How does Briarwood Presbyterian Church Police Department sound to you? Ready to usher in a church police department? Despite the unorthodox, unheard of, and untested notion of a church police agency, a Birmingham, Alabama house of worship has petitioned state authorities, seeking authorization to give birth to its own police force.
In a nutshell, the Briarwood Presbyterian Church and its academic component, the Briarwood Christian School, had an attorney author a bill which received the blessing from the Alabama House of Representatives and now awaits the signature of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley. The church’s bill outlines its operational intent on hiring one police officer who will have an official police vehicle and responsibility for church and school security, with full powers of arrest.
Like many churches across the nation, Briarwood customarily hired off-duty cops to work security on their church and school grounds. However, they ran into occasions when police officers were unavailable for hire. The next step was to consider having their own cop shop to avoid instances when police service was needed yet unattainable. It appears the Briarwood Presbyterian Church Police Department (BPPD) will come to fruition, the first church police department in America.
What Briarwood is seeking to initiate is synonymous to the School Resource Officer (SRO) concept which is what most schools across the country currently utilize. SROs are sworn law enforcement officers employed by a city or county police entity who are assigned full-time to a school in its jurisdiction. Some school districts compensate the officer’s department for the service while some split the cost. Other agencies assign a cop to school grounds full-time, similar to patrolling the streets (tax dollars) except relegated to school property and whatever enforcement actions are necessary. SROs are also viable mentors and quasi-teachers while on campus, a win-win concept.
Despite the sanctity of a church, and a cop keeping it peaceful, evil lurks and is often mobile. One hell-bent lunatic walking into the church will be the challenge for the chosen Briarwood cop. For example, only recently did we learn that Dylan Roof, the shooter who walked into a Charleston, South Carolina church and killed nine congregants in 2015, departed before police arrival. Using GPS records, police tracked Roof’s movements and determined he’d gone to a second church. According to investigators, Roof claimed he was too tired to carry out any further havoc in the second church.
A lone cop may have his or her hands full in such a predicament, but when back-up is needed (and it likely will be) the police agency in the surrounding jurisdiction is your best friend. When a cop is in trouble, the cavalry is unfailingly going to respond. Could a lone cop prevent a Dylan Roof-type massacre from occurring? Perhaps. Off-duty cops in civilian attire, in attendance worshiping, have been in similar positions to thwart wickedness. But, the distinction between them and a uniformed, fully-marked police officer and cruiser parked out front translates to preempting a rampage by mere presence.