Lt. Governor Stephen B.Pence's Communication Office
Lt. Governor Pence unveils Faith-Based Public Safety Initiative
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Lieutenant Governor Steve Pence unveiled a new faith-based public safety initiative that will help prepare religious facilities for a hostile event, act of violence or vandalism. Lieutenant Governor Pence made the announcement at the Gardenside Christian Church in Lexington, which participated in the newly created religious facility assessment program the week before. During the announcement, Pence also delivered a $1,240,764 homeland security check to officials with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.
“It’s a sad reality, but today houses of worship, regardless of their religious affiliation, can become victims of violence. Across America and even here in Kentucky we have seen congregations affected by fires and vandalism,” Lieutenant Governor Pence said. “Freedom of religion is one of the most basic and revered principles on which this country was founded, and this program will help ensure that people can carry out that freedom safely.
“I am also proud to deliver these homeland security funds which will enhance local first responder’s communications capabilities and the city’s emergency medical response,” continued Pence.
The funds will allow for the purchase of mobile data computers for local law enforcement personnel and a Mobile Communications Command Post. The communications equipment will be used by both the police and sheriff’s departments. A portion of the funding, $220,764 will be used to further the development of Lexington’s Metropolitan Medical Response System. This system is an ongoing effort by the public health and safety community in Fayette County to plan for serious health and medical catastrophes, to develop systems for coordinating and providing critical care where it’s needed, and to purchase medicine and equipment.
State Senator Alice Forgy-Kerr (R-Lexington) said, "Thanks to this funding, our first responders will have first-rate communications capabilities allowing for a safer and more efficient response to emergencies throughout central Kentucky."
"This is great news for Fayette County and I'm pleased to see that Homeland Security funds are coming into this community," State Representative Bill Farmer (R-Lexington) said. "We've made communications a priority and by providing this grant we can go one step further in ensuring our first responders have the communications equipment necessary to do their jobs with safety as a priority."
The religious facility assessment program is an adaptation of the Kentucky Community Preparedness Program (KCPP). KCPP is the Department of Criminal Justice Training’s homeland security initiative that strengthens the security of Kentucky communities by locating and eliminating potential vulnerabilities. The religious facility assessment program will teach the facilities leaders to perform a self assessment on their religious facilities using a similar methodology used by the KCPP assessors. Through the program they will learn to recognize their vulnerabilities and how to strengthen security.
"We live in different times than when I first started preaching years ago. It is our obligation to be aware of what is happening in this world, be able to face it and hopefully overcome it," said Joe Cooper, Pastor at Gardenside Christian Church. "I thought this program was very eye opening and very informative. It deals with issues that we don't often think about, but that we should."
Across the United States, religious facilities have increasingly become victims of vandalism and crime. Earlier this year, a string of what investigators believe were intentionally-set fires, destroyed 10 churches in Alabama.
“Religious facilities can be uniquely vulnerable because of their openness in a community,” said Kentucky Office of Homeland Security director (Ret) Maj. Alecia Webb-Edgington. “No one can completely prevent violence, but through this program we will hopefully be able to equip religious facilities across the state with the necessary tools they need to protect their congregations from these acts.”
KCPP Assessor Ron Meadows created the religious facility assessment program, and KCPP hosted its pilot project in Menifee County in February. In the future the assessment teams intend to present the program on a community-wide level, and invite all interested facility leaders to attend.
Any church interested in learning more about the religious facility assessment program can contact Chuck Melville or Ron Meadows at (859) 622-6824.