S1 Ep. 4 From FBI to School Security: Combatting Swatting and Improving Safety in Education

Published August 2023

After 23 years in the FBI, Jin Kim decided he wasn’t done advocating for safety and joined Safe and Sound Schools to continue his passion in school security.

In recent years, Jin saw that schools and law enforcement had issues with security and what is known as “swatting”, or prank calls made to emergency services to falsely report violence or threats to dispatch armed officers. Not only does this waste time and resources, it creates fear and the potential for danger, even if no threat is present. From there, Jin made it his mission to educate schools and law enforcement on tactical readiness and active shooter response training.

Jin joined host Paul Timm on The Changing Face of School Security podcast to discuss:

  • His journey from FBI to school safety activist
  • “Swatting” in education
  • Best practices during school shooting events

Who is Jin Kim?

Former FBI Agent Jin Kim is a widely regarded expert in active shooter and targeted violence, and the founding principal of both the PerSec Academy and Advisory Group, and the Bureau Consortium.

Connect with the guest
Website: https://persecacademy.com/
Website: https://bureauconsortium.com/
Social: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jinkimfbi/
Email: info@bureauconsortium.com

Looking for more information?

Paul Timm (00:02):
My name is Paul Timm, director of Education Safety with Allegion. It's my distinct pleasure to welcome you to the Changing Face of School Security. In this episode, we welcome Jin Kim, founder and principal of PerSec Academy and Advisory Group. We'll benefit from his expertise in active shooter in targeted violence attacks and learn about the collaborative efforts of the Bureau Consortium. Welcome, Jin.

Jin Kim (00:26):
Paul, it's great being here. Thanks so much for having me.

Paul Timm (00:28):
Of course. And if you want to find anything more about PerSec Academy, it's just that: PerSecAcademy.com. And Jin is somebody who has specialized in active shooter and workplace violence risk management, and continues to do so. He's retired from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. And Jim, what led you into the K-12 market?

Jin Kim (00:53):
Paul, it's something certainly I didn't plan on doing after I retired from the Bureau. So I spent 23 years in the FBI all in the New York division and retired in 2018. I guess what prompted me down the space was that watershed moment of that we had in Columbine High School back in 1999 as a SWAT operator. I saw firsthand things changed dramatically in law enforcement response. And then, but it wasn't until what happened unfortunately at Sandy Hook in 2012 that really propelled me into this space almost on a daily basis. So, you know, since that event, both professionally with the Bureau and as a practitioner, as a consultant out there, it's something that I, I've become very passionate about only because of just the impact it's had on people that like yourself that I, I call friends and, and, and colleagues. And you know, something that that drives me every single day.

Paul Timm (01:45):
We have ties because both of us are also friends with Michelle Gay and part of Safe and Sound Schools in terms of those who present through their suite of presenters. And outside of that, how have you been involved in the K-12 market?

Jin Kim (02:01):
Well, it was definitely Michelle Gay and Alyssa Parker's invitation to join Safe and Sound Schools right after I retired from the Bureau. So it was the one of the first organizations that gave me the privilege of being part of, you know, so being part of that incredible organization and that team like yourself and other, other folks and all stars, it definitely put me in a different perspective than I was in a bureau to, to talk about it, to ultimately be a solution provider or thought leader. So it started a lot with speaking in conferences, both in my time with the Bureau and then as a practitioner, as a consultant, and then also to have invitations, you know, like we just recently had in Boston from Access Communications to be able to speak in symposiums and provide that thought leadership and insight to other peers so that in addition to developing a significant clientele, now it's a space that unfortunately, like many others I've had to come to understand.

Paul Timm (03:00):
I do want to talk a little bit about Boston, because we had a very nice time there. And as an old New York guy, you were able to give it to the people of Boston just a little bit from a sports perspective. That was a lot of fun, wasn't it? It

Jin Kim (03:11):
It was, it was a great event and it was just such a privilege to be part of, and, you know, something like that. And to help and assist and to be part of a team, a company like Axis that really gets it, that really is a world class provider of solutions, especially in the K-12 space. And yeah, I'm a big sports fan and I'll give it back to Boston every opportunity that I get. So it was a great time, <laugh> it was fun to watch as somebody who is a Chicago fan and not nearly as successful as either Boston or New York I was okay to be on the sidelines for that one. you know, getting back to a little bit more serious, I saw that you posted something fairly recently on LinkedIn about the new database, the FBI has concerning swatting. I wonder if you could talk about that a little bit.

