by Clint Sandusky, former PCI #849/EMSCI #159
Riverside (CA) Community College District Police Department (Retired)
We all know the benefits and using bicycles for public safety service delivery in a variety of environments. Police, EMS and security personnel have used bikes in many capacities for many years. They are successfully deployed in our cities, academic campuses, airports, amusement parks, casinos, hospitals, shopping malls, and more. They are effective at demonstrations, festivals, parades, concerts, and during and after disasters. But at your local church? Yes!
As either active and/or retired law enforcement and/or military personnel, we serve a very important role in keeping our houses of worship safe. It is a blessing for me personally to use the training, skills and experience I have acquired in my 24 years as a law enforcement officer to serve God and help protect the flock of believers. And yes, we DO need to protect our churches.
Many of us have heard of and/or attended one of Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s “Bulletproof Mind” presentations. Over my career, I attended at least two, and they were invaluable. A while back, I learned that Grossman had expanded his seminars and training to include community, church, school, and women’s safety. These seminars are offered through Sheepdog Safety Training, a company founded by Dave Grossman, Jimmy Meeks, and Carl Chinn. On their website (http://www.sheepdogsafetytraining.com), it states, “We are building a community of leaders who are called to protect the flock.” To this end, they offer a “Sheepdog Mini-Seminar”, conducted by Meeks and Chinn, which focuses on preventing violence at churches.
Jimmy, a minister and retired police officer, also writes a blog on the Sheepdog Safety Training website. A November 24, 2017, blog post written by Jimmy stated: “108 people have died violent deaths on church- and faith-based property this year. That’s an all-time high (77 in 2015). This alarming statistic should enable you to ‘foresee danger’ to the point that you will ‘take precautions.’” The final count for the number of violent deaths on church- and faith-based property for 2017 was 117.
The website also states, “Since 1999, over 800 people have died a violent death while on church- or faith-based property. In addition, thousands of children have been sexually molested while on church- or faith-based property (or at church-related events). A segment of the Sheepdog Seminars for Churches is designed to help churches and faith-based properties be prepared against such violence.
Faced with this sobering information, and in the interest of taking precautions, other members of my church and I attended a SoCal forum on church safety last year, called the “5th Annual Ark of Safety Forum.” It was probably the BEST active shooter classroom training I’ve ever received! Because continuous training is always important, I also attended an “Active Shooter Preparedness” presentation for churches hosted by the US Department of Homeland Security, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s and Riverside County Sheriff’s Departments on March 9, 2018. Visit https://dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness for more information, including how to locate a workshops in your area.
Why Bike Patrol at Church?
In 2016, I helped provide security for my church’s (Wildwood Calvary Chapel, or WCC) “Summer Bible Blast” event. Walking around for hours, over multiple days, wiped me out (yes, I’m older). I thought to myself, “Some of us are already utilizing our skills as active and/or retired cops to keep our church events safe. Why not take it a step farther and do it on bike?”
Following the event, I approached our Head Usher and pastor who oversees the Usher Ministry about using my personal patrol bike at church. They both thought it was a great idea, and since then I’ve been riding bike patrol for key church services and events, both on- and off-campus. In January of this year, I even had the opportunity to do a “Bike Patrol and Bicycle Safety” presentation for the church’s Wildwood Christian Academy students. The scariest part was when I read them a bible-inspired story (fun, but not my forte).
So why conduct bike patrol at a church? Because the church environment is no different than any other environment in which safety and security is a high priority. As I proved over and over during my years patrolling on-bike in a college environment, the bike is perfect for helping deter incidents through high-visibility and responding quickly to calls for service, and is, of course, an excellent community relations tool.
Equipment, Uniform, and Bicycle
Safety equipment when riding bike patrol at a church is just as important as “out on the streets!” I always wear my CPSC-certified helmet, eyewear and gloves when riding at church. I also wear a ballistic vest, specifically, the armored tee shirt from Legacy Safety & Security, which is a good low-profile option for a church environment.
I made it a point, as I instruct security and EMS cyclists to do, to have distinctly marked apparel that designates me as an “USHER” rather than as “POLICE.” My rear bag is also so marked.
As far as duty equipment, it is each churches’ preference. Here in SoCal, I’ve seen one church employ uniformed private security patrolling by vehicle in their parking lots. Another large and well-known Christian church is patrolled by members who are off-duty LEOs acting as armed security officers.
What I carry or don’t is a tactical secret (LOL), but I assure you I can take care of business.
My patrol bike is a 2014 Trek Police model (unmarked), with all the bells and whistles I used while active. I recently upgraded my mechanical disc brakes to Shimano Deore hydraulic disc brakes and totally love them!
Training and Skill Level
At this point, I’m a “lone ranger” on the church bike patrol. Of course, I keep my skills sharp by continuing to teach bike patrol courses, race MTB XC events and endurance train. Before we started this bike program, I met with my pastor to discuss qualifications, training, bicycle and equipment needs and the purpose for using the bike.
When we add additional bike-mounted ushers to the program, we will ensure they are adequately trained, skilled, and equipped, for their safety and the liability protection of the church.
The bike patrol program has been invaluable in the church’s mission to provide a safe and secure environment for worshipping God. We’ve received nothing but praise since we launched it.
In this time when innocent people find themselves the targets of mass violence, churches of all faiths must achieve a delicate balance between being a welcoming place of worship and being watchful and wary for potential problems. I believe the use of bikes by usher/security personnel can help churches establish this balance.
I would be interested to learn if anyone else uses bikes to patrol at their church. Please send IPMBA and/or me your experiences and/or comments.
As always, be safe out there everyone!
Clint’s 24-year career in law enforcement included both with Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Riverside Community College District Police Department (RCCD PD), where he served as Bike Team Coordinator. He has been an IPMBA member since 1994 and has attended 11 conferences. Since 1994, Clint’s been a CA POST certified Bike Patrol Instructor and has taught Bike Patrol Courses for Riverside County Sheriff’s Department for over 18 years. He actively competes in USA Cycling amateur cross-country mountain bike races and since 1999 has competed in what is now known as the United States Police & Fire Championships. He also competed in two World Police & Fire Games hosted in New York City (2011) and Los Angeles (2017). In 2016, Clint became a volunteer coach (NICA, Level 1) for the Yucaipa High School Mountain Bike Team and began coordinating adult bicycle safety presentations and trainings with ABEA (American Bicycling Education Association) and CyclingSavvy Instructors. He also assists ABPS (American Bike Patrol Services) with private trainings throughout SoCal, and patrols on bike during his church’s services. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy Clint Sandusky.
(c) 2018 IPMBA. This article appeared in the 2018 IPMBA Product Guide.