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Decatur County Sheriff's office launches new church security policy

Posted at 6:18 PM, Jan 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-09 18:19:10-05

DECATUR COUNTY, Ga. (WTXL) — Deputies in Decatur County are on a mission to make sure churches in the county are prepared for any emergency situation that might occur.

This week, the sheriff's office launched a new security policy that gives churches in the area the option to allow deputies to drive a marked or unmarked car to attend church services.

For Senior Pastor Stanley Phillips, keeping the congregation safe at Southwest Baptist Church is a top priority.

"We lock our doors after 11 o'clock -- all of the doors except the front door. That's always open," said Phillips. "We always have a trained person inside this foyer."

With on-going threats of violence throughout the country, Phillips knows action needs to be taken.

"It's sad that we live in a day that we are afraid to even attend church. There's always been something about church that's attracted people that are mentally ill. They come here for help. So, you never know who is coming in," Phillips explained. "You have to be vigilant. It's just the day we live in."

One of the more recent church shootings happened last month in Texas. A gunman opened fire inside a church in White Settlement Texas.

Deputies with the Decatur County Sheriff's Office are on a mission to make sure this type of situation doesn't happen in the Bainbridge area. This week, deputies launched a new church security policy to help increase safety.

"We have changed the policy so that deputies or sheriffs that are attending church as a parishioner, with the church's permission, can drive a marked or unmarked car to attend the service so that in an unfortunate event of an emergency like in Texas," said Chief Deputy Windell Cofer. "They can respond in their own church."

Deputy Cofer and his team know they can't control what happens tomorrow, but what can be controlled is your response in any given situation.

"Every time you leave your house it's a risk," Cofer asserted. "Just mitigate the risk with vigilance. If you feel uncomfortable, leave."

Wiley says if your church is interested in participating in the new security policy, you can reach out to the sheriff's office at (229) 248-3044.