State of Faith-Based Security
I was asked by my friend Alan Hughes to write this piece for his Safe @ Church Blogsite to coincide with the State of the Union address. I was honored to do so and encourage you all to add Alan’s site as another resource of information for your operations.
So here are portions I submitted to Alan (for the entire piece go to his blogsite);
One would have thought the church would have recognized the need to protect her people when the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed in 1963. However there wasn’t so much as a spark of interest in beefing up security in churches after that horrific event.
Prior to that incident, there had never been a mass murder[i] at a faith-based organization in U.S. history. The next one happened in 1980 in Daingerfield, TX when a killer entered the First Baptist church and opened fire on the stunned congregation, wounding many and killing 5.
Still there was no nationwide wake-up call. Churches across the country continued about normal operations as if the sign above their door and the steeple on the roof was evidence of protection.
From the founding of Jamestown, VA in 1607 until 1963 (356 years) I find no record of a mass murder at a faith-based site on U.S. soil.
Including Birmingham we have had 12 in the last 52 years.
As I was deep into research and writing on the need for readiness, another angry coward killed 7 in a Brookfield, WI church on March 12th, 2005. This was the 6th mass murder at a faith-based organization in the U.S.
On the NEWS that night of the Wisconsin attack in 2005, one of the commentators remarked that this was the “4th shooting at a church in U.S. history”. I looked at my wife and asked, “where in the world is he getting such a figure from?”
It seemed as though misinformation, disinterest and misguided scriptural interpretation were continuing to keep churches and FBO’s in the dark. My wife suggested then that I find a way to distribute my findings (which is why I began to publish the history of deadly force incidents at FBO’s).
I wanted to find who else was carrying any such messages or providing support for what must be a growing interest. On 3/30/05 I conducted a google search on “church security”. There were 898 hits, and I am certain that had increased recently due to the Wisconsin attack. Out of curiosity, I also conducted a search on “school security” (which returned 164,000 hits). I recorded those numbers so I could measure the increase some day.
On 3/30/05 there were 164,000 hits on “school security”. Today (1/20/15) – almost 10 years later -- there are 587,000. That is an increase of 3.5 times (as an indication of an increase in subject matter interest and information availability).
On 3/30/05 there were 898 hits on “church security”. Today there are 107,000. That was an increase of 119 times.
Just 10 years ago information on FBO safety and security was very difficult to find. Today such information is wide-spread and available from many sources. Most churches of any size now have a plan of some sorts.
Just last night I read where a fugitive running from pursuing law-enforcement ran into the Kingsland Baptist Church in Katy, TX as a bible-study was going on. The church quickly instigated lockdown measures keeping their people safe and isolated from the take-down as police were successful in getting their guy as he exited the church and entered a shed on the church property. Senior Pastor Ryan Rush stated, "Actually it was pretty organized. We have protocols for safety and security. He never came near anyone and no one was ever in danger."[ii]
After the 1963 bombing, churches still remained vulnerable throughout the United States. Headlines and information was on every other subject except emphasizing the need for intentional church security (despite the fact that there had been multiple church bombings in Birmingham leading up to that awful day).
Today, when something unexpected happens in a small church in Katy, TX they are prepared. That is the evidence that the message of many has been effective -- it is being received and acted upon.
Church security is here to stay.
10 years ago I would have said the biggest need was for acceptance. While there are still pockets of dismissal, now I see the biggest need being that for training.
More and more churches are developing intentional readiness plans. Most of those churches use volunteers. Where large churches often have law enforcement professionals willing to help in the effort, the vast majority of churches are too small to have any law enforcement in their congregation and much of that effort is performed by good hearted civilian sheepdogs with protection in their DNA.
I don’t have a problem with that, but we do need to be diligent in training them. Life safety is a serious subject, and yet most churches have more training for their choir than for those charged with the duty of life safety.
In summary I am pleased to report that churches appear better prepared across the U.S. than at any time in our history.
That is a good thing. Now it is time to sharpen the saw.
[i] The Federal Bureau of Investigation has defined “Mass Murder” (document located at Serial Murder: (sub-title) Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives for Investigators. Section II as; A number of murders (four or more) occurring during the same incident, with no distinctive time period between the murders. These events typically involved a single location, where the killer murdered a number of victims in an ongoing incident.