AEGIS has nothing but the deepest sympathies for the families, friends and loved ones of those killed and injured in the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, as well as for the entire Jewish community. We have been following the story since it broke, working with current clients to increase their security needs as panic spread across the entire Jewish American community.
One element that struck with particular difficulty was President Trump’s response to the attack at Tree of Life Synagogue. Early in responding to the attack, he stated “if they had an armed guard inside, they might have been able to stop him immediately,” sparking massive criticism and immediate consult with his daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Read the New York Times piece for more on this subject.
So was he correct? The answer is more complex than a simple yes or no.
Ultimately, AEGIS stays as apolitical as possible in these matters. We hire and deploy both armed and unarmed officers throughout Los Angeles for a wide variety of clientele, including religious institutions. But, in an effort to provide education to all arguments on the matter of “armed vs. unarmed” guards in the Jewish community, we hope the following clarifies your concerns.
First and foremost, all security guards in California who are under a Private Patrol Operator (PPO), such as AEGIS, need to be certified by the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS). To obtain this certification, officers must complete specific training that is recognized by BSIS. See the course we offer to our guards and interested parties.
For armed officers, the “guard card” is still a basic requirement. The next step for them is certification from BSIS to use an exposed firearm. The Exposed Firearm Permit is one that requires hours of training, both in a classroom and on a shooting range, that mimics the basic standards of a law enforcement academy. For full details on permit requirements, click here.
Additionally, AEGIS requires armed officers to have more tools than a gun to de-escalate a situation. We require officers to be trained in and obtain a baton permit, chemical agent (pepper spray) permit, and taser permit. This allows our officers to respond to different threats appropriately and with the necessary force to prevent the situation from escalating.
Going through an assessment process with a security expert will enable you and your organization to best determine the type of security plan (cameras, officers, etc.) to ensure your needs are met.
To enhance your security and to begin the target hardening process, we recommend the following:
The first step is awareness. This may include becoming a member of organizations including the FBI’s Infragard Member’s Alliance, security industry groups like ASIS, and faith based groups like the Jewish Federation, Secure Community Network, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). These organizations provide valuable intelligence, manuals, briefings and training. In LA, the Community Security Initiative of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation supports members by providing assessment, intelligence monitoring, information sharing and training services to Jewish schools and synagogues. See how you can build an intelligence network for your community or organization.
The second step is conducting a full audit of your organization and facility. That includes looking at its geographical location, physical security measures and training options, as well as the level of employee and contractor screening, emergency procedures, law enforcement response and contingency planning currently implemented.
The third step is improving and implementing best practices and monitoring the differences. This may include built enhancements including upgraded systems and personnel enhancements like adding security staff.
The fourth step is implementing a training program in how to observe and report suspicious activities as well as how to respond to them. It is important to remember that target hardening isn’t a one-time process. It is ever-changing and requires consistent attention. A professional and experienced security consultant in Los Angeles can assist in reviewing and implementing the process.
AEGIS Security & Investigations is a professional and experienced security resource commercial clients and the faith based community alike. We address the specific needs of all of our clients, and we have a unique understanding of the security demands for organizations that require security to not “feel” like security. So, where programs like the Community Security Initiative end, AEGIS continues. We provide expert security consulting and assessment services, armed and unarmed security guard service, and training on how to survive an active shooter.
If you do not feel comfortable with an armed officer, express that to your security consultant. Have your reasons outlined from the beginning to ensure you, your guests or clients, and your organization as a whole are comfortable with the security plan to be enacted.
Active Shooter Training
Religious sanctuaries, including Jewish synagogues, are, by definition, a target. Because of their appeal to a specific ethnic and religious community, there is an inherent threat from extremists imposed on social gatherings and buildings. As such, these institutions are obligated to develop emergency response plans and, as possible, work with a professional and trusted comprehensive security firm to ensure the safety of their community.
An active shooter training will prepare at least the staff within your organization for the worst case scenario. Relying soley on any one person – whether a security officer, military member, law enforcement officer, or otherwise – to stop an active shooter is naive. AEGIS encourages everyone to learn and follow Run, Hide, Fight.
