This isn’t the first time Briarwood’s effort to form a police force has been endorsed by both houses of Alabama’s Legislature. As The Associated Press reports, a similar bill that was approved last year eventually failed after then-Gov. Robert Bentley didn’t sign it into law.
A large church in Alabama is one step closer to creating its own police force, a move that seems to be without precedent in the U.S. The state’s Senate has approved legislation that would give church police officers the same powers other law enforcement officers have in Alabama.
After being approved by Alabama’s Senate on a 24-4 vote, the bill now heads to the state House of Representatives, where an identical bill was sent to the Public Safety and Homeland Security committee in February.
Both chambers’ legislation specifically names Briarwood Presbyterian Church, a Birmingham megachurch that “says it needs its own police officers to keep its school as well as its more than 4,000 person congregation safe,” Alabama Public Radio reports.
Police officers hired by Briarwood Presbyterian would need to be certified by a state standards and training commission, according to the bill, SB193. The officers’ authority would be restricted to the church’s campuses and properties.
The officers would be given “all of the duties and invested with all of the powers of law enforcement officers in this state,” the bill says.