Georgia church develops unique ministry to police officers


SNELLVILLE, GA. — With several first responders in his family, Bethany Baptist Church Executive Pastor Rick Kirkland is privy to the needs of police officers, including, well, their privy needs.

Turns out police officers need restrooms where they can safeguard their firearms, tasers, pepper spray, handcuffs and assorted other items attached to their duty belts.

Knowing that, Kirkland and the folks at Bethany Baptist created a ministry to police officers that provide them a secure restroom, plus office space and a cache of snacks and sodas.

“Our offices are our patrol cars,” said Sgt. Michele Pihera, spokeswoman for the Gwinnett County Police Department. “It’s really nice to have an alternative location where we can bring in our computers and type our reports. It’s also really nice to have the ability to use the restroom at a safe location.”

Kirkland said the ministry not only helps the police officers but also the church.

“The more I can keep a police car sitting on the property, the better it is in terms of church security,” he said. “It’s not rocket science.”

Officers simply type a code into a keypad on an outer door to get into the section of the church that contains their dedicated space.

“We have a refrigerator in there,” Kirkland said. “We have a microwave, coffee pot, waters, snacks, those kinds of things. There’s a desk if they need to use their laptops or charge their phones.”

Pihera said paperwork is a major part of the job for police officers, and having a desk available to work from in the zone they assigned to is helpful.

“People think all we do is go to a call, arrest the bad guys, then get back into our cars and go to the next call,” she said. “There’s more to it than that.”

Kirkland, who doubles as a chaplain for Gwinnett County police, said Bethany Baptist began the ministry about a year ago. Initially, it was limited to the secure restroom.

“Then, I got to looking across the hall and said, ‘we can expand this to put in a little desk that gives them a place to do their reports,’” Kirkland said.

Pihera said every officer in the precinct has the security code to get into the building.

“Most people don’t know enough about police officers to know that they need a secure place to go to the restroom,” Kirkland said. “I’d like to see churches everywhere do this for their police officers. It’s a low-dollar investment, but it really makes a difference.”