AEGIS active shooter training thrive on the principle of Run, Hide, Fight.
As soon as you realize are in an active shooter incident, be prepared to run, hide, and fight. Put yourself into a mindset that keeps you calm yet reactive. Your first instinct should be to run away from the situation. Once you can confirm you are safe, locate or call police officers or local security.
If running is not possible, find a hiding place. This can be the nearest space in which you can lock and/or barricade the door and take cover behind dense objects. If there is no room or space readily available, hide behind or under a large dense objects, or a dark space that would be difficult in which to identify a target for a shooter. Keep in mind that if you are hiding, you may need to move to a new space is the threat gets closer and that you may also end up fighting. Wherever you are, fashion yourself an improvised weapon with which to fight and call 911 to get the police headed in your direction.
If you must engage in a fight with an active shooter, you have three key goals: defend yourself, incapacitate the perpetrator, and secure his/her weapon as quickly as possible. Heavy objects from your surroundings that can be thrown at or bashed into the perpetrator are ideal weapons. If there are others with you, work as a team.
Remember, your safety is primary in an active shooter situation.
The gravity of active shooter situations, bomb threats and other security breaches is best understood when you are placed in a real-life scenario. Trainings from AEGIS are hosted in a controlled, safe space that imitate real-world threats and orient participants to appropriately react and protect themselves and others should such a scenario become a reality.
AEGIS’ expansive list of Corporate Training Solutions is ideal for overall workplace safety and security, amplifying employee readiness in the event of an emergency. Topics ranging from pre-incident indicators of threats to active shooters can be trained in a rememberable format to resonate with participants, ensuring they walk away certain of their abilities to effectively respond to a variety of threat-related situations. Contacting AEGIS today can offer your employees and clients the assurance necessary to feel safe in the workplace.
If you are truly against a security team’s presence – whether armed or unarmed – do NOT second guess the need for this type of training. Prepare your organization today.
A Bit of Opinion – Armed Guards MAY be Helpful
In the Tree of Life attack, the shooter had numerous magazines. He was prepared to kill, period. Initial reports indicated that his bombardment that day left not only 11 civilians dead and several others injured, but he shot and injured law enforcement officers, too. The idea that one armed guard could have guaranteed the impact would have been lessened is, frankly, ridiculous.
However, having an armed guard may have helped in a few key ways.
- Any security officer trained in pre-incident indicators may have been able to identify a suspicious person. The shooter, more than likely, demonstrated several suspicious behaviors prior to even pulling out a weapon. An officer, armed or otherwise, could have identified those behaviors and contacted emergency responders before even a shot was fired, going police on scene faster and perhaps reduceing the number of casualties, but it is not guaranteed.
- An armed officer may have slowed down the active shooter. Once a weapon is identified, an armed security guard would be within his/her right to pull his/her own weapon and demand the person stop. Failure to stop would have yielded right to shoot to neutralize the clear and present danger of an armed assailant with clear intent to kill.
- An armed officer may have been able to warn the people in the synagogue a few moments earlier than the shooting began. If the shooter had shot at an officer first, perhaps that would have given them more time to take cover or run.
Nonetheless, whether an armed guard (or any type of “what if” for that matter) could have “saved the day” is not the important takeaway in a tragedy like this. What is important now is coming together as a community and a nation.
For those who are looking to prevent an attack, we hope these insights offer clarity from a security perspective. As a company that has worked specifically with the Los Angeles Jewish community, we hope to collaborate on making your places of gathering safer through education on this topic.
AEGIS Security & Investigations is a Los Angeles region company that is licensed and insured in the State of California to provide high-end armed and unarmed regular and temporary off-duty police officers, bodyguards, security officers, loss prevention agents, and event staff. Additionally, we offer services for private investigation, consultation, people tracing, and background investigation. Our trainings and workshops in the field of security licensure and counter-terrorism have been featured in news media and are renowned for their efficacy. For more information or to contact us, visit www.aegis.com.
By Chelsea Turner & Jeff Zisner