Alabama Senate votes to allow church to form police dept

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Bert Perry's picture

One thing that comes to mind per the objections to this is that if a church assumes the responsibility for policing itself, they also assume the liability from misconduct of officers.   Even in a church of 4000, this would be a deal-breaker for me.  Church security ministry?  Absolutely.  Train them in sound tactics to avoid things like the United disaster?  You bet.  Deputized?  Um, no.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Larry Nelson's picture

 

1. Jimmy P. - Stuck his gum under a pew.

2. Clara J. - Sang off-key in the 8:30 am choir.

3. Juanita C. & Ralph T. - Caused a public disturbance in their Adult Bible Fellowship by engaging in a heated debate over the question of pre-Trib. vs. post-Trib.  (Ralph was taken into custody only after the arresting officer resorted to using a Taser to subdue him.)

4. Tom Y. - Attempted to donate expired canned goods to the church's food shelf.

5. Debbie A. - Played a short clip of Journey's Don't Stop Believin'  to the Jr. High youth group to illustrate a lesson.  (This is Debbie's second arrest: in April she played a short clip of Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer  to the College & Career class.  The Elder Board has given her a "3 strikes and you're out!" warning.)

6.  Marty B. - Failed to pick up his daughter from her pre-school room within the 20 minute grace period allowed following the dismissal of the last Sunday morning service.    

Bert Perry's picture

....this church is also competing seriously with the Babylon Bee.  

On the flip side, I could get behind arresting the pastor for using his text as a "diving board" for what he really wanted to talk about instead of doing any exegesis....

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JBL's picture

The idea of a private institution organizing its own police force isn't really that novel of a concept.  Many universities have them.

I also don't see that much difference between a church sanctioning its own police or hiring a third-party security provider.  The latter option has always been legal.  The former now allows the church to provide its own security at presumably lower cost.

I am surprised that this particular ministry feels it has the need to spend resources on dedicated security.  Its location is definitely not on the wrong side of the railroad tracks.  So barring any revelation of the threat or auspice of an attack, I remain puzzled as to the desired direction this ministry wishes to take.

John B. Lee

TylerR's picture

Editor

This will not end well. They will attract wannabe morons who want to hurt people. They will not have the resources to train their people. They will not have the resources to contract with the state to train their people. They will not have the resources to equip their people. They will not have the resources to attract good people. They will hurt somebody. They will be sued. They will disband their force. This will end badly.

I've been in the law enforcement and investigations sector my entire adult life. I am puzzled at what they think they will accomplish, or why they believe they need it.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

JBL's picture

So you actually think that there are people in Alabama who would be excited over the idea of carrying firearms in a church with minimal training and accountability?

John B. Lee

Bert Perry's picture

If they're required to use the same standards as other forces in Alabama (insert obligatory cheap shot at the South here), should it end up necessarily worse than any other small town in the state?   

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

You're right. All you need is the Holy Spirit and Godly wisdom. Didn't the Apostle Paul say he could do "all things" though Jesus? Who am I to quench the leading of the Spirit!? Perhaps the church's security force could also buy a surplus tactical vehicle and establish an entry control point at the entrance to the church parking lot? Surely, this will help evangelism.

Bert:

You make a good point. There has always been a bad stereotype about the deep South and it's "terrible" police departments. Don't know if it's true. It depends on what standards Alabama has. Speaking for myself, I have come to the conclusion that military police training is substantially better than civilian training. I supervise retired civilian law enforcement guys in my current job, and have sat on interview panels and listened to dozens of former and current city and federal law enforcement guys explain their qualifications. They either weren't trained as well as I was, or I'm just a really amazing investigator. I doubt the latter, and believe the former.  

So, you may have a point. Who knows. Either way, I suspect this church doesn't know what it's doing, and/or is receiving some really bad advice from a well-meaning but "hard-chargin'" church member who has zeal, but not according to knowledge.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bert Perry's picture

....in the "Deep South" of Minnesota is that many small town police departments actually have citizen auxiliaries, generally unarmed, that help out with things like the county fair, especially around the beer garden.  Seems to work out pretty well, though to be fair, the worst they tend to deal with are town drunks that want to be served more and more.  And about an hour from here, that auxiliary did itself proud when the James gang came to Northfield in 1876.  

What makes me cringe is just the liability issue.  It's a lot easier to leave a church than it is to leave a town, so they simply can't absorb it when things go wrong.  Combine that with a tendency to pinch pennies and just let things be, and it could be a recipe for disaster.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Donn R Arms's picture

Briarwood is a PCA church and has a wide and effective ministry under Harry Reeder. It is one of the most respected and well run mega-churches in the country. There is nothing that the leadership will not have researched and thought through well before "pulling the trigger" on this.

