I have a couple of rights and today I am going to exercise those rights. First, I am getting old so if I say something that offends someone blame it on my old age because the older I get, the more I don’t care if I offend you. Here are my credentials that allow me to exercise the second right. Except for one year in my adult life I have been involved in law enforcement in one capacity or another including military law enforcement, a sworn police officer or working in the private sector involving law enforcement. I can list all my accolades, but won’t. I will just say if you cut me, I bleed blue. I have the right to make a statement about something that I am noticing that really concerns me about my family in blue. I have this right to complain; I have this right to criticize because of my credentials and let’s not forget my old age.
I just got finished doing a church safety/security training in a large metropolitan area. In this training I noticed that there was not one sworn officer there, not one. It wasn’t because we didn’t invite them, in fact, we contacted their PIO (public information officer), made a special invite to them, posted the event all over our social media and there was a news report regarding the training on the local TV station about the event. We even had members of the local InfraGard chapter pushing out this training. InfraGard is a partnership between the FBI and members of the private sector. But yet not one sworn officer showed up, not one. So this blog is not only for our Church Safety Team Members (CSTM) but it is also for you in law enforcement. In fact if you are on a church safety team share this with one of you law enforcement buddies.
I cannot understand law enforcement not showing up for this type of training. First you have someone that comes into your backyard talking about training people to physically protect a church. I, as a law enforcement department, would like to know what this organization is teaching. Hey, you might learn something. They may be teaching something that is illegal, or something that might not be illegal but something that your department might not agree with and maybe you would want to voice your opinion. I have been to a lot of these “church safety/security” training sessions and I shake my head when I hear what is being trained. I have heard of training that teaches CSTM about clearing rooms. I was watching one on the Internet the other day (wished I had saved the video) and they had a room of at least 8 people sitting at a table. The next thing you heard was what sounded like a gun shot in a hallway. Everyone in that room was armed. Everyone jumped up from that table, pulled their weapon and headed for the door. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. This was a company that went to that church and was doing church safety training. I got up and left a training where the instructor was showing CSTM how to go after people that have knives and disarm them. They stand up in front of the students who have little or no training and show them a few moves to take a knife away. I can tell you even if you practice that move until it becomes a natural movement, you are probably going to get stabbed (I would even bet you are). Some of you have only seen cuts on hands and fingers from a kitchen or shop accident but until you have seen wounds from a knife attack I can tell you right now, it ain’t pretty. You don’t believe me, do a Google search on knife wounds and look at images, maybe you shouldn’t because as I just said, it ain’t pretty.
I once asked one of my Safety Team Members, who is a martial art expert, has all sorts of belts and titles out his wazoo what he would do if he was confronted by a person with a knife and he told me he would just shoot that person. Okay Indiana Jones, you don’t have a gun at your disposal what would you do? His corrected response was they teach their students to put some distance between them and the assailant. Look for a weapon to be able to defend themselves if they have to confront the person with the knife. He told me that you only go hands on if you have no other choice. Getting to close to a person with a knife you will get cut, I promise you. But there are organizations that want to come out and teach you self-defense or tactical moves knowing that unless you practice you are going to get hurt. In anything, unless you practice whatever it is that you are doing you are not going to be good at it. As I like to say you can’t think of how to react to an attack. By the time you remember if it is “wax on” or “wax off”, you have been waxed.
No police department, no military unit ever goes into harm’s way without practicing how to survive. They train all the time. So how often does your church train? Once a month (rare), once a quarter (good for you), once a year (still ahead of the curve) or you can’t remember the last time you trained (most churches). I will shout this from the tallest steeple; most church volunteers are not SWAT, Rangers, Navy Seals or Force Recon and no offense to my prior military and police brothers and sisters but most of you don’t stay in shape to be able to handle a man with gun or knife. I don’t mean to step on anyone’s toes here but let’s be honest, when was the last time you ran a mile and a half in 12 minutes or less? When was the last time you did 100 push ups or even went to a range? You tracking yet? I will be the first to admit I am not what I used to be even 10 years ago. I know my limitations. When companies come to a church and want to teach safety/security teams how to be Rambo, they really need to have their credentials checked; and the local law enforcement agency needs to be the ones doing the checking. It is bad enough to go into a place where violence has happened and innocent people got hurt but it is heartbreaking when those hurt where hurt from friendly fire. Case in point this last March two police officers responded to a man with a sword in a church, the suspect was shot and killed but both officer were shot. Think about it for a second, man with a sword and both officers got shot. I have been around swords and never saw one that shot bullets (not talking rifles with bayonets or Elgin Cutlass Pistol from 1830’s). Still today, the police department has not said the officers were hit by friendly fire but I bet it was that or they had an overzealous CSTM there. I am going to go with friendly fire on this one.
