In response to recent church shootings in Nashville and Texas, the Johnson City Police Department will host a free church security program on Dec. 12 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“You don’t think about the necessity to have a plan like that for a church, but the times have changed,” Johnson City Police Maj. Karl Turner said.
“I think everybody thinks it can’t happen here, but they do happen in small towns. You look at some of the church shootings that’s happened (lately), they were all small churches so it can happen anywhere. That’s just an unfortunate fact of life today.”
Held in collaboration with the FBI and the First District Attorney General’s Office, the program is intended to promote safety and security, while still recognizing the need for churches to be open and welcoming to visitors.
The program’s curriculum was developed the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and FBI to educating houses of worship on emergency preparedness.
“The FBI, they’re really proactive as far as when they see a need like that, they have the resources and they’re very good at passing along information to help educate the public,” Turner said.
The programs curriculum will include general techniques and ideas that can be applied to any location.
“What we're trying to do is we're trying to give leaders in churches or people involved with security at churches ideas on what they can do to make the congregation safe,” Turner said.
“It may be simple things, such as once the service starts locking the doors. That type of thing, as well as if something happens, makings sure they have exit plans, rally points and things like that.”
One example is the benefits of installing cameras to monitor outside surroundings during worship times.
For specific advisement, Johnson City police will also offer security walk-throughs of churches and local houses of worship upon request.
Turner said officers with specialized training can then provide specially tailored advise on how a building and parking lot can be secured, as well as detailed evacuation plans.
According to data compiled by church security consultant Carl Chinn, there have been 1,639 deadly force incidents at faith-based organizations in the United States between 1999 and Oct. 5, 2017. Chinn defined deadly force incidents as abductions, physical attacks, suspicious deaths, suicides and deadly force intervention and protection.
Of those 1,639 incidents, Chinn determined 467, or 24.49 percent, resulted in a homicide or death of a victim. Nearly 60 percent of all the encounters involved a gun.
The presentation will be held at the Memorial Park Community Center, 510 Bert St., in Johnson City. The program is open to church leadership and security team members. Since seating is limited, no more than four representatives per church can attend.
To register, call Administrative Coordinator Marti Oliver at 423-434-6159 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.