Copperas Cove church leaders briefed on safety
By BRITTANY FHOLER
When the Copperas Cove Ministerial Alliance met for their monthly meeting Wednesday afternoon, the church leaders were briefed on church safety during a presentation by Coryell County Constable Pct. 1 Guy Beveridge.
Many churches and congregations nationwide have been concerned after a gunman shot two church members at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, on December 29, before he was shot and killed by an armed and fast-reacting church member. The two church members also succumbed to the gunshots, one on the scene and another at a hospital.
Beveridge spoke about church safety and the importance of a church being prepared against an attacker.
With a background in military and security as a contractor before joining law enforcement, Beveridge has been involved in an active shooter situation, even being shot five times, with three bullets actually hitting him, he said.
Beveridge works for security company Strategos International as the director of business development and has taught courses at Sam Houston State University, Texas State University and the federal law enforcement academy.
“There’s not enough training for what I call the true first responders,” Beveridge said. The people on the site of a shooting have to be the first to react while law enforcement are dispatched to the scene.
It’s especially important for churches to have a plan in place, he added.
Since 1991 to 2017, there was a 2,510 percent increase in violence in churches, and in a 10-year period, from 2001 to 2010, over a 500 percent increase in violence in churches, Beveridge said.
He blamed this on the fact that church populations have become “complacent” in their own safety.
“1 Peter tells us this: ‘The devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour,’” Beveridge said. “My God is a warrior. He doesn’t want us to be sheep that just sit out there and get slaughtered. That’s not what it’s all about…So, the church, we’ve become complacent, because the savage wolves and roaring lions don’t show up.”
Beveridge pointed out that the church in White Settlement had to have security and safety protocols in order to achieve the results it did, with the shooter being killed so quickly after opening fire.
“You only get that resolution in six seconds by training,” Beveridge said. “It doesn’t just happen. It’s not just someone who is a conceal carry person and that’s all.”
For a concealed handgun license, after a four- to six-hour class, one just has to stand no more than 15 yards away and shoot 50 rounds at a paper target “that wasn’t angry with you, that wasn’t shooting at you, that wasn’t moving” and there weren’t loved ones in danger, Beveridge said.
Beveridge said he was led by his heart to come speak to the Ministerial Alliance to help any member set up training for their church.
“It’s a heart mission for me because I am a Christian,” Beveridge said. “I believe in serving everybody that I can.”
Beveridge said he often gets asked what the first thing a church should buy for security and safety- whether it’s a gun or a medical kit.
“I tell them you need a towel,” Beveridge said. “Because this ministry, the safety and security ministry- it’s not just something you show up and do on Sunday. It’s a ministry - starts with service first. Serve people.”
Beveridge pointed to the example of Jesus, who washed his disciples’ feet and used a towel to dry them.
Most churches express worry over having security and looking too tough, Beveridge added.
“A lot of churches will say we don’t want to look like Sunday Special Operations,” Beveridge said. “Absolutely, you don’t because you will compromise the core mission of the church if you do it that way.”
Beveridge said the key was setting up a good team that would focus on serving first, with a “servant’s heart and a warrior’s mindset”.
“People nowadays, especially after the news coverage, want to show up to safe and secure worship space,” Beveridge said. “They want to have the freedom to worship God.”
Strategos International offers one or two-day classes for people to take to learn about how to protect the church congregation in the event of a shooting at a church. The class, which offers each participant a workbook, covers what to do as an intruder response, including: a lockdown, offering collection, protection, and transport; nursery security; medical response; volunteer selection; armed vs. unarmed security; protecting the pastor; and the role of ushers and greeters. It also covers Intruder Awareness and Response and Conflict Management. This training provides volunteers, ushers and greeters with the tools necessary to identify suspicious behavior and act proactively to deescalate conflicts.
Beveridge passed out his card for churches to contact him to set up a class where members could be trained in how best to handle security and safety.