Public Safety & Threat Assessment

The University of Nebraska Public Policy Center is celebrating 25 years in policy and research. We have collaborated with many partners to bring about real-world solutions in our communities. As a university-wide, multidisciplinary research and outreach unit, we are committed to addressing complex issues by linking academic research, stakeholder perspectives, and practical experience through innovative and creative solutions.

A primary focus is threat assessment and violence prevention training for clinicians and threat assessment teams. These efforts include threat assessment consultation, evaluations, and training opportunities (such as crisis response workshops, conferences, etc.).

An additional component of public safety involves evaluating the success of problem-solving courts, which help people whose crimes may be related to mental health or substance use issues receive the treatment they need, in order to reduce future crimes by these individuals.

Here’s a highlight of some of the work that has resulted from these collaborations:

Threat Assessment and Violence Prevention Program

The Public Policy Center (PPC) received funding from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) via the State Homeland Security Grant Program to design and deliver a program for clinicians and threat assessment (TA) teams in Nebraska to better understand, detect, and intervene when potential violence motivated by extremism is present. In July of 2022, 10 clinicians and 14 TA Team members attended a pilot of the training program in Lincoln, NE, presented by the PPC. We trained 23 TA team members and six clinicians in December 2022 and had two in-person trainings in February 2023.

Dr. Mario Scalora and Dr. Denise Bulling are also continuing their partnership with the Nebraska Department of Education and Educational Service Unit Coordinating Council to provide virtual K-12 school team threat assessment training to Nebraska schools. To date, they have trained with 244 public school districts and 110 non-public schools. More than 1,800 individuals have completed the training.

Targeted Violence Research & Campus Safety

Dr. Mario Scalora leads the Targeted Violence Research Team at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). The goal of the Targeted Violence Research Team is to apply behavioral science principles to the detection, assessment, and management of targeted violence. Types of violence include sexual assault, stalking, threatening behaviors, and extremist activity. The Targeted Violence Research Team collaborates with a range of mental health and law enforcement professionals to 1) research relevant risk factors for targeted violence and 2) devise prevention strategies that can be applied in real-world settings. Partnering agencies in this collaborative effort include Lincoln Public Schools, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, The Nebraska Department of Education, The University of Nebraska Lincoln Police Department, and the Public Policy Center. Dr. Scalora, a national threat assessment expert, works closely with campus and city law enforcement to provide threat assessment expertise and coordinate security for UNL campus events such as Husker football game days at Memorial Stadium. 

Problem-Solving Courts

The University of Nebraska Public Policy Center has worked with state and county problem-solving courts since 2004, generally on evaluating activities funded by grants from the Bureau of Justice Assistance. For people whose crimes may be related to mental health or substance use disorders, problem-solving courts help with access to treatment for these issues, as well as other support services, and thereby reduce a person's risk of relapsing into criminal behavior.

Current projects include evaluations of the Lancaster County Adult Drug Court (begun in 2019), the Lancaster County Veterans Treatment Court (begun in 2020), and the Lancaster County DUI Court (begun in 2022). The Lancaster County Adult Drug Court and Lancaster County Veterans Treatment Court were both named as mentor courts in 2022. According to the Nebraska Judicial Branch, mentor courts follow evidence-based best practices and play a significant role in national training, technical assistance, and research efforts for the nearly 4,000 treatment courts that currently are operating nationwide.