I will give you another one; the shooting that happened at a country western bar in Thousand Oaks where the shooter walked in and shot 11 people. When the police arrived the Sheriff’s sergeant that was the first on scene was killed by friendly fire. I am not going to take anything away from either of these officers but here is my theory on what happened that night. Two officers from two different agencies were the first to arrive on the scene. I am willing to bet they never trained together at an active shooter training or they trained in their respected jurisdictions and maybe the training was different. But we have two seasoned officers at an active shooter scene and because of different training one accidentally shoots the other. I don’t think the surviving officer will ever get over that. Now let’s look at your church; you accidentally shoot one of your members. I promise you, you will never get over it. I almost shot my paperboy one night (contact me and I will tell you the story). It ended up the paperboy was unarmed but because of the circumstances I would have been justified. God was with both of us that night and I don’t have to live with killing an unarmed person. I still think of that night and shutter.
Back to my brothers and sisters in church safety. When I go into any church and teach safety/security in a house of worship one of the things I stress over and over in my training is to get local law enforcement involved in any training they do. I am out here plugging for the churches to be a law enforcement friendly establishment. I explain to them how important it is to us, our law enforcement brothers and sisters, to have a place where when we can sit and work in peace. A place where we can come and take a break from the chaos of the world. We use to do our paperwork in the stations but now we do most of it in our cars so it is great to have a place to go and be able to sit for an hour and not get complained on. Churches, if you see an officer sitting in a car on your property go out and introduce yourselves to the officers, tell them how much you appreciate them and offer up a cup of coffee or a bottle water (I do not push donuts, too much of a stigma). Offer them a place they can use the restroom in private. Do you know how important that little thing is to us that work the street? It is huge.
This is to my brothers and sisters in law enforcement. We are constantly having to watch our backs and the crazies in this world are not our friends and most of the time want to do us harm, so making friends with a church is not a bad idea. Listen to me very careful here, what I am about to say could save your life for eternity. Every day I read articles where an officer shoots an unarmed person. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could go to a church that you have befriended and get prayers, comfort and peace? Even if you are justified the press is going to hound you and your family. Your own department while investigating the shooting is going to feel like the enemy at times and you are going to need a support team. Christ said bring Him your burdens. He placed churches in your life to go there and lay those burdens down. The churches and law enforcement are in a unique place right now; there are a lot of people out there that would like to see both of us just go away. Why are we not getting together and talking about serving each other?
Now I am not criticizing all law enforcement agencies. In fact I would like to give a shout out to a few that have been great supporters of our ministry. I must first start with the agency that still lets me carry a badge and asks nothing of me; the Port Richey Police Department. I talk about you in every presentation; I do. A special thanks to Pasco and Polk Sheriff’s departments. You trust me and constantly send Deputies out to assist us in our training. You have connected churches to us when they have asked for our type of training; training you aren’t allowed to do. Venice Police Department took a chance with us and asked us to come and do a church safety/security for their town and what an event it was. Because they heavily promoted the training, more than 300 attendees and over 80 churches were represented. Following them was the North Port Police Department. Everyone of these agencies get it. Churches with only 500 to 1500 members are the size of a small town. My church has 3000 members which is larger than the small town of Glen Rose I grew up in. Heck it is almost double of the population when I lived there in 1970. These agencies get that they cannot be at every church service. They would if they could but they understand that if something goes sideways in a church, the church has minutes before they can get there. We understand we must do everything in our power to protect the flock. In an active shooter incident that means barricading doors, getting people out of harm’s way and trying to slow the shooter down till help arrives. It also might mean going against the shooter with force. Those minutes until the professionals get there are going to feel like hours when people are getting hurt. In talking to a survivor at Sutherland Spring Baptist Church, she said it was around 16 minutes before the first 1st responded walked into the church. We have to be prepared and we must work together. If we don’t who has our backs.
Jim has many years of law enforcement experience and has run the safety team at his church for several years. TSA was formed after he realized God's calling when multiple churches reached out and asked him to present at their church.