This section is updated every Sunday morning to give church security teams some things to think about as they prepare for weekend services. I wish your team the very best and hope you may find occasional things applicable to your operations.
Being ready is better than being dead.
On November 1st, a killer walked into a Walmart in Thornton Colorado and started randomly shooting. He killed three people in the checkout area, then turned around and left. My wife asked me, “what can people do when they’re just standing in line to check out and gunshots ring out?”
My response came from the title of a western movie, “The Quick and the Dead.” There is no hint of a joke in that response, it is my most honest advice for the first step in the survival process. Later, a survivor from Walmart told how she was alive only because her husband recognized instantly what it was and shoved her to the floor.
Just a few days later, taking notes in Sutherland Springs, I couldn’t shake the phrase.
Lt. Col. Dave Grossman says, “Those who say there is nothing that can be done, do nothing.” When America’s number one law enforcement and military teacher speaks, I pay attention.
An Aurora Colorado police officer said, “The body can’t go where the mind hasn’t been.” When someone who experienced the theatre massacre aftermath and investigation speaks, I listen.
Preparedness is a two-part word, alert and ready. Preparedness is the only right mental default prior to, and throughout making decisions to run, hide or fight.
To hide, fight or run really are the only options for action. Survival has rarely (if ever) been the result of a sequence of the three. Often two of the three were used, but it should never be taught as a sequence. Those who survived chose the right option and did it. Those who didn’t survive, chose the wrong option and stayed with it.
That said, survivors make decisions, but are not frozen in the decision. They can switch to another option quickly if needed. If hiding doesn’t look like it is going to work, they may run or fight – one of which will be the right decision.
Gavin de Becker wrote the book, The Gift of Fear. The first 2 times I praised the book to faith-based leaders, it was met with a religious forehead wrinkle and scowl, “No, we shouldn’t live in fear.” Really? Why is that so bad?
On the morning of November 6th (the day after the Sutherland Springs massacre) I was driving a curvy Tennessee back-road around 04:00 AM in a driving rain. I needed to be at the Nashville airport by a certain time to start my navigation to Texas, but I couldn’t go as fast as I wanted because I feared I could not make a turn without sliding off. That’s not a bad fear. At other times, I drive the speed limit because I fear the radar gun. That too is a good fear.
So why do Pharisees scowl at de Becker’s position that fear is a gift? Fear navigates us through danger. We could make a case for fear being the opposite of denial.
So, you teachers keep teaching fight, hide or run. But please teach it right – those are action options. Stop teaching it as a sequence of decisions with fight being (as I have heard), “Only the last option if everything else has failed.” That balderdash can get more people killed.
Use time that would have been spent teaching last option mentality, to go instead towards teaching the value of being alert and ready as a mental default prior to and during the attack.
Think About it,
A decision to fight has at times gotten a defender or defenders killed, but I cannot think of a single case where they died in shame. Sometimes running or hiding saved one’s life, but others died. That may be the only right decision for some.
You must process the decision prior to being forced to decide an action. Readiness is a result of planning, not a reaction to surprise.
The more correct decisions you make in life, the clearer your vision becomes. The more wrong choices made, the muddier the waters of decision get.
When it comes to survival of yourself or (especially) others, don’t make those decisions based on political, social or professional expectations due to your affiliations and position. Make those decisions based on moral conviction. If your stand in life is that you never value the life of others over your own conviction to never fight, be prepared to live with that decision.
Conviction has a dual meaning, it is both a belief and a sentence.
Some police agencies (i.e. Peoria Illinois) are teaching WIN (What’s Important Now) mental processing as a basis for run, fight or hide. I like it.
And last week’s TAI…
In 2008, right after the attack at New Life, the Colorado Springs Police Department invited me to a meeting of a little-known group of area retail loss-prevention professionals. We had just begun blazing a trail of working with other faiths and law-enforcement in our area, and the police felt there was more we could do in the arena of sharing information. They wanted me to see a model of how retail professionals were working with law-enforcement to reduce shoplifting and other retail crimes in the area.
In this conference room at a police precinct building I was the new guy and stranger in a room filled with police officers and loss-prevention professionals from all the major box stores one would recognize. Here in the same room sat men and women from competing retailers, all sharing information on the same shoplifters. The vertical markets represented around the table were discount department stores, pharmacy chains and retail home-improvement stores.
One of the folks (as I recall he was from WalMart) pulled out a picture of a woman and handed it around the table, saying she was out of jail. One of the others asked how she operated. Someone else at the table told how she would find receipts blowing in the parking lot (or in trash cans outside the store). She would go through them looking for cash sales of high value, easy to lift items. She would then go into the store and steal those items, come back later with the stolen item and the receipt, and get her money back. She would do this at K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Sears, Lowes, Home Depot, etc.
Ah…, they’d all seen this type of shoplifting before and now had a face to put with at least one of those known to operate that way.
One of the other members distributed a picture taken from their surveillance cameras of a young couple. He warned everyone that this young couple would fight and cause a scene if they were stopped for shoplifting. One of the police officers present recognized them and let everyone know they did have outstanding warrants. This one would be easy; “if you see them come into your store call CSPD with this case number…”
I clearly saw what the police officer was wanting to show me. The same clown who steals from the mailbox of the First Baptist Church, has reached into the mailbox of the Sacred Heart Catholic Parish and the LDS Church. The same pedophile who came too close to getting caught at the Presbyterian Church just moved across town to the Methodist.
David Twitty and his son Travis traveled throughout 3 states in the southeast U. S. visiting multiple churches in a scam that lasted 12 years. They would often enter small churches during the sermon and get permission to speak to the congregation.
David would claim to be a pastor from “Mt. Sinai Church in Knoxville, TN” and was well-versed in scripture. They would gain a church's confidence, and then exploit that confidence as they concocted a hard luck story such as a sick or dying relative. Then the money would roll in to them. They were eventually arrested in March of 2009 in Alamance County, NC.
Did you see that they did this for 12 years? This is only possible because churches are not sharing information.
Just last week in Seaford Delaware, 7 men and women (ranging in age from 22 to 51) were arrested for a church mailbox theft operation that spanned at least three states and three months. They were helping themselves to church mailboxes, finding checks and donations and depositing them into various accounts owned by the ring.
Think About it…
One thing I observed about the retailers was that nobody from WalMart was trying to covert anyone from Sears. Nobody from Home Depot was criticizing the quality of Lowe’s products and operations. They all shared a common goal of making life tough for criminals.
Our small coalition in Colorado Springs is now over 100 members. We have participation of federal and local law-enforcement. We have representatives from evangelical, traditional, non-denominational, Baptist, Methodist, Mormon, Catholic, Islamic and Jewish organizations. The threat intelligence shared is just one of the many successes. Nobody is trying to win over anyone else to their theology. But we’ve had some successful arrests.
The national Faith-Based Security Network (FBSN) will use the models of threat intelligence developed in the Colorado Springs area (inspired from the models of others before).
Threat intelligence is hard work and can be risky business. There is no “easy button.” However, there are ways to do it right to benefit both law-enforcement and faith based participants. Done well, it is our communities who benefit.
Hundreds of you have now responded to the church security survey. That survey is the first step towards the big launch of the FBSN. The next step will be a webinar being developed and scheduled based on feedback from the survey. Threat Intelligence is just one of the five strengths of the FBSN that will be introduced in that webinar.
If you’ve not already done so, please complete the survey and sign up for updates from the FBSN.
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SECURITY!? IN A CHURCH?