say something.’ If you know of something that may happen, tell someone so that information can be shared.”

Day urges anyone who feels threatened by (or even uncomfortable with) another person’s behavior to use the KOPS system.

“In most cases, it’s communication that’s the issue. Just clarifying the communication can sometimes be of great help,” Day said.

In this digital age, the concern may not even be spoken. The BIT can follow up on tweets from Twitter, Facebook posts or other forms of electronic communication.

Reports tend to follow the academic calendar; more reports of suicidal thoughts and statements happen around the high-stress times of midterms and finals. At the beginning of the semester, frustration can be the trigger as students try to maneuver the college’s many systems in order to begin classes, Day said.

Anyone can see a counselor on campus. (The counseling office is located on the second floor of the Student Center.) One solution a counselor may employ is a referral to St. Luke’s Health System. It’s free to students.

Day said BIT members have dealt with a number of situations effectively. “The testament to that is that you never hear about them,” he said. “If the team is doing its job, most people won’t even know they’re there.”

Still, Day stressed, quiet efficiency is no replacement for “See Something, Say Something.”

“We need everyone to help make this a safe campus,” Day said. “If you see something, say something, and someone will help.”