Local congregations are once again turning to Charlotte police for security advice, after this month’s mass shooting at a church in Texas. CMPD offered two safety seminars for places of worship Tuesday. Many church leaders left having second thoughts about their safety plans.
People from houses of worship across the city stood in line, anxious to hear CMPD’s advice on how to make their churches safer.
About a dozen members of GraceLife Church of Pineville attended the safety seminars. One of them, Norman Hopson, says the Texas shooting got him and his wife thinking more about security.
“My wife, we said we should get more active in the church and I work in the parking lot so I figure this training should help me out really well,” Hopson said.
Churches are known for welcoming everyone. CMPD’s Lt. Steve Huber says that is what makes them vulnerable. Many churches have beefed up their security since the 2015 church shooting in Charleston. A few even have police on hand during services. Huber laid out various active shooter scenarios and asked how they would respond. Congregation leaders seemed surprised when he said their answers were wrong.
“For anybody in the room that took longer than two seconds to decide what you were going to do, for anyone that dialed 911, or tried to talk to him or took passive responses like that, I’m sorry you are dead,” Huber said.
Huber suggested calling 911 only after someone is safely away from the situation. He advised people to run to an exit rather than to drop and hide. Those further away, he suggested doing something active to stop the attack—like throwing objects, even pens or tablets, at the shooter. He even demonstrated how to disarm a shooter. He also had some caution for those carrying concealed weapons.
“If you got a concealed weapon and you decide to use it and you defend and save the people at your church I’ll be the first to shake your hand, but when those police officers get there and come looking for the shooter and they see you standing there holing your gun, you’re going to get shot. You got to get that gun out of your hand when those police come in,” Huber said.
Having members armed as part of a security plan has been a big discussion for some churches. Huber says wherever churches line up on this, the main thing is to have a plan in place that all members are familiar with and not just ushers.
After the seminar, Cynthia Stevens said she learned a lot from the discussion. She’s a trustee of Ebenezer Baptist Church north of uptown.
"I think we have a good plan in place but we definitely need to do some tweaks with it based on the information we heard,” Stevens said.
Huber says CMPD will review any church’s plans and also make site visits. He says because the response to the seminars was so great and some church leaders were not able to get in—they plan to hold more next month.