If a craftsman is only as good as his tools, 10 local law enforcement agencies just became a little better thanks to the donation of 34 "dynamic entry kits" by a local nonprofit organization.
Agencies receiving kits
› Chattanooga Police Department
› Collegedale Police Department
› East Ridge Police Department
› Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office
› Lookout Mountain Police Department
› Red Bank Police Department
› Signal Mountain Police Department
› Soddy-Daisy Police Department
› Walker County Sheriff’s Office
› Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office
Aegis Law Enforcement of Greater Chattanooga Inc., a foundation that has previously supported police and sheriff departments by purchasing body cameras, K9 dog vests and firearms simulators, handed over its latest investment at a news conference Thursday morning.
The kits hold a variety of tools that can be used to pry or break open doors, windows or any number of obstacles in an emergency situation. They can be worn as a backpack and include a large pair of bolt cutters, a hammer/axe and a Halligan bar — a pry bar named after a New York Fire Department first deputy chief.
"This is equipment that an officer needs when we have an intruder in a building — an active shooter in a building, such as a school or an armed forces recruiting station, and they need to get in a hurry and they need to neutralize the person inside," said John Cosgrove, executive director of Aegis.
"This is the equipment they need and this is the equipment they're now going to have."
Cosgrove also said the nonprofit wants to provide another 16 kits to law enforcement agencies and is looking for business partners willing to offer financial support.
Law enforcement agencies across the nation are examining their response capabilities amid a relentless string of mass shootings in schools and businesses, and Cosgrove said the nonprofit started looking into the kits when Signal Mountain Chief of Police Mike Williams approached it about the tools.
He said mass shooters occasionally block doors or chain them, as was the case in the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, and the kits will allow officers to break through those barriers.
"They modify their techniques each time to slow law enforcement response down to give them time to be more violent in a building by chaining doors, locking doors, making it more difficult for officers to go in," Williams said.
"I've been involved in the active shooter response since Columbine when I was SWAT team commander at Chattanooga, so I've kind of kept up with the techniques of the suspects that morph each time they do something different.
He said it used to be the case that SWAT teams were the only personnel issued such equipment, but it has become increasingly important to equip patrol officers with them as well because they are frequently the first ones on the scene in emergency situations.
School safety has been at the forefront of Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond's mind for months, especially since the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, earlier this year that left 17 dead. In the wake of that shooting, he reasserted his goal to place a school resource officer in every Hamilton County school.
"Fifty years ago, nobody had heard of an SRO. In the last few years, it's ramped up because kids have become a prime target," he said.
"Nothing frightens a parent more than knowing that when they send their child off to school that they really don't have any span of control over that child's safety. It's up to the school. Schools know that they cannot do it without law enforcement assistance, and that's why we have school resource officers."
Chattanooga police Chief David Roddy said the tools are a welcome addition to the equipment used by his officers and they would be invaluable in situations such as the 2011 tornado outbreak.
"These would have come in handy over the course of that 24, 48, 72 hours as your law enforcement officers, EMS and firefighters moved through that section of the county just rescuing people trapped in their homes," he said.
"There are hundreds and thousands of applications for every piece of this equipment. It's under the adage, 'It's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.'"
Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6731. Follow him on Twitter @emmettgienapp.