Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Vestavia Hills is trying to establish its own police force.
The move requires approval from state lawmakers. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby County) cleared its first major hurdle Wednesday. The House Public Safety Committee gave its OK.
Briarwood Presbyterian Church calls this a way to create a safer campus in a fallen world.
Some lawmakers argue allowing a private church to have its own police force could begin a slippery slope.
“What do we do when other church affiliates come and ask for the same thing?” questioned Rep. Mary Moore (D-Birmingham). “They're not a college. They're a church and they're a church asking for police jurisdiction.”
Many questions were posed during Wednesday’s committee meeting.
“Who do the officers answer to?” asked Rep. Chris England (D- Tuscaloosa).
“They would answer to the leadership of the section of the church,” a representative from the church answered.
Rep. Connie Rowe (R- Jasper) is a former police chief. She supports allowing Briarwood to create its own force.
“They will conduct their own investigations,” explained Rowe. “They will conduct their own security. They will make their own arrests and instead of calling on the local law enforcement agency to take over the particular situation they're trying to control, they will do that themselves. All they will utilize from their other law enforcement agencies is their lock up facilities.”
Rowe says she would also consider requests from other churches to do the same.
England is concerned about transparency.
“Situations and arrests you would think normally need to be made, they can make their own determinations and decisions about whether that needs to happen,” said England.
Now that the proposal is out of committee, it moves to the full House for consideration.