Bolivar police offer free church security assessments

BOLIVAR, Tenn. — The heartbreaking killing of 20 people in a Texas church is sending shock waves across the country, including West Tennessee. Many churches want to keep safe and be prepared.

“We didn’t think about security at church. It was the safest place in the world,” Madison County Sheriff Spokesman Tom Mapes said.

“What if that happened at my church?” Englewood Baptist Church spokesman Jordan Hall said.

“We will go, we will teach and if need be, we will train,” Bolivar Police Chief Pat Baker said.

After the tragedy in Sutherland Springs, Texas churches and law enforcement across West Tennessee are stepping up efforts to keep you safe in the house of worship.

“What we’d like to do is go out and talk to the pastor of the church, look at their entrances and exits and things like that,” Baker said.

Chief Baker is offering free assessments to churches. The goal is to get congregations prepared.

“The main piece of advice we can give to a church is to plan,” Baker said.

Chief Baker says this is not about fear but about having a plan and being prepared for whatever might come your way.

“I can’t stress enough, you have to have a plan in place. If you don’t plan, then you’re going to have failure,” Baker said.

“A lot of people would say it’s not if but when,” Hall said.

Englewood Baptist Church is offering a security workshop.

“If something were to happen on a Sunday morning or Wednesday night or office hours, how do you respond and how do you prepare for those types of things?” Hall said.

It takes place from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Gathering Place in Jackson. Hall says everyone is invited to attend.

“This is not just for church leaders per se. This is for anyone — a volunteer in the church, an usher, a greeter or work in the parking lot,” Hall said.

The Madison County Sheriff’s Office is also holding a workshop in December.

“How to make your facility safe without making it look like a fortress, how to form a security team, how to assess the high-risk areas within your organization,” Mapes said.

“It’s sad that people can’t go to their house of worship to get away from the bad things and recharge their life,” Baker said.

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