By Jill Penley
There was a time in the not so distant past; Johnson County residents didn’t think twice about leaving their homes unlocked when gone for the day and it was an extremely rare occasion that one would consider locking a car door. The last place one would fathom violence would be a place of worship. Times have changed.
With the frequency of mass shootings increasing, some area churches are expanding security measures — even allowing guns in church — to keep congregants safe.So, with just about everyone in the country on edge after reports of church shootings, Johnson County Sheriff Eddie Tester recently announced on social media that, as part of an ongoing response to active shooter situations now occurring with increased frequency, his department will offer a church training program on February 29, 2020, at Calvary Baptist Church, 1354 Cold Springs Road in Mountain City. The class will begin at 9 a.m. Sheriff Tester said the program is open to all churches in the area, and the training will be free.
“Unfortunately, churches have become vulnerable as active shooter or intruder is occurring about every seven days,” said Sheriff Tester. “We see this training as a necessity.”
According to a description of the program provided by the department, “The course will cover several security topics including active shooter and intruders.” Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and get information on security programs for their church.
In addition to Sheriff Tester, Ken Potter, a retired law enforcement officer who offers security training for churches, and has written a policy and procedure manual, will be involved in the specialized training.
“Years back, we would not even think of taking a gun to church,” said Potter. “Today, it may save your life or members of your church.”
Potter feels an active shooter is one of the biggest threats to our safety. He explained that the active shooter training is essential for armed security in churches “to understand liabilities, no warning signs, and be aware of where the threat is and how to dispose of it safely.”
Potter commends Sheriff
Tester for bringing this program together for area churches. “I am honored to be part of it.” Also expected to participate in the upcoming training program will be Jerry Stout from Homeland Security, Kent Harris, a Washington County Commissioner and former sheriff of Unicoi County, State Representative Timothy Hill, and Attorney Jim Bowman. Sheriff Tester says this group will help present during the program to answer questions and be available to help any church that needs recommendations on setting up a security team.