Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Epic Failure of Colorado University's Behavioral Evaluation and Threat Assessment Team

James Holmes is in custody for allegedly killing 12 people and injuring 58 others when he opened fire in a packed midnight screening of the latest Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora Colorado.  Dressed in full riot gear, Holmes allegedly entered from an emergency exit in the front right corner of the theater before releasing something that witnesses identify as tear gas or a smoke bomb. From there, he allegedly sprayed the sold-out theater with a storm of bullets, injuring and killing both adults and children.  Holmes, sporting hair dyed red, reportedly told arresting officers he was "The Joker" in apparent reference to a well known villain in the Batman series.

In a previous post, Someone Knew, I pointed out that the shooter was likely known to be having mental health problems.  Apparently his school did know and and he was in fact the patient of Dr. Lynne Fenton, Head of the Campus Mental Health Service, a founding member and current adviser of the UC Campus Behavioral Evaluation and Threat Assessment team.

According to reports from the Denver post, Dr. Fenton gave the BETA team the name of James Holmes as early as the first week in June, a full month prior to the massacre.  It has been reported that the team took no action and failed to contact local police on the basis that James Homes was in the process of dropping out of school.  If all this turns out to be true, look for beneficial legal action, the result of which will make it more likely that future warnings will be more readily dealt with.

Currently the "Tarasoff Warning" dictates that only where a known target is identified, does a therapist have a duty to warn.  Because the University of Colorado had a mechanism in place to handle threats (their BETA Team) and failed to take any action to do so (rather than simply failing to stop Holmes through their action), they will be held responsible for the killings and Tarasoff will be enlarged.  In fact, I fully expect Holmes to initiate civil action on his own part over CU's failure to prevent the massacre.  He is very likely to prevail and the loss's that CU will ultimately become responsible for will be staggering.

It's one thing to fail to stop an action through error but, it's entirely another to simply fail to act when one has voluntarily taken on the responsibility to do so and has even marketed that ability on ones own website in an attempt to bolster their claims of campus safety.  This is bad for CU and they should be held accountable.  

The legal action will take years but the fall out should result in greater safety for all through an expansion of Tarasoff to include society as a whole to some degree.  

It will also force the mental health system to begin to trust law enforcement, something it should have been doing all along.  If you trust us when the shots start to fly by calling 911, it seems silly that you failed to do so, prior to that point, while James Holmes began collecting weapons and ammunition.  

CU is as guilty as Penn State.  They had a responsibility which they voluntarily chose to take on and instead, they chose to ignore it and pretend it wasn't their job.  Shame on them.  

No comments: