II – Aware

Lessons in Situational Awareness from Columbo

The painting by Jaroslav Gebr of Peter Falk as Columbo from Season 9, Episode 1: Murder, A Self PortraitColumbo was an American crime drama television series starring Peter Falk as Lieutenant Columbo, a homicide detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. The show aired on NBC from 1971 to 1978 and on ABC from 1989 to 2003.

[ Read SemperVerus articles on the subject of Situational Awareness ]

In the series, Columbo is a seemingly every-day homicide detective who wears a rumpled beige raincoat and projects a casual, polite, warm, charming, respectful, humble, deferential, patient, soft-spoken, and unassuming demeanor, all of which are a disguise for extremely shrewd and intelligent situational awareness. He often leaves a room only to return with the catchphrase, “Just one more thing” to ask a critical question.

[ Read the SemperVerus article, Gentle Response De-Escalation Training for Church Security Teams ]

Along with another keenly observant detective—Sherlock Holmes—Columbo embodies an innate, probing, and continuous curiosity about his surroundings. He is an excellent model for us to emulate in how to be unceasingly alert when we are in public.

Gentle Response De-Escalation Training for Church Security Teams

Gentle Response is the organization founded by John Riley, a retired police officer and certified crisis intervention specialist with the National Anger Management Association. He and his team travel all over the United States conducting Conflict De-escalation Training seminars.

SemperVerus attended this excellent seminar, held in Immanuel Church, Holland, Michigan, May 14, 2023. With Mr. Riley’s permission, here are notes we took during that seminar and scenario training:

•   “A gentle response defuses anger” Proverbs 15:1 (MSG)

•   Conflict de-escalation: lowering the intensity of an agitated person to minimize a potentially volatile situation from becoming a critical violent incident.

[ Read the SemperVerus article, A Prayer for Church Security Team Members ]

•   Peacemaking and de-escalating people’s anger is the goal, while staying alert to your own personal and public safety. When overwhelmed, stay safe and be an expert witness.

•   Mindset Priority: Each church security team member must have a “ministry mindset” — Every contact (even eye contact) is a ministry opportunity to represent the mission of the church. Don’t let your actions be heavy-handed and damage that mission.

Why 21 Feet Is Not a ‘Safe’ Distance

An article published on Police1.com reports research that confirms 21 feet is not necessarily the magic distance to successfully ward off every deadly threat and that more distance could be more apparently required. While this article contains useful information, it unfortunately includes mischaracterizations that need clarification.

First, it erroneously begins: The 21-foot rule has been a topic of conversation in law enforcement since the 1980s when Salt Lake City Police Department Lieutenant Dennis Tueller developed a training drill for his fellow officers. But it is NOT a “rule” and should never be considered a “rule.” It is a training drill intended to be used as a general standard in practice to hone defensive skills.

Second, it states: In this drill, an officer played the role of a suspect with an edged weapon who would charge another officer who was standing about 21 feet away with a holstered weapon. Properly understood, The Tueller Drill does NOT restrict the threat to only an edged weapon.

Appearing in the March 1983 issue of SWAT magazine, How Close Is Too Close? by Dennis Tueller is the original article credited with first establishing the importance of maintaining a “reactionary gap” in defensive force incidents. It begins with the very clear threat scenario description: The “good guy” with the gun against the “bad guy” with the knife (or machete, axe, club, tire-iron, etc.). You’ll notice police trainer Lt. Tueller did NOT limit the threat to only knives or other edged weapons; he included ANY striking weapon (“club, tire-iron, etc.”) used in a person’s hand that is capable of causing death or great bodily harm. The original article illustration itself shows the threat using a club, not a knife.

A Prayer for Church Security Team Members

Being a volunteer member of your church security team is a demanding responsibility. You invest considerable time, effort, and expense training and learning as much as you can to be able to properly respond to any emergency that may occur during a gathering of your church.

[ See the SemperVerus list of links to Church Security Training Resources ]

One excellent training opportunity is Sheepdog Church Security, which offers a certification program that covers Security Team Fundamentals, Active Shooter Response, Deescalating Disruptive Persons, Protecting Children from Abuse, Use of Force Laws, Arson and Fire Safety, Storms and Disasters, and Mass Trauma Emergency.

[ Read articles in the SemperVerus category of Church Security ]

Since attention to church safety and security encompasses so many physical—as well as spiritual—dangers and threats, here’s a prayer by SemperVerus® you may want to say every time you start your security team volunteer shift: