For the Jewish community, security is paramount
SWAT team members deploy near the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, some 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Dallas, on January 15, 2022. – The SWAT police operation was underway at the synagogue where a man claiming to be the brother of a convicted terrorist has reportedly taken several people hostage, police and media said.
(Photo by Andy JACOBSOHN / AFP) (Photo by ANDY JACOBSOHN/AFP via Getty Images)

CSI’s Bill Humphrey: ‘Shore up your security layers’

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

Bill Humphrey, director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas Community Security Initiative (CSI), has been working tirelessly over the past three years to make sure the Dallas Jewish community is safe, secure and prepared in the event of a security threat.

Humphrey, a retired 38-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, said that preparedness and the CSI system was tested on Saturday when Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year old British national, took Rabbi Charlie Cytron Walker, and three congregants hostage at Congregation Beth Israel during the Shabbat morning service. The ordeal lasted almost 12 hours and ended shortly after 9 p.m. when the hostages escaped unharmed (One hostage was released around 5 p.m.).

Humphrey explained that CSI functions on four pillars: training and education, its communications/alert platform, target hardening and liaising with law enforcement.

The work CSI and the Federation have done to establish strong ties with law enforcement was clear immediately on Saturday morning.

‘My personal cell rings, and it’s one of our law enforcement partners who said, ‘there’s calls coming in for one of the synagogues in the Dallas area. You may want to know… head’s up,’” Humphrey explained. He added that the next calls came from his counterpart in Austin, the community security director for that Jewish community, and then a third call from the FBI, explaining that it looked like a full-blown hostage situation.

“The communication speeds were spot on,” Humphrey said.

He added that police chiefs from Richardson and Dallas reached out to him immediately and said that they had already stepped up patrols around the synagogues in the area. Plano also moved quickly.

“So  they’re calling me to tell me they got us covered, which was great. I didn’t have to make any phone calls. So, the law enforcement piece worked. And of course, once I’m on the scene, I’m being briefed by the FBI.

The second pillar, CSI’s alert system also worked as community leaders got texts, phone calls and emails that there was an incident happening at Congregation Beth Israel. Several updates went out throughout the day including a reminder for organizations to review their security protocols. 

Throughout his tenure as security director, Humphrey has led dozens of education workshops for Jewish organizations and synagogues, with topics ranging from active shooter training to situational awareness and a session called  “Stop the Bleed.” These workshops are a part of the CSI mission and offered at no charge.

Cytron-Walker said in a written statement Sunday, that similar courses through, SCN (Secure Communities Network), the Anti-Defamation League and law enforcement helped save his and his fellow hostages’ lives on Saturday. The synagogue had just gone through SCN training in August, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. More details emerged Monday, when the rabbi shared with CBS Mornings that during the last hour of the ordeal, he could see that the perpetrator was getting more agitated. He saw an opportunity and indicated to the other two hostages to be ready to flee. Cytron-Walker threw a chair at the perpetrator and the men fled via an exit.

A WFAA news video captured their exit, with the gunman briefly following them out the door, gun in hand, before he retreated inside.

Knowing what to do in a crisis situation, is exactly what Humprhey’s workshops aim to teach.

A crucial part of Humphrey’s and CSI’s work is target hardening. He conducts site assessments for synagogues and organizations in the Dallas Jewish community at no charge. Humphrey wants to make it difficult for the bad guys.

“Safety has to be a priority,” he said. Your security plans, your security layers need to be in place right now. And if they’re not call CSI, I will walk them through it to get every single detail put in place. Because it needs to be done now, not later.

Finally, Humprhey said, security is everyone’s business and people must act if they see something out of place. It is the members of the synagogues and Jewish organizations who  are the eyes and ears and know when something is out of place.

“The second you get that gut reaction, that something is out of place, something is not right, you need to be picking up the phone and calling somebody,” he said.

Humphrey is only a phone call away. He can be reached at 214-843-4333.

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