Police to host safety forum for churches

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staff report

DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — In the wake of the recent shootings at a church in Texas, the DeFuniak Springs Police Department wants to meet with the community, specifically churches, on the potential threats to residents, according to the DeFuniak Springs city website.

“Most of the recent tragic events seemed as if they couldn’t happen here. The tragic shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, has changed our way of thinking. We want to talk with our citizens and church leaders about potential threats,” Police Chief Mark Weeks said.

A forum is scheduled from 5-7 p.m. next Tuesday at the DeFuniak Springs Community Center, where law officers will discuss safety issues and take questions from visitors.

Elsewhere in Northwest Florida, law enforcement agencies are ramping up their outreach to church communities in the wake of the shooting. Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Michele Nicholson said Sheriff Larry Ashley is reaching out to pastors, ministerial associations and county church leaders, and is planning to hold a meeting on church security issues and provide guidance sometime in the near future.

OCSO Crime Prevention Specialist Ashley Bailey said she has been working with churches for about a year with their specific safety and security needs, and would be happy to work with any church in the county who would like to consult with her. Her number is 850-259-0031.

Niceville Police Chief David Popwell said he would be open to meeting with any Niceville churches who had concerns in the wake of the shooting.

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