Former FBI supervisor Chris Cole is settling into his new position as head of UW police department’s threat intervention services, which exists to protect against potential potential campus-wide safety threats.
Marc Lovicott, UWPD spokesperson, said the new position was added to accommodate the need for a dedicated individual to lead the threat intervention team.
“He was the perfect candidate for the position,” Lovicott said of Cole, who began his new position as the director of threat assessment services Nov. 4.
Before joining the threat intervention team, Cole worked for the FBI for 26 years, the past five years of which he spent as the supervisor of the Madison field office. As chair of the threat team, Cole’s primary duty is to develop and implement strategies to deal with threats made by or to students, staff, or members of the campus community, he said.
Lovicott said the threat intervention team was created at the UW following the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings. A university statement said the team is made of staff members from multiple divisions within the university community, including University Housing, the Division of Student Life and University Health Services.
Since starting his new position, Cole has primarily been working on policy and protocol for the team, he said. He is currently creating a road map for how the team operates and how to address threats within the campus community.
Cole also works with active cases by reviewing each case and assessing the associated risks. He then assigns detectives when the need arises.
“There are two initial things we look at when dealing with a potential threat: intent and capability,” Cole said.
He said a real distinction exists between individuals who make threats and individuals who pose threats. The threat assessment team is primarily concerned with the latter, Cole said. He added that the work of the threat assessment team is to deal with threats early on before they escalate.
When dealing with students who are suspected of posing a threat to the campus community, Cole said the vast majority of cases are able to be dealt with before they pose a significant risk. The threat assessment team is primarily concerned with helping the student be successful at the university, and it only suspends or expels students if absolutely necessary.
“The goal is generally to help them in the university setting,” Cole said. “If we suspend or expel them, we’ve lost whatever control we have over their behavior.”
If necessary, Cole said he and the risk intervention team also create a safety plan for the potential victims, which might mean adding additional security to buildings or sending out campus wide emails.
Currently, the risk intervention team meets once every two weeks to introduce new cases and discuss existing cases within the campus community.
Editor’s note: This article originally referred to Chris Cole as David Cole. We regret the error.