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Source: (consider it) Thread: A Church With Its Own Police Dept.?
stonespring
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http://www.wbrc.com/story/35126003/alabama-senate-oks-church-police-bill

Alabama is considering letting a church have its own police department, just like a private university can. This makes no sense to me. I am assuming this is a real police department with the power to make arrests and not just armed security guards. How is this constitutional with the US 1st amendment?

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Alan Cresswell

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On what basis would a university need it's own police department? Once you open the gates to allowing a private organisation to have a police department (with powers to arrest, investigate crimes etc) rather than just security, where do you stop? Any large organisation could probably justifiably claim the right - hospitals, large businesses, and even churches.

I am assuming no-one is suggesting that the laws enforced by such departments will differ from those of the state. Which sounds a lot like the Spanish Inquisition.

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Schroedinger's cat

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I can see, for organisations like a University with a large campus, a security team with police credentials makes sense - so that they can handle situations, and the police will back them up and support them. Maybe (for a UK environment) short of full police powers, more like special constables. The justification is really that there are a lot of vulnerable young people around, and providing security for them makes some sense.

A church? They are running a school, but that should be safe, because the children will be in class much of the time. Like any other school. I don't see any reason for requiring something as strong as a police force in any form.

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stonespring
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One issue with private universities with large campuses is that since the campus is private property, police cannot come onto the campus grounds without probable cause to suspect a crime is being committed there. Since the drinking age in the US is 21 and marijuana use on most university campuses is rampant, many students and even university administrators, depending on how liberal the university is, are wary of police being on campus. Many private universities have private security staff called public safety officers who cannot make arrests and who do not turn underage students in for drinking or any students for using marijuana, unless state or local law requires them to. But some more conservative universities or universities that want to assure parents that drinking and drug laws are being enforced might want there to be a constant police presence on campus, but with the independence of having a police department specifically for that university (which, granted, makes sense when some university campuses are larger and have more people than many towns). I agree that there is a definite issue with a non-governmental private institution having de facto, if not de jure, control over such a police department.

Perhaps the church in question owns a large amount of property and/or has a sprawling campus? But its being a religious institution, and not only that, but, unlike many religious hospitals or universities, one primarily concerned with transmitting a particular faith, makes me think that this is likely unconstitutional.

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Sandemaniac
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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
On what basis would a university need it's own police department?

Oxford had one until about 2001, when it became part of the University Security Services.

AG

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mr cheesy
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English Cathedrals had police for centuries, most of which have been replaced with security guards but remain in a few - including I think Liverpool, York and Canterbury.

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mr cheesy
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I'm pretty sure Cambridge University still has a private police force. Established for centuries.

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Al Eluia

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Here's an update. The State Senate passed the bill 24-4. It goes to the House of Representatives next.

I'm surprised no one's brought up the Church Police yet.

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Bishops Finger
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Indeed it does, dating back to 1825:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge_University_Constabulary

IJ

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Bishops Finger
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Ahem.

Cross-posted (most appropriately) with Al Eluia!

IJ

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Crœsos
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The idea of religious police seems in no way problematic or creepy.

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Arethosemyfeet
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quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:
I can see, for organisations like a University with a large campus, a security team with police credentials makes sense - so that they can handle situations, and the police will back them up and support them. Maybe (for a UK environment) short of full police powers, more like special constables. The justification is really that there are a lot of vulnerable young people around, and providing security for them makes some sense.

I was at a campus university, and campus security and porters were capable of dealing with drunk students, but I'm very glad they left actual crime to real police. Too much potential for them being put under pressure by university management (internal university disciplinary procedures were dodgy enough without allowing them any legal authority), something that is certainly borne out by what I've heard of such arrangements in the US, particularly with regard to victims of sexual assault.
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Pangolin Guerre
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quote:
Originally posted by Arethosemyfeet:
quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:
I can see, for organisations like a University with a large campus, a security team with police credentials makes sense - so that they can handle situations, and the police will back them up and support them. Maybe (for a UK environment) short of full police powers, more like special constables. The justification is really that there are a lot of vulnerable young people around, and providing security for them makes some sense.

I was at a campus university, and campus security and porters were capable of dealing with drunk students, but I'm very glad they left actual crime to real police. Too much potential for them being put under pressure by university management (internal university disciplinary procedures were dodgy enough without allowing them any legal authority), something that is certainly borne out by what I've heard of such arrangements in the US, particularly with regard to victims of sexual assault.
Arethosemyfeet's account accords with my own experience at the University of Toronto. The campus police (known in my day as "the mice") were unarmed, and were mainly a presence to keep an eye on things, warn you not to be an idiot, etc. Really criminal or dangerous behaviour (e.g., the weekend afternoon a man toting a rifle appeared at one of the Colleges) they surveilled and contacted the real police immediately. I can't say that it felt like the privatisation of security, unlike private security hired by housing complexes, etc., who behave like paramilitary organisations. They are dangerous.
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Og, King of Bashan

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quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:
A church? They are running a school, but that should be safe, because the children will be in class much of the time. Like any other school. I don't see any reason for requiring something as strong as a police force in any form.

