In front of over 40 people at the Mall at Johnson City, JCPD Training Officer Andy Clevinger reviewed police responses to past mass shootings, like Sandy Hook, Columbine and the Century 16 Theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado; situational awareness; how people react in high-stress situations; how police react; and more.
“I think it’s very important (to have these demonstrations), because, like the officer said, it’s not a matter of if it’ll happen — it’s a question of when it will happen, and I think preparedness is the only way to get through it,” said Tammy Gorzka, Johnson City Chamber of Commerce board member and CEO and president of the Johnson City company Katz Americas.
The event was hosted by the Chamber. Gorzka said it’s an important thing for the organization to do to reach more people in the community.
Also in attendance was Anita DeAngelis, director of East Tennessee State University's Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, who called the training “significant” for school administrators, as schools are a frequent target of mass shootings. In the last month, there have been school shootings in Charlotte, North Carolina, and in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, which resulted in the deaths of three students.
“For us, it is really important we’ve had some instances (of shootings) at colleges and universities around the country so it’s just as important to ETSU (to have these trainings) as it is to any other location,” DeAngelis said.
DeAngelis also said the August lockdown at ETSU, which was prompted by an alleged confrontation between two contractors, gave her added incentive to come to Wednesday’s “Lunch and Learn” event.
“I definitely remember (the lockdown), we ended up with a lot of students in our office that day and we had to keep the situation calm and remember to follow our procedures,” she said. “I think it’s so important for us to constantly go to these trainings just as a reminder to always be prepared.”
During the presentation, Clevinger discussed how Johnson City police have trained to take on an active shooter. Saying JCPD’s average response time, depending on the type of call, is about 90 to 120 seconds and in the event of an active shooter officers are allowed — but not required — to enter a building to engage a shooter alone, without backup.
“We hope our officers will (engage once on scene), but the good thing for us with our response time is we will usually have multiple officers on scene right after one another,” he said during the presentation.
Clevinger said the most important things he wanted attendees to take away from his hour-long presentation were having the proper mindset and situational awareness. He said having the proper mindset is “one of the most important things” a person can do in a high-stress situation, saying it’s “50% of the battle, if you have that then you’re going to make it.”
Clevinger also said that despite Johnson City being a relatively safe city with low violent crime rates, that doesn’t mean the JCPD is able to cut back on its active shooter training.
“I said it probably four or five times during the presentation, it’s not if it happens here — it is coming here to Johnson City, it’s going to happen... we want to be as prepared as possible to handle the situation as quickly and as swiftly as we can,” Clevinger said.