UW-Madison Threat Intervention Team

The UW-Madison Threat Intervention Team assesses and coordinates a response to threaten situations at UW-Madison. The team is chaired by the Director of Threat Intervention Services, Chris Cole.

The team develops strategies to assess intervene, interrupt, and mitigate threats posed by students, faculty, staff, visitors, and others who are unaffiliated with the campus.  In addition to the Threat Director, the Threat Team has members from the Division of Student Life, the UW-Madison Police Department, the Office of Legal Affairs, University Health Services, University Housing, the Office of Human Resources, the Employee Assistance Office, and University Communications.  The Threat Team receives guidance and oversight from the Campus Threat and Disruption Oversight Group (CTDOG).

It’s our belief that the best ways to learn of and mitigate a threat is through extensive communication between members of the campus community.

If there is a significant credible threat to the campus or a portion of the campus, legal and protective measures may be taken and information may be shared with the campus regarding the threat and possible crime prevention steps.

The goal in these situations is to make an informed assessment of the troubling behavior and activate the resources and support for all to be safe and successful.

The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which covers student educational records, does not extend to observable behavior a student may display in class or elsewhere and should not be an impediment to coordination among instructors, administrators and police.

What Should I Watch For?

Threat assessment is based on the premise that targeted violence is preventable and is the end result of a discernable process. An individual often engages in behaviors that may be indicative of escalation prior to acting out violently. The following are examples of such behaviors and are meant to help you identify potential concerns. These examples are not intended to be all-inclusive nor should it be assumed that an individual who exhibits them will definitely act out violently.

  • An unusual fascination with weapons or violence.
  • Discussions or social media postings indicating an individual is considering acting violently.
  • Statements that violence is an acceptable way to settle grievances or disputes.
  • Fixation on an individual or entity that is perceived as having wronged them.
  • Decreased performance in work or academics.
  • Lack of concern or interest in their future or the wellbeing of others.
  • Numerous conflicts with others.
  • Over-reaction to changes in policies or procedures.
  • Extreme or sudden changes in mood or behavior.
  • Decrease in the ability to control emotions.
  • Unexplained interest in the layout of buildings or emergency response procedures.
  • Deteriorating physical appearance and/or self-care.
  • Loss of inhibitors that may be preventing an individual from acting out violently. Examples of inhibitors include employment, membership in organizations, professional reputation, and personal relationships.

What Should I Do?

Report your concerns. Never assume that the team already has the information or someone else has already reported it. The most accurate assessment can only be completed when all of the known information is made available to the Threat Team. Information you have may be what is needed to give the team a complete picture.

  • IF A THREAT IS IMMINENT, CALL 911.
  • Information that does not require immediate attention may be reported to any of the following:

What Happens Next?

The threat assessment process can be broken down into four phases:

  • Identification – information regarding a potential threat is received. Baseline checks of criminal history and conduct data bases are conducted. Depending on the urgency of the information, the information is addressed by the Threat Team in a timeline appropriate to the circumstances.
  • Assessment – additional information is obtained through witness interviews and other investigative techniques in order to determine an individual of concern’s intent and capability with regard to committing acts of violence.
  • A strategy is developed to manage or mitigate the threat. This is generally a two part process involving an intervention with the individual of concern and the development of a safety plan with the intended victim(s) or target(s).
  • The matter is periodically revisited to ensure that the mitigation strategy is still appropriate and necessary as the situation evolves and conditions change.

Will I Receive Any Updates & Information?

As a reporting party, you can expect to be contacted to see if you have any additional information.  Limited information obtained during the course of the threat assessment may be shared to the extent it is necessary to develop a safety plan for the intended target(s) or victim(s).

Most of the information that is obtained is considered confidential and is not shared in order to protect the privacy of the individuals involved and the integrity of the assessment.

General Questions

For general questions about the UW-Madison Threat Team, or if you have questions about the process, contact:

Chris Cole
Director of Threat Intervention Services
christopher.cole@wisc.edu