Structured Professional Judgment: It’s Not Just Gut Feelings and a Checklist

  • 20 August 2020
  • 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
  • Zoom Webinar
  • 84


  • Members of organisations that are affiliated with APATAP may join these sessions for free. This includes the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP), the Association of European Threat Assessment Professionals (AETAP) and the African Association of Threat Assessment Professionals(AFATAP).

    Your membership may be verified with your organisation.


The literature on risk and threat assessment reveals a variety of decision-making approaches. Some involve considerable professional discretion while others are far more mechanical in nature. Structured Professional Judgment (SPJ) has become a popular approach as it aims to capture the positive aspects of precursor methods whilst minimising the negative aspects. SPJ promotes consideration of nomothetic and idiographic information in its actual context. However, this approach can be misunderstood as merely a checklist that allows practitioners to indulge and wallow in speculative gut feeling hypotheses. This presentation will examine the evolution of the SPJ model. The unique aspects of this approach will be contrasted with unstructured and actuarial methods. Various SPJ tools for the assessment of risk and the analysis of other concerning behaviours will be described. It will be argued that SPJ tools should be properly viewed as structured guidelines for conducting assessments that are grounded in the empirical literature but sensitive to the individual case. They provide a defensible and comprehensive evidence-based framework for risk and threat assessment. Future directions for practice and research will also be discussed and questions will be welcomed.

Where and When

Date: 20 August 2020

Time: 18:00pm - 19:30pm

Time Zone: UTC+10 (Australian Eastern Standard Time)

Webinar via Zoom

Learning Outcome

  1. Understand the SPJ model of decision-making
  2. Become familiar with the variety of SPJ tools available for risk and threat assessment
  3. Understand the importance of considering nomothetic and idiographic information when assessing risk or analysing criminal behaviour


Dr Michael R Davis


Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, Swinburne University of Technology; Department of Psychiatry,  Monash University; and Department of Psychiatry, the University of Melbourne

About the presenter(s)

Dr Michael Davis is a Forensic and Clinical Psychologist in full-time private practice. He has adjunct appointments at Swinburne, Monash, and Melbourne Universities. He has presented nationally and internationally on the topics of sexual deviance, risk assessment, psychopathy, offender profiling, equivocal death, behavioural crime linkage, and other aspects of sexual and violent crime. Dr Davis’ consulting practice is divided between clinical-forensic assessment tasks and providing behavioural investigative advice to police agencies.

Dr Davis is a member of the Australian Forensic Reference Group (Victoria Police). He has provided behavioural investigative advice to police in several countries across three continents and is the only mental health professional in Australia to be elected to membership of the International Criminal Investigative Analysis Fellowship (ICIAF). Dr Davis also serves as an instructor to the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI and is on the editorial board of the Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling. 


  • Free for APATAP members
  • $25 for non-members

Delivery mode

Due to social distancing restrictions, all current APATAP professional development sessions will be delivered via Zoom.

Suitable Audience

This presentation may be of interest to threat assessors, forensic mental health professionals and crime analysts.


1.5 hours (90 minutes presentation including Q&A)