Yeah, that's something that I never thought the Bureau would posture and stand up and that, like me being in this space, I never joined the FBI to be in this space or to be a practitioner after I retired. But I think that in itself is an indictment as well as an indication of, you know, where we're at and where we're moving to, and how dynamic this risk spectrum is. you know, the swatting and I, and I really refer to as a false alarm phenomena that we have. This is something that I kept very close, attentive to, even when I was with the FBI that and recognizing, you know, the problems that it could potentially, you know, have for our institutions that we clearly see now o over the last year or two, how that's propagating itself throughout our institutions.

You know, the whole swatting thing has been part of what law enforcement has to deal with in general, those crank calls, hey, and really something that developed over the last couple of years where someone will go ahead and report a false event or false incident that's happening to cause and prompt a large scale police response to a location that unfortunately, you know, is innocuously not, you know, going through. So it, it's a problem and it will always be a problem, but when we see over the last couple of years, it now being weaponized against specifically school institutions, and you see almost systematically states and regions being attacked, a lot of it from overseas that they're calling 9 1 1 saying there's an active shooter event at this school. And so, and so prompting that response and then you have a school in normal conditions now being practically assaulted by the police response, it, it is causing major problems and impact a resonating impact over our educational institutions for quite a while.

Now, again, something that I fear would happen happened just over a a of months ago in Boston in a, in a private school in Boston area where we had a swatting incident, a call gets sent into 911, you had a huge law enforcement response. And then ultimately, you know, we have a accidental discharge from one of the responding officers, which then prompted that incident to reach another new height and risk spectrum. And that's just an example of how this is being weaponized against us. And something that I believe is a good example of what preparedness looks like moving forward for institutions in K-12, if you're not having a conversation, hey, if we have a false alarm, we need to take these proper recovery steps just as well as, you know, an institution suffers a real live incident. Because when you think about it, Paul, during that event and that response, everyone thinks it's real. And that's where the problem is. This is in a way, an ideal perfect form of terrorism that unfortunately our K-12 institutions are, have been suffering and will probably will moving forward. So it was great to see the bureau get involved in this space, to keep track of it, and ultimately, hopefully we collectively can leverage that information and really try to mitigate that risk.

Paul Timm (07:14):
And the patterns that database reveals are trying to speak information to us. And that's why it's good to have a database like this. I know that it's akin to what maybe some of the listeners remember, you, you know, cannot yell fire in a movie theater because you've got so many people panicked in maybe a, a small number of exits. It is terrorism because not only is it getting law enforcement in motion, it's maybe other responders, it's school administrators, it's students, it's parents, everybody with is as charged as society is with fear. It's, and some of these are coming from overseas and some of 'em are domestic. And either way, it's a problem that schools coast to coast and rural areas and urban, suburban alike are all facing. But I wanna move on, and I know that there's probably any number of things you can say you've learned in your, the years you've been involved in school security. But one of them that I've found interesting in hearing you talk about is run, hide fight, which of course is a Department of Homeland security set of protocols for if we find ourselves in an active shooter situation, it's not applied to schools, they try to apply to everything, but those who don't maybe have procedures in place have glommed onto it. And so, I, I just wanted to get your thoughts on run, hide Fight.

Jin Kim (08:39):
If you'll take a look at the history of, you know, what D H Ss adopted from the city of Houston back in the summer of 2012. I think the fact that the government had to get into this space and offer, you know, a solution that's only been a little over 10 years old now is another indication of where we are, you know, and where we're moving to. I was there in the beginning when the bureau was put into this space per presidential executive order. And this came right on the heels of what happened in 2012 at Sandy Hook. So being part of that stakeholder, I wanna say movement, when the bureau was officially involved in it, it was something that I had to spread and use and to help the community and the public and private sector in its messaging. I'm not gonna say that, you know, there isn't value in run, hide, fight, but I remember very distinctively, yeah, I had to be very creative in my language because there are some things that I realized very, very, very quickly, especially with the video and what that portrays the the first edition video to a point where, you know, it concerned me as a result.

When I retired in 2018, it was actually the first thing that I decided not to use as a consultant. In short, we don't have enough time to go over all the reasons why I don't use it, nor do I use a video in one of the cornerstone services that I provide, and that's individual mitigation training, but there's no single reason. It's a pretty long list that developed over time. You know, one thing that I recognized very, very early on there, there was problem with its messaging and or even the early adopters commented that, you know, we wanted to formulate something similar to, you know, stop, drop and roll and kind of leverage communication platforms. But one thing that I'll tell you is I understand simplicity and I value simplicity, and we should leverage simplicity. But one thing I I can tell you that, you know, a fire hazard is a, a very, very different hazard mitigating the mitigating, you know, an acute targeted gun violence attack.

They're very, very different with very, very different dynamics. And so I think there's limitations in what that messaging provides. Secondly, there are no rules. I think when you look at what mitigating and how to handle and manage in the most terrifying experience of your life that happens in the most routine, mundane moment of your day, it's as if we have, and we're trying to develop, you know, these one size fits all guidelines to really convey simplicity. And while I agree simplicity works, I think one thing that I've learned is we're all built differently. Human beings are very different. And not only that, but that shows very distinctly under stress and pressure like that. So while I completely appreciate what it is, mitigating gun violence is not simple. nor will it ever be simple. And if you look at the landscape over the last 10 years, it's as if a new acronym pops up on a weekly basis.

And we've productized this industry is productized what individual mitigation training is. I go a different route with, with my clients. And, you know, when I, when I have the privilege of speaking in front of an audience, because I, I feel like I've learned a lot and I look at things very, very differently because only because of just my, my path down this road, you know, started with the Bureau and my time in the FBI. So, you know, when you start looking at this from a macro high level, there's a lot of things that I think that we can do, not so much better, but in a different perspective. And so I just choose to, when I'm in front of an audience or dealing with client human capital audiences to just educate, to educate very substantively. Because one thing when it comes to individual mitigation in these events, it's about understanding human beings first and what we're capable of doing, and certainly what we're not.

And the old adage of, you know, rising to the occasion, I simply submit to your audience that the vast majority of people, especially lay people, average people most don't rise to the occasion, right? That we'll go back to our comfort level. So, you know, leveraging what that comfort level is with really substantive information that each individual can really administer and exercise for themselves in very, very tough situations and conditions. That's the kind of the avenue that that I chose, that I choose to go through. And then simply this, 'cause I know a lot of institutions use it because of scaling, right? because it was, you know, checked off by the government. I'll ask, you know, people all the time, and I, and I have freely engaged in these conversations, Paul, is what if it was never created? What would you be doing? How would you be training your human capital or your audience?

It's as if you see the brain then really, really thinking, because I've yet, you know, over the, the, the time that I've been in this space, get a response that was instant and, or I wanna say profound enough because most people never thought of it that way. And I think that's just my approach is there's communications, there's methodologies, Paul, but certainly, you know, more acronyms will come out later on. And, you know, we'll have a, hopefully a, a better understanding of how to deliver training because it really, really, it's tough and it will never, never be easy.

Paul Timm (14:12):
Yeah. And thank you. I know a lot has been said there, and I just wanted to find some things. When we talk about acronyms, run, hide, fight really came on the heels of Alice, which is alert, lockdown, and form counter evacuated was really tailored and introduced to the K-12 market. there's a void deny defend, there's avert there, there's so many different, and, and they're formulaic, which is, I think to your point, presents some inherent difficulties because active shooter response is not a mouse trap <laugh>, where we're just trying to come up with a better formula and a better method. But I do, I do tell schools and clients, administrators all alike, I say, let's make sure we're using collaboration plus consensus as we develop what we're going to do, and then know that our emergency plan is a living document and we've got to continue to prepare.

You know, so many times, Jin, a teacher will come up to me and say, I am a teacher. I don't want to have to think about these things, so just tell me what to do. And I say, well, wait a minute. Now we're not gonna take away the thought process and the assessment process. And, but I, I do understand why it's a sticking point because we all wish we wouldn't have to think about these things, but reality says differently. So I do want to let our listeners know that you have a new initiative called the Bureau Consortium, and people can find out more about that by just visiting bureau consortium.com. Tell me a little bit about this collaborative project and why you put this together.