I don't quite know where I fall on this, as I need to know more about the difference between Church police and private security. But I will say that I have been in some scary situations at a church, where outside security was helpful, and that makes me at least a little sympathetic.

The Episcopal Cathedral here in Denver used to be a frequent target of Westboro-type protests, especially around Holy Week, when they knew the congregation would be outside. It got pretty bad- the choir would create a wall around the Easter Egg hunt so that the kids wouldn't be exposed to the bloody pictures and curses, but there was only so much you could do, and it felt downright dangerous going to church that week. Staff e-mails were even circulated encouraging everyone to immediately report suspicious packages. One palm Sunday the fire alarm went off in church, and it was impossible not to worry that there was a gunman waiting outside of the exit (turned out it was a small child who accidentally pulled the switch, but it was pretty tense.)

In the end, city police and the Guardian Angels prevented conflict, and the Cathedral was eventually able to get a restraining order against the protesters, after presenting evidence that they were acting with the intent of disturbing small children (someone found the transcript of a radio call-in program where someone was bragging about how aiming protests at the kids was an effective tactic.) But for that period of time, I would have been pretty sympathetic to a church looking for a little extra security.

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
English Cathedrals had police for centuries, most of which have been replaced with security guards but remain in a few - including I think Liverpool, York and Canterbury.

Yeah, though I'm not sure that the police from English cathedrals is necessary a model that should be used more widely.

From an American point of view, there are all sorts of issues with separation of church and state.

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BroJames
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And here's the situation at York Minster
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Brenda Clough
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A lot of churches in the US do this unofficially. Many of the Catholic churches in the area have traffic control -- a cop in a squad car with the lights on there on a Sunday to help people make the left turn out of the parking lot. And we have noticed at our church a uniformed policeman, just hanging around in front. Have we actually hired him to do this? I don't know. But we are a logical target, one of the largest churches in the region.

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Amanda B. Reckondwythe

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quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
Many of the Catholic churches in the area have traffic control -- a cop in a squad car with the lights on there on a Sunday to help people make the left turn out of the parking lot.

I remember that from my youth -- the cop would actually be out of his car, standing in the street, directing traffic.

And many funerals have police escorts from the church to the cemetery.

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Augustine the Aleut
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As crowds increased so that the place is now packed to the rafters about a dozen times a week, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela now has a uniformed "vigilancia," who are unarmed, but have discreet billy clubs and presumably pepper spray or something like that. This is also connected to the fact that most Spanish public institutions have very current procedures for a terrorist attack-- I have several times seen armed police near a cathedral and one of my MW reports (Santillana del Mar) describes an Uzi-toting civil guard.
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Brenda Clough
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Our policeman is in the uniform of the county police, and he does have handcuffs, handgun in holster, etc. But no body armor. It may be that the mere sight of him will be a deterrence. Also, it is possible that there have been threats that the clergy is not telling us about. A Unitarian church in the same area was spray-painted with nasty graffiti last weekend, so the danger is real.

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Pigwidgeon

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Many years ago I was driving back to college after spring break, and it happened to be Palm Sunday. We passed a church where the PS congregation was just getting out, and a local policeman was directing traffic -- with a palm frond. (We assumed that a child had nicely given it to him.)

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Schroedinger's cat

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Brenda - it sounds like the local police have decided to post someone there for you, just in case. A couple of hours of duty like that is probably a small price to pay to deter casual violence.

I know that some church events have discussed using specials to help manage traffic and crowds (when across public areas). There is something different between (essentially) stewards to make sure everything flows well and police who have a security and challenge role (which requires some form of authorisation).

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mr cheesy
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Quite a few years ago now I went to the Anglican Cathedral in Cairo, where there was a permanent armed policeman checking who was going in or out.

There are fairly obvious problems with this, of course. For one thing, when the state is benign the policeman might be a deterrent to potential terrorists. But if the state becomes antagonistic to your religion, then he might start to prevent worshippers from attending. Or he might start writing down names in little books. Or whatever.

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stonespring
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My question about the church in Alabama is whether or not, like the cathedrals mentioned, it is a tourist attraction or whether it has larger influxes of people in and out of the building than your average large church or school. If not, then I do not see why it needs its own police department and cannot merely have officers from the town police department come to provide security and/or guide traffic, as in the examples mentioned.
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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by stonespring:
My question about the church in Alabama is whether or not, like the cathedrals mentioned, it is a tourist attraction or whether it has larger influxes of people in and out of the building than your average large church or school. If not, then I do not see why it needs its own police department and cannot merely have officers from the town police department come to provide security and/or guide traffic, as in the examples mentioned.

I suppose this must relate to the resources that the civil authorities have in terms of policing - and whether they're prepared to spend time directing traffic on any given Sunday.

I note that wikipedia says this church has a membership of 4000 - which is very likely much bigger than any church congregation in the UK. I'm not sure how big the site is, but I can imagine there are traffic issues on site never mind on the public roads - and presumably other issues with potential theft, armed attacks etc.

I'm not sure having a police force is going to help an awful lot, but I don't think it is hard to imagine why the church wants a beefed up security force.

