In response to high-profile incidents of violence targeting places of worship, one Alabama community is doing all it can to protect churches.
In Citronelle, about 30 miles from Mobile, Police Chief Tyler Norris recently announced that the department would begin special training for churches to address the threats of active shooters.
Norris’s actions come after last month’s attack in a Texas church in which two people were killed and one a year ago in Texas that resulted in the deaths of 26 people.
The department announced its intent in a post on the department’s Facebook page.
“Attention Churches in Citronelle and surrounding areas: Chief Norris has a law enforcement colleague who is volunteering his time and effort to train all of our churches in safety and security measures. He will teach everyone what to look for, security assessments, security measures, security personnel, and armed security. The curriculum will be based on and written for the church environment,” the post read.
“Each instructor is law enforcement certified with in depth training and experience in this field. Chief Norris will be present at each training session. He will answer all of your questions and address any concerns you may have. Churches can host the training separately or may join together and learn collectively. There is no cost for this training,” the post read.
The department said that training “is directed to church staff and security team members, or potential security team members. it [sic] is not open to the general public. This is to safeguard the special tactics and operations of the training from potential offenders.”
Restoration Church pastor John Blackwell has already signed up, according to WPMI.
“For me as a pastor, I want to make sure we do all things necessary to help people feel safe,” he said.
Blackwell said it was “sad that we live in those dire times in our nation and society that we even have to think about it.”
Norris said he has taken protection a step further.
“One thing we did do about two weeks ago, I sent out a memo for all my officers to drive their vehicles to church,” Norris said.
He said he expects his officers to be prepared at church.
“They have to be dressed appropriately, they have all three duty weapons, side arm, shotgun and patrol rifle in that vehicle,” he said.
“They’re trained to take care of a bad guy, so if it’s parked at their house while they’re at church, it’s done nobody no good,” Norris said.
Many communities are conducting training to protect churches, including Gainesville, Georgia, where police say that the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church was targeted for attack by a teen-ager who was charged before any crime took place.
“It’s a shame that we live in a world today where we have to protect our institutions of worship, our schools, but evil knows where we are most vulnerable,” Chief Jay Parrish said, according to The New York Times.
Parrish teaches church members to use a low-tech response, that could include throwing Bibles, hot coffee, chairs or fire extinguishers if confronted by a shooter.
“Unfortunately, this is what it has come to. We have to be ready to fight back,” said Rev. Michelle Rizer-Pool, the pastor of Bethel and a retired Army major.
“We are having to get our arms around this idea of praying and praising our God in what is supposed to be a place of peace, but having to be watchful and on the lookout,” she said.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.