Donn R Arms

JBL's picture

I understand what you're saying about the thoughtfulness and leadership of the Briarwood ministry.

It's just that I'm having a hard time reconciling this minsitry's needs for security with what goes on in real life.

By Wikipedia accounts, Briarwood is a 4,000 congregant ministry.  Let's say the data is off or old and it's actually 6,000.  Think about the typical town this size in America and what its police force looks like.  It probably has one full time cop, several civilian volunteers, and operates on a shoestring budget.  The force is only equipped and trained to deal with a very limited range of first response situations.  For the most part, if a crime occurs, their chief duty is to call in the appropriate county, state, or federal forces to assist.

Back to Briarwood.  What are the security needs of this church that require them to organize their own police department?  What types of disturbances are they going to train and be prepared for?  How likely are those disturbances of actually occurring?  I'm thinking that the disturbances that they can adequately train their people for are going to be things like child went home with wrong parent or emergency evacuation.  I guarantee that this church will not be able to marshal the resources to effectively deal with the rogue shooter who opens fire in the main auditorium.

What happens in real life with a rogue shooter situation?  You have dozens of trained coordinating responders show up.  How is this church going to deliver that type of response?  As Tyler alluded to, the overwhelming probability is that they can't and they won't.  The point is, for the worst case nightmare scenario, even a church with its own police force is little better than the small town one man show.  The plan in the nightmare scenario will still be to call for additional support.  If the shooter will be taken down, it is more likely that it will be because several of the congregants jump him than from a counterstrike from the police force.  

So the question is, why go through the hassle to petition the state to have a police force in the first place?  What benefit are they going to get that is well above that of just designating Deacon Bob to call 911 with his cell phone if something tragic should occur and instructing the laymen of the church to act with prudence and courage should the worst case situation come up?

John B. Lee

Bert Perry's picture

My town has about 6000 people and eight full time officers--you might expect two on duty at any given time.  For comparison, 4th Baptist has around 600 people attending and will generally have at least four people working security any given Sunday.  So if Briarwood "scales" in the same way 4th does, you would assume that the "police" of two people would be dwarfed by the non-police security staff of ~ 30-40 people.  

It's worth noting as well that Briarwood is technically in Vestavia Hills, not Birmingham proper.  That town of 34000 has about 85 officers, of which ~20 might be on duty on a Sunday morning.  The # of officers per capita is similar to that of Minneapolis, but with a far lower crime rate.   This sounds really weird until you realize that Birmingham is said to have the nation's 3rd highest violence rate.  In other words, the city--and perhaps the church--is pulling out the stops to keep Birmingham crime out.

I also checked out Alabama's concealed carry laws, and (like MN) it does not appear that permit holders are banned from carrying a pistol in churches.  So like some other churches I know, their security team can be armed.  So I'm not really seeing what is gained here.

Except for one thing; Briarwood is a massive complex of buildings with three churches speaking three different languages (English, Korean, Chinese, maybe Portugese) with a school, a bookstore, a ballet (no kidding), and more, and it's on a two lane road.  We can quibble over whether it ought to be the church's security team or a police force that responds, but if you get a disturbance when people are arriving and leaving, you could get people hurt or killed while the police navigated the traffic. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Larry Nelson's picture

 

My church pays to have a police officer from our suburb on our premises during our Sunday services at the larger of our two campuses.  While technically off-duty, he or she is uniformed, and driving a marked police squad (Ford Explorer, in this case).

We began doing this perhaps 18 months ago.  We have over 2,000 present at this campus on Sunday mornings, and we feel that the visual deterrent of their presence against any undesirable or criminal activities is worth the expense.

While patrolling our parking lot one morning, the officer rolled up on someone unscrewing a license plate from the rear bumper of a car.  Two other people stood watching.  Result?: the officer arrested the three for stealing license plates (they had others in their possession already).

Before, between, and after services the officers also assist in controlling the flow of traffic into & out of our lot. 

Besides having a uniformed officer at our Sunday services, we have a volunteer security team.  Among our congregation, we have some highly qualified people to do this:

  • current police officers;
  • retired police officers;
  • a current FBI agent;
  • a retired U.S. Secret Service agent (who was assigned to the Presidential Protective Division for part of his career!).   
Joeb's picture

Whatever Bert Says I'm in.  Still a very tough one to answer.