Zalman Myer-Smith
Security for the Community, by the Community.

Texas Church Shooting – What Jews can learn

Not a week goes by where we don’t hear the word active shooter or active killer. Active shooter drills are becoming part of the norm of site operational protocols. People are seeking solutions and many times we wish to just outsource the perceived solution to the problem.

The case in point is community security. Community is the keyword. Everyone in the community is a responder. Whether a trained observer who knows that when they see something they can articulate the concern and say something to someone who can take action and respond with preset protocols.

I spent three years managing a shooting range in a high crime area in Fort Lauderdale. I had experience with firearms and training before I started working there, however, the time¬† I spent was akin to being in college learning the do’s and don’ts as well as safe habits every person should use. I became a NRA Firearms Instructor and Federal Firearms Licensed Dealer. We met a diverse group of clientele ranging from cops, clergy, and even exotic dancers. All were concerned that they should have realistic and consistent training to protect themselves.

Many times, they came visited us after an incident or scare in their professional or personal lives and just sought solid and well-informed advice. Fast forward to today and I cherish those thousands of interactions on and off the shooting range hearing the gamut of views and opinions on protecting life.

Weapons are just a tool. It’s foolhardy to have no other system or steps before you may have to face a threat using a weapon. Situational awareness and protocols can be applied for you personally and for your community as well.

Case in point is the recent Texas Church Shooting in West Freeway. I have heard countless opinions (especially from the many different Jewish communities CSO serves), from law enforcement, volunteer security teams and firearms instructors. What went right and what went wrong.

  1. The shooter was known to have mental health issues, was wearing a long coat, a fake beard, and wig. – Why was he let in the front door? Where was the outside security? Once in the sanctuary or any high traffic area, there is little to mitigate the actions of a deranged or intentional attacker. The lesson to be learned – Have layers of security starting from the outside to deter and detect suspicious behavior, items or vehicles.
  2. The security team had 3 members in close proximity to the shooter for over 15 minutes according to reports – Why was the shooter not removed? Why was law enforcement not called? Why did 3 security team members need to be off other posts or areas to be focused on one person for so long? The lesson to be learned – Call the police dept and start the process of mitigating an existing threat.
  3. Two members of the security team got killed & one security volunteer appears to fumble getting his firearm – This is a tactical issue and would be addressed in training. However, having your eyes on someone’s hands at all times is a basic rule of thumb (pardon the pun) in security screening and law enforcement. The lesson to be learned – Have drilled skills taught by a professional and experienced real-world instructor.
  4. The shot was taken by the 3rd security volunteer (after the other 2 volunteers were taken out by the shooter) saved the day. – Yes, it did. However, the known perpetrator (who they had issues with before) was wearing a beard, wig and long coat and was already allowed inside the sanctuary with the largest congregated group. The lesson to be learned – a greeter or screener should be on the main entrance/single point of entry to discern who belongs and who does not. Was tragically a fail that the shooter was able to get into the central and most packed area of the facility.

5.  Use of firearms Рcontrol your volunteers with solid training, insurance, ongoing protocols and standards. The use and right to carry is prevalent in many states in the USA. Everyone is a responder and 911 can take quite a while to arrive. What happens during that time is all based on training, experience, and ongoing drills. Just like in Israel, if an incident occurs, a terrorist is taken down very quickly by a civilian member of the population. The bad guys know that Jews are not easy targets due to vigilance and skills to end an attack. The same should be in the United States. The lesson to be learned РAccept that firearms and responding is a responsibility we must embrace through professional training, guidance, and drills.

6) Volunteer Security – The United Kingdom. South Africa and Australia have stellar volunteer security teams trained and insured at sites. These volunteers take protective skills home with them and to their workplaces. We will continue to upgrade life-saving and life protecting skills for the Jewish community in conjunction with our law enforcement and professional security partners. A lesson to be learned – sign up for a CSO course today!

About the Author
Zalman Myer-Smith is the National Director of www.thecso.org. The Community Security Organization focuses on liaising, training, and working with law enforcement agencies and serving thousands of Jewish community synagogues, schools, and centers.
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