LINKS
2018-05-15 / Front Page

Area Churches Prepare to Protect Parishioners

By Patty Lollot


Delhi Police Captain James Small and Samantha LaTourette demonstrate the proper handling of a firearm, using a Glock Trainer 17, a non-lethal handgun used in training sessions, during a church safety presentation at New Hope Community Church last Tuesday. 
Patty Lollot/The Reporter Delhi Police Captain James Small and Samantha LaTourette demonstrate the proper handling of a firearm, using a Glock Trainer 17, a non-lethal handgun used in training sessions, during a church safety presentation at New Hope Community Church last Tuesday. Patty Lollot/The Reporter WALTON - “I could work every day giving active shooter training,” said Delhi Police Captain James Small at a second safety meeting held at New Hope Community Church (NHCC) last Tuesday. The meeting’s focus was on preventing, or mitigating an active shooter event, especially at soft targets such as schools, churches, workplaces and public gatherings. He was again assisted by Rich Kelly, a training instructor and Hamden Town Constable.

During Tuesday’s presentation, Small cited the New York State Penal Law Article 35 covering justification of the use of a firearm (lethal/deadly force). While the law can be reviewed online, Small gave a broad overview as to who is “authorized” and what is “necessary and reasonable use of force.” With such force comes a tremendous amount of both responsibility and liability.

Small explained that we are all “authorized” to protect ourselves, others, as well as real and personal property. To what degree depends on the severity of the threat.

As an example, he said, “If someone comes into a church and snatches the collection basket, does that warrant the use of lethal force?” Of course, it does not, since it is only a case of petit larceny. However, if someone comes into a church brandishing a firearm and begins to shoot at people, that’s a justifiable cause for the use of a lethal weapon. Using the acronym, IDOL (In Defense of Life) Small outlined what needs to take place before such a measure is taken.

Both professional law enforcement personnel and private citizens need certified training in the event of a shooter situation, which, unfortunately, has become all too familiar. Specific to churches and other institutions, safety teams who wish to be armed must have a plan in place, permits, practice (experience) with firearms and proficiency (accuracy) to avoid collateral damage. “The liability issue is huge,” he acknowledged.

To what degree a church can lessen its liability must be discussed with its insurer, who will help to outline what requirements must be met to insure the church and its safety team members. There is already one local church that has implemented a multi-person safety team, some members of which are certified to carry a firearm, offered Small.

For Small and Kelly, stressing the need for training, practice, and commitment is an ongoing theme. Kelly explained, “I know officers who practice holstering and unholstering their firearms at home.” This instills muscle memory which helps ensure that they can draw their weapons with practiced ease. Similar commitment would benefit civilians given the responsibility of protecting others in church, and elsewhere.

Small said that frequent practice shooting sessions, both at stationary and moving targets, lends itself to greater proficiency in the event of an incident. In a church with possibly 100 worshippers or more, accuracy is critically important. “Don’t just go to the range once a year and expect to be proficient,” he warned.

Looking into the mind of an active shooter, Small explained, “Some have mental issues, others are on drugs.” There are also political and religious radicals, as reported in the news. “These shooters often have a reckless disregard for the consequences of their actions,” he stated.

Conversely, Small said that civilians, given the responsibility of protecting themselves and others, must look at their own mindsets and commitment to act defensively to stop a threat, if necessary. “People handle stress in different ways,” he observed. Some often have to make a “split second” decision to shoot and do it, while others will choke and back off.

In the aftermath of a shooting incident, where an attacker is shot, Small recommends caution in reporting the event. Call 911, explain someone tried to kill you, be willing to sign a complaint, show the attacker’s weapon, identify witnesses and then, advise you wish to cooperate with police, but first, you need an attorney.

For those who are interested, Small said that the department offers periodic civilian pistol training sessions. Interestingly, he sees an increase in women who shoot. “About 60 percent of the participants are women.”

Attending the presentation was Pauline Scherer, a member of NHCC. Later, she said. “I came away with a great respect for the police and an awareness of how very difficult their jobs are, especially when they must react to danger at a moment’s notice.” She further added, “The entire church body has a responsibility to avoid making a dangerous situation worse by its well-meaning, but ignorance of the correct actions in a potential crisis.”

NHCC Pastor Larry Light observed, “This was an excellent training by Capt. Small and Richard Kelly on church preparedness for disruptive incidents that can happen inside the church. Churches need to proactively take steps for things that we hope and pray never happen, but could.”

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