WMBF Investigates: Law enforcement presence at local churches

WMBF Investigates: Law enforcement presence at local churches

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Following the tragic shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas that left 26 people dead, the WMBF News Investigates team reached out to several local law enforcement agencies to find out if their officers provide security at local churches.

The Horry County Police Department currently provides off-duty security at two churches in the county, according to spokeswoman Krystal Dotson. Their service are paid for by the church.

Captain Joey Crosby with the Myrtle Beach Police Department said that off-duty MBPD officers work security at two churches on Sunday mornings, and that the church does pay for this service.

While no Conway Police officers are currently hired to provide security at churches in Conway city limits, department spokeswoman Lt. Selena Small said: "At our agency every day our officers have certain directive patrols they are given to focus on. On Sundays officers add the churches to their directive patrols when services are going on and regularly patrol them."

At this time, the Surfside Beach Police Department does not provide any on-duty or off-duty security at local churches on Sundays, according to Chief of Police Kenneth Hofmann.

The public information officer for the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office is not aware of any deputies working security at area churches.

The Florence Police Department coordinated secondary, off duty employment with businesses, community groups and churches in the city limits, according to Lt. Mike Brandy. The department does not track exact numbers of officers working security for churches. The number of jobs and officers contracted by Florence businesses and churches is fluid, Lt. Brandt said.

The Florence County Sheriff's Office has about 20 deputies who provide services to local churches of all denominations in all parts of the county, according to Kathleen Streett. The services, which are both paid by the churches and done on an unpaid/voluntary basis, range from traffic control to parking lot monitoring to full-blown interior and exterior operations, by both plain clothes and uniformed deputies. There are a number of deputies who have also participated in private details started by different churches over the past several years, on their own time and at their own expense.

The Darlington County Sheriff's Office said that they do not currently have any deputies working on or off-duty at a place of worship, but one does wish to have a deputy provide security, they may employee an off-duty deputy.

In addition, Darlington County Sheriff Tony Chavis announced that he will meet with religious leaders of all faiths in Darlington County to discuss security for places of worship.

"Due to the recent deadly shooting at a Texas church and Mother Emanuel AME Church still fresh in my heart, I feel it necessary to meet with church leaders to discuss security and services we can provide," Sheriff Chavis stated.

The meeting will be held on November 20 at 6 p.m. at Darlington Middle School, 150 Pinedale Dr. Religious leaders of all faiths and from all areas of the county are encouraged to attend.

Several local churches also contract with private security companies to provide security officers during services, as WMBF News reporter Max McGee learned Monday.

"Because of Charleston, we started putting security measures in place," said Pastor Jamie Barfield of Palmetto Pointe Church of God. "Talking to former policemen and we have a few in our church that have really stepped up, really taken control of our security team."

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WMBF News will update this story with additional information from local law enforcement agencies as it is made available.

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