Securing our safety: Michael Short named first director of security

by Juan Guajardo

North Texas Catholic

February 25, 2020

Michael Short instructs Guardian Ministry volunteers during a day-long firearms trainingMichael Short instructs Guardian Ministry volunteers during a day-long firearms training
Michael Short instructs Guardian Ministry volunteers during a day-long firearms training. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)


FORT WORTH — On Nov. 5, 2017, a small white clapboard church in the 600-person town of Sutherland Springs, just outside San Antonio, became a place of horror rather than one of worship.

A gunman wearing tactical gear and wielding a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle opened fire in First Baptist Church, killing 26 parishioners ranging from 18 months to 77 years of age. The shooting lasted mere minutes.

In other parts of the country, sacred spaces have also been the sites of tragedy due to mass shootings, as was the case with Emanuel African Methodist Church in 2015 and with Tree of Life Synagogue in 2018. 

More recently, a gunman entered the 10:30 a.m. service at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement and killed two congregants before Jack Wilson, a member of the church’s security team, returned fire and killed him. The whole ordeal lasted six seconds.

That reality isn’t lost on parish and diocesan leaders in the Diocese of Fort Worth. To ensure the safety of the faithful in the diocese’s 91 parishes and 19 schools, former Lewisville Police Detective Michael Short was named Director of Security for the Diocese of Fort Worth Feb. 10.

Short’s hire will help speed up Bishop Michael Olson’s current diocesan security plan and ensure its uniform implementation in all churches and schools.

“In my new full-time position with the Diocese of Fort Worth, I will continue implementing the security program that was started by Guardian Response, but will now be more available to connect with the various parishes and schools in order to serve their community’s specific security needs,” