Police Officer Zinab Kitonyi, an Excelsior Student, Stresses the Importance of Doing Something Helpful During Active Shooter Events

“We don’t get to pick and choose when bad things happen. Doing something in a situation matters,” said police officer Zinab Kitonyi, after a workplace training class on how to respond to an active shooter event.

Kitonyi, known as “Zee,” a student in the Associate in Science in Administrative and Management Studies, came to Excelsior College in September during National Preparedness Month to train employees on Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE). For the past five years, he has been a trainer for the Training and Policy Unit in the Albany (New York) Police Department. Kitonyi’s typical day is teaching other officers, from academy-level recruits to seasoned officers, about counterterrorism.

Active Shooter Event Training

For Kitonyi, active shooter response planning and training is important, and the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012 drove the police industry to start training officers. After first responders where trained, there was a need to train civilians and the community wherever there were mass gatherings of people. Now the police teach everybody. The CRASE class provides strategies, guidance, and a proven plan for surviving an active shooter event. The goal is to provide those attending the course with the knowledge and empowerment to act immediately and in a deliberate manner during a stressful event.

Kitonyi is passionate about teaching this training and feels he makes an impact. As a case in point, Kitonyi said people who had taken the CRASE training applied what they learned when panic broke out after gunshots were fired near the Apple store in Crossgates Mall in Albany. Just prior to this, he had held about a dozen sessions at SEFCU Credit Union in Albany, NY to teach their employees about active shooters. Some employees from the CRASE training happened to be in the mall when chaos broke out. They knew what to do and applied the training to the situation.

The takeaway he hopes anyone attending the CRASE training walks away with is the importance of taking action. “We are not helpless. What we do matters,” said Kitonyi. “Doing something in a situation matters. Doing nothing can work against us.”

Experience Equals Credit Toward Your Degree

Kitonyi spent 13 years in the U.S. Army after graduating high school and was deployed in counterterrorism operations in Iraq in 2004 and 2005. Since then, he has spent 15 years in the Albany Police Department. He explained he was motivated to go to Excelsior College since he could apply training from the military and police department as credit toward his degree.

Based on his prior experience, when he started the degree program he had about 50 percent of his credits completed from on-the-job experience. It was a huge factor for him in going to college. He also has support from his wife and family, as well as from his father who is a retired UAlbany teacher. Kitonyi is also motivated by planning for his career after this own retirement. He wants to teach in the private sector after leaving the police force. Building on his current work, he has a desire to run his own teaching and training business and continue to educate others.