Security Training. Joel Reese has a background in security and law enforcement. For the last 41 years he has worked for Paragon Systems, a security contractor for the Spokane Federal Building. Joel also travels around to other federal courthouses in the Northwest training Paragon security personnel. He has credentials for training in most aspects of the security operations provided at the various federal buildings and has been involved with church safety issues for a long time. .
On Monday, May 1, Joel was at the Genesis Church where he has led the Church Safety Team for the last four years. Rustin Rathbun, one of the founding members of our Action Training Group, Inc. has invited the ATG- and other Safety Teams and organizations- to share information. Rustin and the Genesis team will be inviting speakers to present information related to various church safety issues every first Monday of the month.
Joel stated to us unequivocally that “every man is my superior. I can learn something from him.” Socrates said that first and it also expresses the guiding principle of the nonprofit ATG- church safety teams working together to develop training concepts in which church safety teams collaborate with each other and seek to interact with local law enforcement agencies and other First Responders. But accreditation from the high quality programs already out there is also important.
Identifying Trouble. Joel pointed out that reading people is one of the most important skills needed. Empathy, the process of standing in another person’s emotional shoes without getting run over, is a corollary to reading the emotional clues that people exhibit. Joel cited a Scripture on which he meditates to prepare for his responsibilities:
A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
Discernment. By letting the Holy Spirit lead us, He will teach us all things, counsel a Believer and provide discernment to protect those he entrusts to our protection. As I began to meditate on Psalms 91, it occurred to me that the team is an extension of Yahweh’s wings.
He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
Praying and being prepared for the day with spiritual armor is the key.
Concealed Weapons. The likelihood of an attack on any given day is slight. But detecting concealed weapons or openly carried weapons is important. The signs that a person is armed can be walking stiff-legged due to a long gun carried in a pant leg- or a hunched stance because of a rifle carried near the back under a heavy coat. Inappropriate clothing, a fixated gaze or standing sideways to avoid detection are also indications of a concealed weapon.
Rustin explained to one church group with whom we recently met that he approaches armed individuals and greets them by stating, “I am glad you are carrying. You are taking your own protection seriously. We have a Safety Team. If anything happens, please just protect you and your family so that you do not interfere with our team. I invite you to come and talk to me when we there is a convenient time,”
This approach accomplished several things. The fact that the individual knows he is being observed might stop any problems that could develop.
The OODA Loop. If there is reason to believe that the armed individual has a plan to carry out violence, the congenial conversation has the effect of interfering with the OODA Loop. The OODA is the process by which people Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. Of course there is a particular way to go about the conversation.
If the Safety Team has reason to believe that an individual is not simply a well-intentioned armed citizen, one member of the team should stand back and cover the team member that approaches the suspicious person. The covering team member may or may not want to make his or her presence apparent during the conversation.
Situational Awareness. Every situation is somewhat different. The conversation could start as simply as, “It looks like you are having a bad day?” Or “is everything alright?” It is necessary to assume a stance that is nonthreatening but that protects the throat and eyes while maintaining the ability to prevent access to a weapon.
Asking what is you favorite football team not only jams the OODA Loop but it also provides opportunity to observe the mental state of the suspicious individual. If there is a distraction during the service, a different approach may be needed to escort the person out of the sanctuary or meeting room.
Joel and one of the team members role played for us how they would handle such an incident. I asked Joel what kind of Reality Based drills exist to get some experience in handling difficult situations both verbally and with force if necessary. He has experience with such drills. The first meeting focused on verbal de-escalation techniques. We are hoping to learn and participate with Joel and Rustin’s team and other organizations during upcoming sessions on the first Monday of every month at Genesis Church.
The sessions at Genesis are by invitation so if you are not an ATG member, contact Rustin Rathbun directly, through me or via the ATG group at www.actiontraininggroup.org.
Reality Based Training. RBT scenarios create high stress situations that develop judgment with sudden decisions about how and when to use force, verbal de-escalation and other safety tools.
Action Training Group Monthly Membership Meeting. Kenny Moore will talk to the ATG and the public about how to form a volunteer church safety team. The ATG monthly Membership Meeting is at the Post Falls Cabela’s at 5:30 PM on Friday, May 26, The information church teams need could be as simple as pointing out resources and where to find the best providers for insurance, training and equipment. For example, Kenny, who led the Candlelight Church team in Coeur d’Alene when they got started, recommends volunteers attend the training program at CENTER FOR PERSONAL PROTECTION & SAFETY (CPPS) to obtain formal accreditation.
Prior to the session at Genesis, we had one email discussion with an ATG member with law enforcement experience in the Los Angeles area who questioned the verbal de-escalation techniques discussed above. The member has been in gunfights and shared that many LEOs thought “Verbal Judo” is popular with the administrative law enforcement types and gets officers killed. There was a great deal of discussion regarding the differences between church safety objectives and law enforcement objectives and protocols.
Kenny, who is a retired Lt. Colonel, USMC, shared that the best approach is to look at the very best current Church Security available in the United States, and tailor programs to meet the specific needs of each church environment.
The ATG is not trying to reinvent the wheel! Church Security is different than other security programs. Candlelight started a safety program due to two young 12 year old girls disappearing from AWANA Programs in other churches in Idaho and Montana. Candlelight had a large AWANA Program and had immediate concerns about vulnerability, and liability.
Kenny located and interviewed representatives from the two best programs in the United States, and then researched an Insurance Program that specialized in insuring those churches with security programs. The team discovered that Insurance gave a significant discount for churches that have effective programs, while also providing blueprints on Overall Security Planning and execution. They sent Candlelight’s volunteers to a formal accreditation and training program at Center for Personal Protection and Safety (CPPS) in Spokane. From the basic training in legal and practical aspects of church safety. the Candlelight team was able to build a leading edge program with a solid foundation.
ATG Live-Fire Shooting Events. The ATG hosts a live-fire shoot every third Thursday at the Fernan Rod & Gun Club. Our next shoot is on Thursday, May, 18 at 4:00 PM.