By guest writer Joe Cadillic of the MassPrivatel Blog
It has been nearly two years since I reported on the dangers of creating a law enforcement run Mental Health Assessment (MHA) program. In Texas, police use MHA’s to “screen” every person they have arrested for mental illness.
But the TAPS Act, first introduced in January 2019, would take law enforcement screenings to a whole new level. It would create a national threat assessment of children and adults.
In the course of six months, the Threat Assessment, Prevention, and Safety (TAPS) Act (H.R. 838) has seen the support of the bill grow to nearly 80 Congress members. TAPS was introduced by a bipartisan Congressional Group along with local police during the recent National Police Week.
Speaking on Capital Hill, Texas Congressman Brian Babin made this remark in an opening statement:
“We do this first to honor the sacrifice of these men and women in blue, who put their life on the line every single day to protect us in the vital role that law enforcement plays in the safety and well-being of our communities and our districts. And secondly to highlight a bipartisan solution — that we all are working on — to protect our communities and schools from the terrible acts of violence that we have seen, and are getting to be almost routine.”
Taken at face value, the TAPS Act sounds like a noble attempt to stop school shootings, but not all is as it seems.
The TAPS Act would encourage law enforcement to give everyone a personal threat assessment (kids and adults) and single out those that they deem as future threats.
This is the opening paragraph of the Act:
“By bringing threat assessment experts together, and utilizing evidence-based behavioral threat assessment and management processes, we can bolster public safety by implementing strategies to identify and stop dangerous individuals before they can commit an act of violence. We have the expertise to combat the targeted violence plaguing our schools, places of worship, and public spaces, but we have yet to fully implement this expertise to prevent attacks.”
On the local level, the resources and information could be utilized not only by police but also teachers and counselors.
Initially sponsored by Senators Marco Rubio, Kyrsten Sinemea and Thom Tillis, the TAPS Act will create a national behavioral threat assessment and management process for everyone. The TAPs act will also immediately create a Joint Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management Task Force that will look into how to identify individuals that exhibit patterns of dangerous behavior that MAY precede an act of targeted violence. The Task Force will also be required to:
- Ensure consideration of the different needs and resources of communities across the country, and will not be construed as a national standard.
- Include recommendations for the most effective leveraging of existing Federal, State, local, and Tribal infrastructure, workforce, and experience.
- Include recommendations to increase collaboration between government agencies and private entities that focus on public safety responsibilities.
- Include recommendations on training programs to disseminate to State and Local entities.
- Include recommendations for a Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management School Violence Prevention Program to train and support a multi-disciplinary and multi-jurisdictional behavioral threat assessment and management process for educational entities.
Of course, we all want to keep our communities and schools safe but is this the right way to do so?
The never-ending war on terror and the TAPS Act should not be used as an excuse to destroy our Bill of Rights.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this newsletter are those of the author.