Following a rise in anti-Semitic attacks, a shooting at a Texas church and a mass stabbing at Hanukkah party, the Fort Worth Police Department is advising its officers to wear their uniforms when they attend religious services to make congregations feel safer.
“In the wake of the local attack on the West Freeway Church of Christ last Sunday, as well as the attacks on Jewish communities and church services nationally, Chief [Ed] Kraus is authorizing and encouraging our officers who attend worship services to do so in full police uniform,” Fort Worth PD said in a statement Friday.
Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus said officers should first let the churches know they are going to be in uniform. He also authorized officers to wear their uniforms at church services outside Fort Worth city limits as long as church leaders are OK with the decision.
“This simple act will help reassure congregants, as well as serve as a deterrent for anyone intending harm,” the department said. “When it comes to threats against society, our community is not defined by our city limits.”
Attacks at religious-affiliated events have been on the rise in recent weeks. The spike in attacks have led the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Center to advise authorities at all levels to “remain vigilant in light of the enduring threat to Jewish communities posed by domestic violent extremists and perpetrators of hate crimes,” a joint intelligence document said.
Last weekend a Hanukkah party in a suburb of New York City, five people were stabbed.
The federal complaint against the suspect, Grafton Thomas, 38, alleges his journal was filled with writings that showed an interest in a group that espouses hatred toward Jews, anti-Semitic sentiments including references to Hitler, the Star of David and a Swastika.
Thomas’ family denies the attack was motivated by religion but said he suffers from a mental illness.
Just a day later, two people and the suspect were shot to death inside the West Freeway Church of Christ in the Fort Worth suburb of White Settlement.
The shooting, captured on a church live stream, quickly ended after a parishioner shot the suspect. Jack Wilson, a 71-year-old former reserve deputy sheriff, took out the suspect with one shot to the head.
“I don’t see myself as a hero,” Wilson told reporters last week. “I see myself as doing what needed to be done to take out the evil threat.”
In New York, the rash of anti-Semitic attacks prompted Gov. Andrew Cuomo to direct authorities to increase patrols in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods and places of worship.
“Anti-Semitism, bigotry and hate of any kind are repugnant to our values and will not be tolerated in our state,” Cuomo said in a statement last week. “We condemn this attack and all attacks against members of the Jewish community in New York — an attack against one of us is an attack against all of us. Together we will continue fighting hate and intolerance with love and inclusion.”