Threat Assessment


Mark Horton, High Risk Offenders, Ottawa Police Service
Donna Watson-Elliot, Victim Crisis Management, Ottawa Police Service

This presentation will outline various approaches to determining threats for both offenders and survivors. This session will begin by defining threat assessment and explore where we can use behavioural analysis in an investigative setting. We will examine "Evidence" vs. "Behaviour" and why we’re more interested in why something happened than what happened. We will look at how we assess risk for future violence, what types of analysis we can employ and what kind of actuarial tools, structured professional judgment and violence models to use in our assessments. From there, we will explore how to identify, code and weigh aggression and violence towards animals as a risk factor for future violence against human beings, defining the proximal warning behaviours and what role novel aggression plays in risk of future violence. This presentation will then move into assessment models for managing risk with victims/survivors of violence, identifying practical strategies to manage victim risk factors, including the identification of victim protective vulnerability factors. The presenter will also explore the importance of working collaboratively with community agencies and partners.

Key Learnings:

  1. Threat assessment and behavioural assessment.
  2. Methodology: how do we assess risk for future violence?
  3. How do we identify/code/weigh aggression and violence towards animals?
  4. Assessment models for managing risk with victims/survivors.


Detective Mark Horton is completing his 21st year with the Ottawa Police Service. Prior to joining the Ottawa Police Service, Det. Horton served with the Correctional Service of Canada at the Joyceville Institution and Springhill institution. Since becoming a police officer, Det. Horton has worked in the areas of criminal investigations, community services, traffic enforcement, and with the High Risk Offender Management Unit. Det. Horton also served a 9-month tour in Afghanistan, as an Ottawa Police officer, training the Afghan National Police. Det. Horton is presently seconded to the RCMP and involved in the Threat Assessment Understudy Program with the RCMP's Behavioural Science Branch.

Donna Watson-Elliott is a manager, counselor and educator. She is currently the Manager of the Ottawa Police Service Victim Crisis Team, where she has worked for the past 20 years. She has 27 years of crisis and trauma counseling experience working with victims of crime and tragic circumstances and has worked extensively with survivors of violence. She completed her Graduate degree from the University Of Ottawa Faculty Of Education with a concentration in counseling. She also possesses a Honours in Social Work from Carleton University and an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Ottawa. She is currently working towards her Graduate Certificate in Emergency Management at Algonquin College.