So you are contemplating starting an armed security team at your house of worship? There are a lot of factors that will go into this decision, and be aware that perhaps you may come to the realization that an armed team is not for your church. Perhaps hiring an outside security company or contracting your local police department may be a better solution for your facility and its members.
The first question we must ask ourselves is WHY we need an armed team. If you already have a security element within your church what is the reasoning of adding the armed detachment to your current team? If you do not have a team, then do we want both unarmed and armed team members? Or perhaps just armed members to handle security for the church?
We must put together a board consisting of the following:
1. Leadership (At least 3)
2. Security & Safety Director
3. Local Police representative (Lt. or higher)
I put in local police because they are well versed in interviewing applicants for these types of high stress positions. They can help you weed out those individuals they feel would not make solid candidates for this new venture. Local police will also want to know who is authorized to carry in your church for when they have to respond to a call they will already be aware of the presence of firearms within the security team.
So we have a list, or pool of individuals that would like to try out for the armed team. Now depending on the size of your church you may have a large pool, or a very small, perhaps just a few members. This can be an issue and should be looked at in the beginning of the process. That would have been the time to question if an armed team is even feasible with the size of the congregation you have.
What do we need to ask potential candidates in the interview process?
1. Why do they want to become a volunteer on an armed team?
2. What are their qualifications for an armed team?
3. Why do they think they would make a good armed team member?
4. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
5. Are you first aid, CPR, & AED certified?
6. Have you ever dealt with an angry person? If so, how did you handle it?
7. Show them a photo and let them look at it for 60 seconds then have them describe it to you.
8. Ask them if they are willing to spend their free time training, working for free as a volunteer. Do they have home, work, or life issues that would not allow them to volunteer on the team?
9. Have they ever been convicted of a crime, especially a felony, or domestic violence? A background check may or may not give this info.
10. How do they handle stress?
11. Are they physically capable of handling the role?
12. Will they submit to a full psychological testing and review by a licensed psychologist?
13. Do they have any substance abuse issues?
Those are a good starting point that will give you a solid understanding of the person and if they are an acceptable candidate for the position.
Now we move on to psychological testing. This is where the police department can help. Find out who they use and talk to the Doctor to see if they can assist you in weeding out candidates. The carrying and use of a firearm is an incredible responsibility and this part of the process is crucially important. If an incident occurs within your facility and civil litigation arises from it, this could be one of the areas you may be found liable in if you do not do it. Cost should not matter if you are serious about putting together the right team.
You may also want a full medical physical requirement as well. This can be accomplished through the church, or perhaps they can get a waiver from the personal physician stating they are confident they can handle the role and position you are asking them to fill.
Once we have our list of prospects we can include a firearms and physically fitness test if you want. This position will require mental, emotional, and physical standards that are usually above the average person's ability. You do not want a member who is overweight and has medical issues like, high blood pressure, heart problems, breathing and joint issues, to be part of an armed team, would you?
This is just a recipe for disaster when a serious issue comes to pass, and one that can be easily headed off in the interview process.
Now we have our team what do we arm them with? Do we require them to all carry the same firearm; do we make a list of acceptable firearms, how about duty ammo and caliber? All of these questions must be answered in the initial stages of setting up the team by leadership and the security director. Seek professional advice, non-police advice. Most cops are not "gun" people and hove no clue what is the best option for what your team is going to do.
Tactical professionals within the gun culture industry, with solid reputations, always check backgrounds first before looking for advice, may be a good source to check with.
Here are some questions to ask:
1. What manufacturer to authorize?
2. What caliber to authorize?
3. What duty round to authorize?
4. What type of holster to authorize?
5. Do we want to authorize modifications? If so, which ones?
My recommendations is to go with a reputable manufacturer that has decades of experience and is used by law enforcement and military units around the globe. So, let's see, who does that sound like? Of course it's Glock, and the one I recommend is the G19 in 9mm, it is by far the most solid platform for your team members and the easiest to use and handle in training and for duty. Now many of you may disagree and that's fine, I feel that going with one pistol is far superior then having multiple guns throughout your team. Uniformity, the possibility of magazine exchanges, functionality, and reliability all come into play with this decision. Because of these questions my only recommendation is the Glock G19 in 9mm.
You decide, but seriously think about having 1 firearm for your team. Becoming GSF members can assist you in possibility getting discounts on Glock pistols if you are looking for that route as well. Sig Sauer, CZ, Smith & Wesson, Springfield Armory all have extremely solid platforms that you can look at. Have your team try them out and see what they all agree on is their one choice, if you cannot decide on one pistol for them. Depending on the size of your team the manufacturer may send reps to your range to allow your team to shoot the different
models or a distributor may bring and assortment of pistols out for your team to try out. Whatever you choose, do your research and thoroughly check out all the companies to make the best decision for your team.
As far as duty ammo goes, I only recommend the Federal HST in 9mm 147 grain. CCI gold Dot, Hornady Critical Duty, Winchester Ranger Bonded, Cor®Bon DPX, Barnes TAC-XP, all are outstanding defensive rounds. You must do the testing or search for those that have and make that sound decision that will give you all that you are looking for in this type of ammunition. We do not want a round that will over penetrate with enough energy to cause causality's on the other side, nor do we want a round that doesn't expand and dump its energy within the target. We want the best of everything and this is where the Federal HST out shines the others.
Training is one, if not, the most important aspects of this team. You must train a minimum of once per month to keep some type of proficiency within the team. You do not have to go to the range every month; I would rather see force on force with airsoft, Simunitions or UTM over shooting on the range. Airsoft is my first choice, KWA professional line is what we use and recommend. Air soft is far more economical and you are not required to wear the amount of safety gear you have to wear with the other brands. Clean-up is a breeze with a vacuum, and you most likely will not cause damage to wall or doors with unintentional misses.
Look for training resources within your community, we have over 36 courses we offer to churches, including firearms, subject control, and force on force. Find a reputable trainer; ask the police department if they have any recommendations. Find someone that has experience in training church security
teams in use of force. It is far different training police, or military then training church volunteers, believe me.
Make sure you check with your insurance carrier, not just the agent and be 100% sure you will be covered by them if you have armed personnel and they have an incident. Make sure your policies and procedures are okayed by them and your attorney before giving this project the green light. Do your homework and take this decision very seriously, remember any incident they become involved in can potential turn into civil litigation. Be prepared, and educated on this topic. It can mean the difference between winning a lawsuit and closing down your church.
Stay safe and if you any questions contact me directly. Train hard, Vigilance, Virtue, Valor.
Chris is the co-owner of Forever Vigilant LLC; a metro Detroit based training company that serves churches, corporations, schools and law enforcement agencies. Chris can be contact via email @ firstname.lastname@example.org., or website is www.4evervigilant.com.