Rhode Island State Police Capt. Derek Borek shares best practices at an active shooter preparedness session Saturday at St. James Church, in North Providence. [The Providence Journal / Sandor Bodo]
By Jacqueline Tempera
Journal Staff Writer
Saturday Posted Feb 17, 2018 at 11:07 AM Updated Feb 17, 2018 at 7:24 PM
NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island State Police are encouraging law enforcement officers to carry concealed weapons when they attend church services, Capt. Derek Borek said at an active shooter preparedness session Saturday morning.
More than 100 clergymen, greeters, ushers, and parishioners from churches across the state packed the hall at St. James Episcopal Church for the presentation. Borek taught the crowd of mostly seniors how they could stop — or at least slow down — deadly shootings in their own parish halls.
“If someone comes in here shooting,” Borek said, gesturing toward the door, “what are our options? What can we do?”
They could run out the door, a man suggested. But the trooper countered: “Do we know what we’re running into? How many people do you think we can get out of here in 15 seconds?”
“I’m not telling you what’s right or wrong,” Borek said. “I just want to get you thinking.”
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Though this session was planned before the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the horrors that attendees read about and watched on TV hung over the room. It made the session even more poignant, said Joannie Collins, a St. James parishioner who organized the event.
Borek, a 23-year veteran of the force, stressed the importance of remaining calm and thinking about active shooter situations as you would a fire drill. He told the group that most Rhode Island troopers carry their guns to churches and synagogues when they attend. It’s encouraged for all law enforcement officers, he said.
With dry humor and examples from his own life, he connected with the crowd. He spoke of the time that he and his wife saw Stevie Nicks at Mohegan Sun casino, in Connecticut. As soon as they took their seats, Borek said he started thinking of a exit plan. If some “sicko” entered the theater, he said he and his wife would have hid under the stage.
“You’re going to think I’m nuts — I go out for a nice night and think about death,” Borek said. “You’re going to think I live a scared life. I don’t. I live a prepared life.”
Rose Florio, 85, and Annette Rocheford, 73, are ushers at a Lutheran church in East Greenwich. Both said they were compelled to attend Saturday’s session because they want to be able to help.
With tears in her eyes, Florio said she was horrified by what she’s seen on TV.
“If there’s something we can do to help, what can we do? You know, kids getting killed. It’s abominable,” she said, wiping her eyes. “Even if there’s one simple thing you can do to avoid it, you have to try.”
This was the thrust of Borek’s presentation. He drilled three principle ideas into the group’s heads: preplan, visualize, and have situational awareness.
Little things like designating certain parishioners to call 911, or having a master key ready for law enforcement in case of an emergency, can make a huge difference, he said.
“You’re job is to save as many lives as possible,” he said. “That’s it.”
On Twitter: @jacktemp