A number of local law enforcement agencies presented a Church Safety Seminar to approximately 100 church leaders, first responders and other attendees from across the county Saturday morning at Dan River Baptist Church.
The event was a joint effort by the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, Halifax County Sheriff’s Office, South Boston Police Department, Virginia State Police and Halifax Police Department.
The Rev. Don Bryant opened the seminar in prayer, and Sheriff Fred S. Clark, Chief Jim Binner of South Boston Police Department and Sergeant Jeremy Smith of the Virginia State Police greeted those attending.
Deputy Dustin Francis of the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office provided a detailed presentation of physical safety of the church building, highlighting the importance of locked doors, key control, adequate lighting and monitoring of cash and valuables.
Detective Chris Carswell of the South Boston Police Department spoke about the importance of church watch teams (akin to neighborhood watch programs) and church safety teams.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Quackenbush Martin presented on self-defense, defense of others and questions about firearms in church.
She emphasized the need for church leaders and congregants to have a plan and know what to do in the face of a crisis.
The keynote speaker was Special Agent Austin White of the Virginia State Police who spoke on emergency response preparedness.
“Our special thanks go to Dot Carr of the Dan River Baptist Association for helping to organize the event and to Dan River Baptist Church for hosting us,” said Clark.
“We hope we persuaded leaders of churches, big and small, that a safety plan is an imperative,” said Martin.
Clark and Martin said the seminar was prompted after numerous churches requested information ranging from how to increase building security to whether they can lawfully carry guns in church.
“People should not have to worship in fear,” Martin said.
“We hope this presentation will help prepare church leaders better if conflict or danger arises,” said Clark.
“Our world can be unpredictable,” said Martin. “Our goal with this seminar was to bring law enforcement and church leaders together to establish a safer environment for parishioners.”