On Sunday September 6, members at the Allen Chapel AME Church in Northern Florida recorded a Pensacola police officer interrupting service to enforce a custody order signed by an Escambia County Florida Judge.
The video went viral.
In most cases when a church opens their doors to the public, more specifically on a Sunday morning worship service, they are giving the right for anyone to enter during the hours of the specific public event.
This officer does so after receiving a call for service from a father who says he sent his daughter to visit her maternal grandparents and was not sent home when she was supposed to.
She does not immediately interrupt service, but rather verifies with church staff that the girl in question is even in attendance.
After several attempts to have church clergy and members retrieve the girl and her family, the officer decides it is time to go in.
You can watch below on the body cam video.
You can hear the Pastor saying “You are in violation” as the officer speaks with the girl and the family. Several members feeling they are being wronged request a supervisor, she obliges.
Shortly after radioing for the supervisor, a sergeant with the Pensacola Police Department shows up, and with a cooler head allows service to come to an end before enforcing the order.
It appears as if the officer entered the church legally, established that the girl was present, which at that point, gave her probable cause to enter the sanctuary to conduct official police business.
Was it morally wrong? Maybe.
Was the peace kept to just words? Yes.
As the ordeal was coming to an end, the girl’s father approaches the officer and his now crying daughter. She respectfully asks him to step to the side so she can talk with her.
Suspicious as to why the young lady doesn’t want to go with her father, she then conducts an on the spot investigation as to why. The body cam was turned off at this point.
Pensacola Police Chief David Alexander III stated in a press release, “The officer properly did her job in reviewing the court ordered paperwork and in asking several people to please have the child leave the church to be returned to her father. Unfortunately the people did not comply with her requests, thereby necessitating her to enter the sanctuary”.