Church leaders speak on safety in Bulloch County

Church leaders speak on safety in Bulloch County
Published: Jun. 26, 2018 at 8:52 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 26, 2018 at 10:38 PM EDT
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BULLOCH CO., GA (WTOC) - Police, FBI, and law enforcement will meet with church leaders in Statesboro Tuesday night to talk about what used to be unthinkable. Shootings and other violence at churches is becoming more common.

They're telling church leaders to prepare for the worst in order to protect themselves and those who worship with them. Church shootings in Charleston, Texas, and elsewhere have congregations on alert. Richard Cleveland leads a security team at his church. He says fewer hold the idea that 'it can't happen here.'

"As these acts of violence come into our communities, churches, and houses of worship are no longer the safe zones, if you will," said church member, Richard Cleveland.

Statesboro Police say they and they sheriff's office planned the security workshop Tuesday from requests from local churches for information or training.

"We together, reached out to the U.S. Attorney's Office and Homeland Security and they offer us training for free," said Captain Jamies Winskie, Statesboro Police Department. "There is no crystal ball. There is no perfect plan. The only thing we can do is train and try to prepare ourselves as best we can for our situations."

He says this training goes beyond simple tips like locking exterior doors.

"We'll discuss certain tactics they can use if something does happen," the captain said.

Cleveland says he's looked forward to the workshop to help his church and others find the balance of shielding the flock while welcoming others.

"How do we keep this important to us, this issue of security, of protecting our own but at the same time not sacrificing our beliefs, not sacrificing what we see as our mission," Cleveland said.

He says churches need a plan before a tragedy instead of reacting after one.

One part of the workshop is that officers will make appointments to visit local churches and help them create a security plan to make their campuses safer and protect those who worship there. One aspect of this is knowing how many people have carry permits and have guns with them - off-duty officers and others.

Speaking with the probate court office, they saw a surge in gun permit requests after the Parkland shooting in Florida and some of the other school or church shootings before that.

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