06 January 2020

The In-House Model for Church Security

Since the terrible loss of life recently in Texas that was stopped by a good guy with a gun, the issue of church security is a hot topic.  Church security, especially internal security, is one of the most challenging responsibilities I have dealt with in over three decades of being in the law enforcement & security industry.

It is only after the last three years of being the head of security for Freedom Biker Church York that I realized what I didn't know.  This article in no way reflects the policies or feelings of Freedom Biker Church York.  Now that that is out of the way...

The vast majority of people giving advice on the issue of church security are citizens, some may also be Veterans, law enforcement, or security.  Few however have experience with actually performing church security.  For too many, including people I know and love, it's all about the gun.  An armed response at a place of worship is what I call the "nuclear response".  When church goers approach me on Sundays and let me know that they are armed and "there for me," I get the same sinking feeling as when I worked with police officers that were way to quick to draw their firearm.  These are also people that would never be invited onto my team.

Yesterday at our service, the Pastor gave me an opportunity say a few words about church security.  We are a rapidly growing church and I wanted to make sure there were no misunderstandings about the mission of our team and our mindset.  First, I spoke about what I see as the law enforcement / security officer response to church security.

To sum it up, either you use Veterans / law enforcement that currently attend your church to put a team together or pay for police coverage if there is money to do so.  In my experiences, many churches already have a formal or informal version of the volunteer type.  If possible, it is what I would suggest and here is why with some suggestions and adapting to what I call the "Bouncer Model".

Out of all the types of law enforcement and security I have been involved in, the one that taught me the most and has proven to be most beneficial to my church security responsibilities is the time I have spent as a bouncer at various venues from punk bars to country clubs.  It's actually not just limited to church security.  My next statement may not be popular with some, but I would rather have a person on my team with six months experience as a bouncer than two years as a cop.  Of course there are exceptions.

As a cop, you have, or at least you used to have the law behind you.  You also have the ability to call for more people.  As an option you can lock people up, and depending on the environment you may never see them again outside of court.  As a bouncer not only will you likely see them again but your ability to earn a living depends on it.  It's not like Roadhouse.  You can't just beat people up every night and stay in business.  We go to church because we have issues, people are allowed to have bad days, yell, cry, and sometimes lash out.  The church is a sanctuary and it takes gifted people to do security there.  For the most part you are dealing with family, and we all know that is a very hard thing.    For a good bouncer, having to put your hands on someone is their "nuclear option".  It's all about interpersonal communication skills AKA being able to talk to people.  Back to church security.

Members of a church security team must be compassionate , accommodating, approachable, and calm.  You want people who are there all the time and make others feel comfortable, while at the same time stay aware and know how to be subtle until it's time not to be.  They have to be able to be trusted with personal information.  They should be comfortable with violence and know when to use it.  They need to intimately know the congregation.  They should not be afraid to put their hands on people if the situation calls for that.   In an emergency, you want people who will close the distance and go to the threat.

Imagine yourself as a woman sitting in church on a Sunday morning and you get a text from your estranged ex-husband who knows where you are and he is coming to the church.  Would you feel more comfortable getting out of your seat to go outside to call 911, or whispering into the ear of one of the members of the church's security team what's going on?

This happened yesterday, and I was the one she whispered to.  I know the lady.  I know what's going on, and so does my team.  We had his picture and a vehicle description.  In seconds, we were able to put assets in place on doors and send a two man team to cover the parking lot.  This was accomplished all by the time she sat back down.  We know the people, we know the property, and we know each other.  As far as we know, he never came, or at least we never saw him.  That happened while she would have been on hold with 911 while they figured out if it was a call for the local or state police.

In almost all church shootings, or active shootings in general, it starts with a bad guy being able to get through a door where people are.  Texas is a perfect example of what happens when intelligence and plans fail or are never in place to begin with.  An armed man wearing a trench coat and a disguise was able to enter the sanctuary and kill two innocent people before a skilled good guy had the time and opportunity to take him out.

As is often the case when it comes to all things related to personal protection and preparedness, people concentrate on having 100 fire extinguishers instead of 1 smoke alarm.

From the faith view, even in a small church, if you can't put at least five guys together to start an in-house security team, your church is already failing on many levels.  It's time to stand up and defend yourselves.  It is not the responsibility or in the ability of the police to protect your house of worship. It's up to the church leadership.

