Pastor: Presence of safety team brings comfort to members

Last fall, Keith Davis and a few other Spartanburg pastors planned a free seminar for churches in the area interested in a presentation on how best to prepare for an active shooter.

Then, on Nov. 5, a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, left 26 people dead and a nation stunned.

Within a short time, as people kept calling, Davis knew he would have to move the seminar from his modest-sized church, Zion Hill Baptist, to a larger venue.

Two months later, more than 700 people representing 123 churches gathered at Crossroads Baptist Church in Spartanburg on Jan. 16 to hear Wayne Freeman, an agent with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, talk about steps they might take to thwart a shooter like the one who carried out the Sutherland Springs massacre.

Davis was a police officer for 12 years with the city of Spartanburg before becoming a pastor. When he left the department, he was a sergeant and worked with the community advising businesses, churches and banks on how to prevent crime.

As a police officer, Davis says the most common question he heard from churches was how they could secure their buildings. Today, he said, the most frequently asked question is, “How do we actually plan for a shooter coming into the building?”

Having a plan is itself a form of prevention, said Davis. “Prevention is a locked door or a uniformed officer. We lock the doors to protect our media equipment. Why not do the same to protect our people? People are always looking for the easiest [place] to break into.”

Davis said the basics of church security are the same, “no matter what size you are.”

“The news in the media can keep the threat of danger on our minds,” he said, “but the knowledge that a church has a responsible safety team in place can bring ease of mind to the attendees. Knowing our church has a team in place has brought comfort to our members, from what they have told me. This allows them to not worry, but rather worship.”

For advice on having a safer campus, churches can contact SLED or their local law enforcement agencies, said Davis, who remains active with the law enforcement community by doing chaplain’s work for the Spartanburg County sheriff’s office.

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