SECURITY!? IN A CHURCH?
This section is updated every Sunday morning to give church security teams some things to think about as they prepare for weekend services. I wish your team the very best and hope you may find occasional things applicable to your operations.
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Loss is the Toughest Part of Love
Last week was a hard one. Sunday afternoon, a very close friend was killed on his bicycle just outside Altus, Oklahoma. I didn’t see I had a text from his dad until after his dad called me early the next morning.
Steven Beaulieu had just turned 31-years-old. When he was going through the US Air Force Academy he would come to our home nearly every weekend. Being the age of our youngest children, he was a close friend to our entire family. When I got the call from his dad, it took my breath away.
Steven was one of those young people who gave me faith in a future America. One of those who confirmed the next generation is truly better than mine. So much of what we read or hear tries to convince us otherwise. I’ve seen the evidence that future America is in good hands.
But we lost one of those remarkable youths on an Oklahoma blacktop last Sunday.
I just learned last night that the flags on Altus Air Force Base will be flown at half-staff until February 19th in the memory of Captain Steven Beaulieu, a member of the 54th Aerial Refueling Squadron.
When I asked his dad how his mom was doing, his dad told me, “This is the hardest part of doing family well.”
Think About it…
I’ve heard some say that, what makes faith-based security so different, is that we must be warm, welcome and open while still being secure. Bars have that challenge.
What makes serving in security at a church so different is more personally internal than it is demographic or environmental. It has to do with our nature as the servants. Our duty as ambassadors of Christ is to love while serving. For God SO loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16).
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38 & 39).
As we hear from I Corinthians 13:7, love always protects.
If you are in this business because of the thrill of a fight, go serve at a bar. There you will experience an establishment that needs to be warm, welcome and open but secure. And you can have more fights.
But if you know what it really is to love, then you are in the right place. For everyone in your care has someone who loves them as much as so many loved Steven Beaulieu. We can’t protect everyone every minute of their day, but we can sure give it our dead level best while they are in our care.
Because we understand the toughness of loss, we drive to protect.
Thank you to my readers for understanding that sometimes the thoughts of someone dear to us overwhelm my writing. My mind hasn’t been able to go far away from the feelings of loss this week.
Last weeks TAI was about statistics. Everyone of those numbers represented a life just as important to someone as Steven Beaulieu was to us.
Last week's TAI...
Final Counts for 2018
Today we take a close look at the DFI Study (the continuing analysis of Deadly Force Incidents occurring at faith-based properties or involving the senior pastor).
2017 was the deadliest year on record even before the awful massacre at Sutherland Springs Texas. If you take away the 26 killed in that one incident, we still see 92 violent deaths (homicides, suicides and aggressors killed). There were incredible totals of 90 homicides and 21 suicides in the 2017 study.
At times through the years I’ve needed to modify the stories policy (which I keep posted on the history tab). Senior pastors who kill were always one of the categories tracked – regardless of where they committed the murder. Some time ago, it became obvious it was unfair to not include senior pastors (or their families) who were murdered off the church property. I know every security team is concerned about their pastor’s safety on and off property and each year confirms we should be.
Some don’t like the categories I use. I word the incidents in such a way to allow anyone else to extract the data the way they want (gun only, attack against the church, murder, attempted abduction – whatever). My intention from the beginning was to show deadly incidents that any safety or security team would be concerned about.
Sometimes I spend hours on a single story running down very difficult to discover, but meaningful information or writing to churches and law enforcement (both of whom rarely answer). Often the name of the church lends no clue as to what the denomination is, so more research is needed just to fill in those blanks. Other times no name is given at all, so even more research goes into the discovery process.
Often, after all that, the story still goes into a “Don’t Post” file of ones that just didn’t have enough discoverable information to be confirmed as a qualified DFI (in 2017 alone there are 114 such files).
An attempted abduction is worse than being barely missed by a deadly bullet. As a father of 5 (now all grown with families of their own) and grandfather of 15 (so far) I can think of little worse than having a child or grandchild abducted.
Essentially, if it was a deadly force incident which happened on the property of a faith-based organization, or had a direct tie to the senior pastor or their family, it is a story we need to be aware of. Some had nothing to do with the organization where the attack went down except that was the spot where the altercation happened. That is irrelevant to me. What is relevant is that a cross over the top of your name doesn’t mean your property is any more immune from serious crimes than the gas station down the street.