Feel free to contact me by e-mail with any comments, concerns, or questions.  Thank you and God Bless- George

29 December 2018

We call it the Bag Of Evil

25 December 2018

Onetigris Beast Mojo Dog Harness- Sneak Peak

As soon as I got Odin over two years ago, the first thing I started looking for was a heavy duty dog harness that would not break the bank.  Why?  Well because as a Service Dog he would need one for identification and secondly, I love tactical gear.  After being blown away from some fo the prices on other makers vests, I stumbled on a company called Onetigris.  At that time they really only made a few dog vests.  Now they have all kinds of awesome gear from dog stuff to hammocks. 

Ready my sneak peak of the Mojo Tactical Dog Harness I got for Duffy, my Patterdale Terrier.  READ ARTICLE.

29 November 2018

OneTigris Water Resistant Bag- Gear Review

Strider Suspect SMF used for size comparison
Truthfully, I had not heard of OneTigris before I got my Olde English Bulldogge Odin two years ago.  He is my service dog and I was looking for a quality high-speed looking vest for him to be festooned with patches.  After doing a bit of research, I decided to try OneTigris' offering.  Here is my review on the OneTigris Military Patrol Dog Harness.  Over the past two decades I have had samples of tactical gear from the majority of the big name makers and many custom and small makers.  OneTigris' gear is at the top and they have a Lifetime Guarantee.  I have recommended this and their other dog vests to many friends and clients.

Since falling in love with the vest, I have purchased some other items from OneTigris.  The most recent was their Water Resistant Bag.  I was looking for basically an envelope type stuff sack to hold my Snivel Gear inside my Mystery Ranch pack.  It seemed 1T was reading my mind.

As soon as it arrived, I was liking what I saw.  It just looks solid and well made.  I packed my Proper Gore-Tex rain suit into it, along with a wind shirt and an extra bandanna.  It swallowed it up.  The bag is advertised as being water resistant, but it is burpable, meaning that you can leave the YKK waterproof zipper open just a bit and squeeze all the air out.  Most of us have done this with zip-locks.  I would not go submerging it, but I would have no qualms about it being out in the weather even with electronics in it.  Also a pro for the kayak, canoers, and boaters reading this.

Bag pictured on top of Proper Gore-tex rain suit.

It is complemented with a d-ring on each end and a large piece of velcro on the front to identify contents or just to place some morale patches.

Like I said, what drew me to this bag was the envelope type wedge shape it has.  It's not shipped like a cylinder or a block like other bags for the same use.  The wedge shape fits great into the bottom of my pack and doesn't waste any room.  I plan on getting two more just because I like them so much.

03 November 2018

Active Shooters- boxes, in transit, and open spaces

Another active shooter, this time two dead and several wounded.  When are we going to stop worrying about active shooters in schools, places of worship, and businesses, and as a country prepare to survive the three basic environments for ANY attack or emergency.  No mater what happens to you there are only three places you can be; in a box, in transit, or in an open space.  That's it.  Training must be principle based to deal with these realities.  Take the complex and make it simple.

29 October 2018

Church Security Part 1

Long before the tragedy in Pittsburgh where John Bowers walked into a Synagoguge and murdered 11 and injured 6 innocent people only because of their faith, there have been many other acts of violence at places of worship.  That is why our Pastor just shakes his head when people ask why we have security at our church.

It has been well over a year since I posted here on my blog.  The primary reason is that I really just could not take anymore of tactical LARPERS ( Live Action Role Play).  Those who don't seem to realize you are way more likely to save a life with a first aid skill set than a shooting skill set.  Of course you should have both.  Those who have followed me at all over the past two decades know that I also don't agree with the fixation of rifle classes and shooting pistols at stationary cardboard targets.   But I digress.  I realized my true gift was training people to respond to stressful situations using the body's natural responses to attain repeatable outcomes in variable situations.  After figuring out that many people are very stressed out by the behavior of their dogs, I started MCS Dog Training and it took off like wild fire making me the most sought after dog trainer in York County PA.    God blessed me with my gift and I feel that I need to get back into the personal protection and preparedness side of things.  So, here I am.

It has always been a dream of mine that our great country will adopt the mindset of Israel, that everyone is responsible for security at all times.  It should not be left up to law enforcement and the military.  I believe a revival is coming in many areas and one of them is in the area of personal protection and preparedness.  This revival should come largely through the church.  The first layer of protection is that you are responsible for taking care of yourself and your family in any and all situations.  Your level of willingness to accept that has nothing to do with what you may face from a traumatic medical emergency in your home to a sociopath trying to kill your family as they worship.  So now onto the main point of this post.  Starting or revamping the security team at your church.