Jin Kim (15:50):
Yeah, this is something that has been in the works and makings for quite a number of years specifically after they retired from the FBI. So it is a representation of a collaborative a multidisciplinary approach of having practitioners, primarily experts in their fields, most of them retired from the FBI, and then folks like yourselves that are world-class experts in their space to create a team that Kate Schweid, another retired FBI expert than an I formed earlier this year, you know, ultimately is to provide solutions and answers in forms and from people that really live in the space that occupy the space every single day to try to bring solutions to institutions and thought leadership for problems and a, and a risk spectrum that I see no end to, especially in our lifetime. So, you know, it's something that I'm incredibly, incredibly proud of being part of a, an incredible team that's only going to unfortunately build over the years, but this is a collaborative and a team that has been formed to really provide expertise, unfortunately that will always be needed moving forward.

Paul Timm (17:06):
Absolutely. And this collaborative effort not only draws upon the skills and unique angles of those who are involved, it also hopefully keeps you from having to travel as much because we have now a team effort. And I only bring that up because anybody who knows either of us knows that in the past we've traveled quite a bit, and that is something that when we are collaborative, maybe helps get relieved. Kate Schweid, by the way, you mentioned and she wrote the book, stop The Killing, How to End the Mass Shooting Crisis. We think highly of her as well. Let's turn a corner here as we come to a conclusion. And let me ask you two questions. You can answer these together or separately, but the first one is, what are some of the most significant changes you've seen in school security during your tenure? And then the follow-up is, what are some changes you expect to see in the near future?

Jin Kim (17:59):
You know, I'm still trying to figure that out, Paul, but certainly, you know, you can attest to the changes that have taken place in this space just since 1999. So we're now a little over 20 years. And not only that, but when you look at the last 10 years, I've seen a tremendous amount of awareness about acceptance. And that unfortunately, and you see this just as well too, you know, that education, especially K-12, they never asked for this problem, but it's just metastasized in a way that unfortunately every school, regardless of its public or private, is forced to deal with this in every way, shape or form. And this is not something that any educational institution, you know, takes relish or pride in those changes. I think were still changing. Some of the changes I have seen is just the response of the private sector, specifically security companies coming to the aid in developing technology that can help that teacher make really tough decisions, you know, under difficult circumstances.

So I am astounded when you see the improvements in technology, the availability in technology, but where the technology is going, it certainly is part of that solution spectrum. And I think we all agree, having multi-layers, right, about having not only security, but policies and procedures, excuse me, and protocols that are in place, you know, to help mitigate and ultimately to me prevent, I clearly see moving forward, artificial intelligence, having a bigger role where we are moving forward as price points come down and things become more affordable and grant more grant money, you know, becomes available. We're seeing a greater, more deeper level of resiliency being built out by every single school. And that's, that's great to see. Unfortunately, the, you know, this risk spectrum is dictated by the offender cohort, and I see no end to that. This is not an easy thing to to address and to maintain, but, you know, I try to communicate.

It's not where you are, it's what direction that you're moving in. And resiliency and preparedness does not happen overnight. It's a process. And that process, unfortunately is unyielding and the processes changes, as you mentioned, this is an organic living thing that we have to deal with. Our processes of protocols and procedures and what we did 20 years ago is certainly, I believe, will not be the same what we do 20 years from now. And I think that collective about having stakeholder ownership and getting more people involved and that collaborative, that represents what that solution should look like.

Paul Timm (20:45):
People sometimes say, well, has anything really improved in school security since Columbine? And the answer is a resounding yes. the arrow is pointed in the right direction, let's keep the arrow pointed in the direction. And I'm grateful for the specialized active shooter and targeted violence experience that Jin Kim brings to the school arena. His collaborative approach is most welcome. In our next episode, we'll be joined by Molly Hudgens, school counselor, author of Saving Sycamore and a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. Please subscribe today and share this podcast with your colleagues for any questions. Feel free to reach out to us via our podcast email, K12 podcast@allegion.com. Just be sure to include the name of the podcast episode in the subject line. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn. I'm Paul Timm, PSP on Twitter at School Security, or on our Allegion US social media channels. Thanks for listening and stay safe.