Tragic as they are, accidents are not included. That brings up a grey area and exceptions.
So, if someone is intentionally drunk, but then accidently plows through people outside of a church killing them – where did intention give way to accident? What if they got drunk and carried an AK-47 into church and started shooting? So, yes, I include the drunken killing of people (vehicular homicide or other). If an accident was the result of fleeing arrest, the law considers that murder; so do I. Such as the case on 9/5/17 when a fleeing thug crashed into the Riverside Baptist Church in Francis County Arkansas, killing his 22-year-old female passenger.
A fight resulting in death that was intentional but not intended to be deadly is included. The fight was intentional.
Those who forget their children in the hot car and the child dies are not included. I would not include that as a DFI unless the parent intentionally left their child in the car (such as happened last year, but not at a church). Tragedies such as this are awful, and sometimes result in “child abuse resulting in death charges” but they will not be included in the DFI study.
I often read the news of where a suspect, formerly unknown or on the run has been arrested. Or of where a person injured in an attack has succumbed to the injuries, and it is now a homicide (ARDO). Then it is time to go back and update the data.
And of course, every year I find a story or more missed from some year prior. I know many are missing from those early years of the study.
While a more detailed study of just 2017 incidents is forthcoming, the following data sets are a meaningful snapshot of 18 years of extensive records.
Think About It…
We have now seen 1705 deadly force incidents associated with faith-based operations (either on property owned by the ministry or involving the senior pastor) since 1999. Of those 1705 incidents, 478 resulted in the homicide of an innocent victim. Many of those 478 homicide events had more than 1 homicide victim. Since 1999 there have been a total of 617 deceased victims.
In addition to the 617 deceased victims, this 18-year trail of attacks has left us with 941 injured victims. Sometimes those injured eventually succumb to their injuries. Just this month (February 2018) former LA County Deputy Steven Belanger succumbed to the injuries he sustained when he was shot in the head in the parking lot of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in 1994. Though it predates the posted study, I had kept a file on that incident and went back and changed the status of that incident to homicide (in place of “injured”). I trust the fallen officers memorial will do likewise.
42.76% of the weapons used were not a firearm. While guns continue to be the weapon of choice for killers, those responsible for the safety of their church remain well-aware that the tools of destruction are many and varied. Knives and vehicles are the numbers 2 and 3 most common weapons respectively.
No less than 53.16% of deceased victims were affiliated (member, past member, vendor, benevolence participant) with the ministry. 10.21% were volunteers or on staff.
At least 21.82% of the aggressors in the stories were associated (member, past member, vendor, staff, former staff) of the ministry, most were not.
Those ministries who have experienced violent crime on their properties feel a profound connection with the event. Even though the terrible story of 11-year old Carlie Brucia (2/5/2004) didn’t involve a child associated with the church before her murder, it prompted the Sarasota, Florida Church of Christ to install a garden and prayer walk dedicated to her, and to conduct occasional services dedicated to the safety of children -- it changed them to their core. The notion by some that a deadly force incident must involve people associated with the church is misguided and shallow.
Chances are approaching 3 to 1, that violent crime will take place outside of your building (rather than inside) on ministry grounds or in the parking lot. This has been one of the most meaningful discoveries of the 18-year study. Most attacks (by far) at ministries could have been stopped or minimized by an outside, intervention capable, defender.
Only 38.65% of the incidents occurred during an event. 61.35% of the time, deadly force incidents went down during non-event times.
Only 17 of the 478 (3.56%) incidents that included innocent homicide victims were stopped by law enforcement. 15 (3.14%) were stopped by willing citizens or on-site security. 93.31% of the time, the killing didn’t stop until the killer was finished. This is not a poor reflection on law enforcement – it’s simply the realistic math of response dynamics. Every officer I know would respond as fast as they could to a serious incident going down anywhere. But the reality is that most responses to deadly force incidents are simply “investigations”. They are rarely an “intervention’ because a deadly force incident goes down far too fast. Most of the time it is over in seconds, not minutes. The arriving officers might make an arrest, but very seldom is there long enough time spans to warrant intervention. If it has gone that long, a lot of people die.
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