My leave of absence as a tactical talking head also coincided with my increased involvement in the Freedom Biker Church in York PA.  I had only attended the church for a short while before Pastor Jim Quoss asked me if I would be interested in heading up the security team.  I was quick and eager to accept, but I have to admit at the time I had no idea exactly what all would end up being involved.  It is a very "people" job and I am by nature very introverted, however none of my various jobs in life ever let me be alone for long.

There is a need to make two points from the above paragraph.  The first is that if you need to talk your Pastor or other church leaders into having a security team there will be problems ahead.  Fortunately, I never had to do that since my Pastor came to me and there was an informal group when I took the job.  Just like he does with others that minister in other areas of the church, my Pastor allows me to work with autonomy because he trusts me.  He is constantly advised or "given a heads up" about goings on but usually just replies with a nod.

The second one is that the Pastor will get complaints about security.  This is because, as I will get into later, doing security at a church is not unlike being a bouncer or a doorman.  People do not like to be told "NO" or held accountable for anything they, or their children, do.  People are people and our natural reaction is to take any correction as a personal attack.  They of course will not say anything to the person who enforced the rule or spoiled the fun, they will go to the Pastor.

So whether you are a Pastor, church elder, security team member, or just a member of the church reading this and are interested in church security, I feel obligated to tell you about the good, the bad and the ugly of it all.  Someone, and it should not be the Pastor, Lord knows he has enough on his plate, will have to run the team.  People's mind will usually go to someone who is or is retired from law enforcement,  the military, or security.  My background includes all three, including bouncing which of course falls under security.  Below are some things I would look for in a leader and subsequently he should look for in prospective team members.

Interpersonal Communication Skills-   Church security is a strange animal in many ways.  One of them is the extreme age of folks you will have to deal with.  You cannot talk to an 8 and 80 year old the same way.  In police work, the idea of return customers is a reality but not one you promote.  At a church, it is all about making people feel comfortable by building relationships so that the folks you interact with know your heart.  Also why I am not a fan of any sort of outside contracting for church security.  People will expect the security staff to deal with some very uncomfortable and very personal situations where discretion is key.  We are blessed that a very small part of what we do will likely include the need for violence, and most violence will not be in the form of an active shooter from someone unknown to the church but rather a known person who becomes volatile over perceived disrespect.  If your staff is is not capable of keeping their bearing when asking someone not to stand in a doorway, they will not be able to keep it when telling someone to "step back" or for that matter saying it at all.  You need people that are willing and capable to confront someone without turning it into a confrontation.

Willingness to do violence-  Now that even President Trump has said it in the wake of the Pittsburgh shooting, it is easier for everyone to say.  The problem is that for most of the world, including the tactikewl community, this means firearms.  Of course this is a component of all layered security/defense plans it is not the foundation.  Of the men on my team, there is only one on my team that I did not hand pick, and I would have anyway.  I look for guys that are calm, decisive,  and have been exposed to violence.  More or less have some experience with being punched in the face and punching someone in the face.  Sadly, just as with recruitment for law enforcement in America today, these guys are getting harder and harder to come by.  Luckily when you go to a biker church, we are not in such short supply.  I need guys that are not strangers to the adrenaline dump that comes from a face to face confrontation.  I need guys who are able to flip the mental switch from finding someone a seat to putting their hands on someone and hurting them if need be.  This is not as clean cut as the idea of shooting a man with a gun that is shooting other people.  But like I said earlier, that is seldom the situation.  As with the Interpersonal Communication Skills,  a person who does not have the heart to tackle an attacker to the ground should not be expected to engage an active shooter at close quarters.

Of course if I am going to put out some things to look for in a leader and or team member, I would be remiss if I did not include some things that I would avoid in choosing them.  Remember, at my church when it comes to this stuff I make the rules.  These may not be issues to you.

The gun guy-  The guy that is so fixated on guns that he sees them as the sole tool for protecting himself and others.  Also included here is the guy that open carries.  We are a very pro 2nd Amendment church, and being in Pennsylvania many open carry even in church.  I am not going to argue with anyone over it, but open carry to me shows a lack of tactical mindset.

Those who ask-  Again, I am blessed to have the autonomy to choose my team.  When I choose someone I may literally have to trust my life, my family, and my church family lives to them.  In all cases, I have a preexisting relationship with them and have hung out with them in various circumstances.  Words mean little, actions mean everything.

That's about it for now.  If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me.

The above views and comments are mine and mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Freedom Biker Church York.