2017-11-30 / Other News

Church Massacre Provokes Security Discussion At Local Clergy Meeting

By Dara Mormile

Community Affairs Officer Eton White points out key safety tactics for keeping houses of worship safe. Community Affairs Officer Eton White points out key safety tactics for keeping houses of worship safe. The November 5th shooting inside a Texas church that left 26 dead and dozens of others wounded may have provoked houses of worship around the nation to take new and stronger security measures. The 69th Precinct Clergy Council met on Monday to obtain crucial information on how parishioners and spiritual leaders can make local churches in Canarsie more secure and safe.

Community Affairs Officer Eton White, who has undergone extensive training in various NYPD agencies, conducted a PowerPoint presentation on how church and synagogue leaders can create a security plan for their members.

“All it takes is one incident - that’s what we’re trying to prevent,” White told the packed audience that gathered at the 69th Precinct stationhouse at 9720 Foster Avenue. “Your members may feel that it’s the job of police to protect everyone - but we can’t be at the church all the time, so it’s important to be vigilant and have a plan before we get there.”

White began the presentation by noting that some congregation members may feel a plan of action is extreme, but they need to be convinced that security measures are needed to keep everyone safe. Being prepared for threats and emergencies - and knowing that one person could be working alone to plan an act of violence - is key to having a safety plan.

Officer White recommended that churches create security teams who will establish a connection between its members and local police. By forming a relationship and keeping authorities in the loop about events taking place at a house of worship, it will also encourage members to report criminal issues to police.

The community affairs officer explained that anyone in their house of worship can be armed with a gun - and that someone dangerous may even be attending services and have their own political/spiritual agenda. In other instances, a parishioner can have mental health problems or be under the influence of drugs.

He also reviewed a list of security do’s and don’ts.

“We want you to remain vigilant at all times - but remain calm in all situations,” he said. “We also encourage you to always greet suspicious individuals or newcomers. Greet them like you would any other new member - ask their name, where they’re from and how they heard about your church…Because then you’ve obtained information on that person that can be useful. Don’t approach them aggressively or with an attitude - just be courteous and observant.”

White added several tactical measures that should be practiced by spiritual leaders during services - including not being on their cell phones and always scanning their surroundings for potential threats. “You should also never have anyone standing behind you - if you’re standing against the wall, you don’t have to look behind you to see what’s going on and you have a view of everything in front and on the side of you.”

President of the 69th Precinct Clergy Council Rev. Cecil Moonsam was grateful for the lecture in light of the countless massacres taking place across the country. He is also grateful that local houses of worship have formed a tight-knit relationship with the 69th Precinct, which works diligently to help leaders obtain much-needed resources.

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