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:


I note that wikipedia says this church has a membership of 4000 - which is very likely much bigger than any church congregation in the UK. I'm not sure how big the site is, but I can imagine there are traffic issues on site never mind on the public roads - and presumably other issues with potential theft, armed attacks etc.


This is the point, I think. Some American congregations are huge by British standards.* They're bigger than many schools and even commercial companies. No doubt they have a very wide range of activities and meetings that occur throughout the week, not just once or twice for a couple of hours on a Sunday and a pleasant afternoon at some other time.

Many of the participants could be general members of the community, not just regular churchgoers. Indeed, the church might have a large ministry with people who engage in criminal activities.


*According to Peter Brierley in 2009 there were only 4 British churches with 4000 or more people in their congregations. They were all in London.

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orfeo

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quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:
I can see, for organisations like a University with a large campus, a security team with police credentials makes sense - so that they can handle situations, and the police will back them up and support them.

No, what makes sense is police providing service throughout a jurisdiction instead of suddenly stopping at the campus boundary.

The US fetish for avoiding having government provide basic public services mystifies me. Unless we're going to have university police charge you with university crimes, take you to university court for a university trial in front of a university jury and potentially go to a university jail, there's no solid reason why the police force that works in the rest of a jurisdiction should hand over its powers to private bodies.

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orfeo

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Also, the notion that the only person who can guide traffic is a policeman is ludicrous. I can think of plenty of examples of events I've gone to where volunteers direct traffic. Primarily sporting events.

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Sioni Sais
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If that church has a membership in the thousands the, America being America, I can't believe that a goodly number are serving police officers. Could they serve voluntarily for the occasion too, solving the problem for the police and the church?

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stonespring
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Here is another article that offers a tiny bit more context, but not much:

http://religionnews.com/2017/04/13/alabama-senate-gives-megachurch-the-right-to-form-its-own-police-force/

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stonespring
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quote:
Originally posted by orfeo:
No, what makes sense is police providing service throughout a jurisdiction instead of suddenly stopping at the campus boundary.

As I said before, in the case of private universities with large campuses (which also applies to churches), the 4th Amendment prevents police from going onto the private property unless they are invited or have probable cause to suspect a crime is being committed.

The US has quite a few high schools with more than 2000 students - I have heard of ones with 5000 students. Should they have their own police departments? Should shopping malls (perhaps some already do!)? What about amusement parks? (Disney World, which is 40 square miles in size (the same as the city of San Francisco, got around this by being planned by the Disney corporation to include all of two legal jurisdictions, whose government offices are now in Disney-owned buildings - not sure if they have their own police departments, though, or if they have police from an outside jurisdiction come in).

There are a lot of churches in this country, too, with 4000 or more members (not all of which attend services every Sunday, and the largest churches with tens of thousands of members are often spread across multiple campuses, although you do see auditoriums with seating for thousands packed every Sunday in many of these). I think the problem, if local police are not able to properly serve such churches, is that in the US small jurisdictions are often called upon to provide services (like police, fire departments, schools) that are often better served by larger jurisdictions, at least in my opinion.

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Brenda Clough
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A news article about the swastika incident in the DC suburbs. A 20-year old man affiliated with the hate group Aryan Nation defaced a church and a Jewish community center with anti-Semitic graffiti and stickers. This is about 10 minutes from my own church, perhaps half an hour from my house. So churches are being aware.

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orfeo

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quote:
Originally posted by stonespring:
quote:
Originally posted by orfeo:
No, what makes sense is police providing service throughout a jurisdiction instead of suddenly stopping at the campus boundary.

As I said before, in the case of private universities with large campuses (which also applies to churches), the 4th Amendment prevents police from going onto the private property unless they are invited or have probable cause to suspect a crime is being committed.
Then INVITE THEM.

Seriously, it's not hard. If a university, church, whatever, wants police available then tell the police they can come onto the grounds!

Clothing private organisations with the authority of the State - with a "police force" - is not a sensible solution. They can hire security guards if they wish, but this pretending that there's a separate legal jurisdiction is loopy.

[ 14. April 2017, 13:31: Message edited by: orfeo ]

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Augustine the Aleut
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This thread has created some interesting images of mega-church complexes imitating the Vatican model of the Swiss Guards. There are a number of instances where companies have been allowed to institute their own police forces, most notably railways, but I don't think it is the healthiest idea. US universities seem to do this as well, and they even have their own television show.

If a church needs security, then they can hire a security company, where there is some training, employee clearance, and accountability/suability. Churches, if we are to judge by their internal judicial procedures, can be very flawed institutions indeed, with grave blurring between fairness, procedure, and management priorities. Certainly, having observed and reviewed Anglican, RC, & Orthodox canonical procedures, there is no way I would want them directing police activities (although I could spend a few hours of insomnia thinking of interesting uniforms-- and, should shipmates enjoy some red herring on a fast day, they might wish to google priests' prisons, which also includes the special clergy detention facilities under the mandate of the Abbess of Las Huelgas near Burgos).

If it's a matter of traffic management on Sunday or principal feasts, most (Canadian and I believe US) police forces offer the possibility of contracting local police for this and special events.

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