The Accra Regional Police Command has trained 4,120 volunteers from various churches in the region to take charge of security in their places of worship. The volunteers, referred to as security wardens, are expected to ensure the safety of worshippers during church services.
The move is part of security measures the police has instituted to help churches, mosques and other religious places of worship with their security.
The Head of the Operations Unit of the Accra Regional Police Command, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Kwesi Ofori, disclosed this in an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday.
ACP Ofori said out of the 4,120 people trained, 120 were trained at the Ebenezer Presbyterian Church at Ashaley Botwe, in Accra.
“They are volunteers from churches in Ashaley Botwe and its environs, including the Catholic Church and other charismatic churches in the area,” he said.
The rest, he noted, were trained at the Christ Temple of the Central Gospel Church in Accra and were all members of the church selected from different branches.
“We are not training them for combat operations. They are receiving basic security training which will sharpen their alertness and also give them knowledge of how to deal with security situations on their premises,” he said.
He said the campaign was focused mainly on sensitising Christians and Muslims to prioritise security in their places of worship.
Additionally, he said, the campaign was aimed at forging collaboration between the police and church and mosque congregations as well as encourage them to report suspicious people seen around their places of worship.
In line with the campaign, ACP Ofori said, the Greater Accra Regional Police Command was urging churches and Islamic leaders to develop comprehensive security plans that detailed how the outer and inner perimeters of their places of worship would be managed.
The plan, he added, should be owned by the congregants who would be involved in the security arrangements.
“The police cannot be everywhere. The security wardens will act as the eyes and ears of their places of worship.
They will observe and stay vigilant to quickly inform the police through an emergency contact line that would be shared with them to call the police for intervention in any threatened security situation,” he said.
Mr Ofori explained that the security wardens would undertake security checks before worship and do the same after worship before the places of worship are locked.
Furthermore, he said, security wardens would be deployed at car parks and other places and would be expected to coordinate their activities for the general good.
ACP Ofori said the police administration was encouraging churches with big congregations and places of worship to procure metal detectors and design walkways that made it possible to screen worshippers before they entered the church auditoriums.
“They are also being urged to procure CCTV and other surveillance equipment to be installed at vantage points to monitor activities during times of worship,” he added.
He said churches were advised not to allow people with bagpacks and heavy bags to enter church auditoriums without being checked thoroughly.
“Persons carrying backpacks must be checked. First time worshipers should be interviewed and taken through some security procedures before they are allowed to join the congregation.
Leaders must invest in security equipment that would ensure the safety of their congregants,” Mr Ofori said.
He said the staff of churches and mosques performing official duties should have proper identification which must be displayed openly for all to see.