After shootings, safety training set for Alabama churches
Dec. 17, 2017
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — One of Alabama's largest counties is offering safety awareness training to local churches in the wake of several deadly shootings at places of worship across the nation.
The training is being offered by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, Al.com reported .
The goal is to make sure that people are as prepared as they can be, Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale said.
"My prayer is that the training is highly attended and effective but never ever needed," Hale said.
A mass shooting at a Texas church in November left 26 dead, 20 wounded and prompted places of worship nationwide to review their security policies and practices. More than 91 people have been killed in at least 22 church-related shootings since 1999, Al.com reported.
The safety training, which includes active shooter training, is being held at various churches throughout Jefferson County in order to reach as many in the faith community as possible, the sheriff said. The training staff plans to add additional locations and dates.
A similar program by the Cullman County Sheriff's Office last month drew about 1,000 people, prompting organizers to move it to a larger venue.
"I never thought when I began my law enforcement career 18 years ago that the security of our churches would be a national issue at any point," Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry told Al.com last month.
"For over two years we've been doing church security teams," Gentry said. "I have a group of deputies that go in, do an assessment and put together recommendations. If they want to set up their own security team, they can show them how to do it. We have a policy and procedure to go by."
Many large churches already have elaborate security plans.
"On Sundays, we'll have four uniformed officers," said DeLeon Allen, associate pastor for administration at Gardendale's First Baptist Church.
Allen oversees the Safety and Security Ministry for the campus that draws 3,500 worshippers on a typical Sunday. The uniformed officers direct traffic between services, then are stationed around the facility. There's also a less visible security team.
"We've got law enforcement volunteers that are in their Sunday clothes," Allen said. "They've got earpieces, walkie talkies. We have cameras everywhere."
Churches interested in the Jefferson County training should contact the Jefferson County Sheriffs Training Academy, authorities said.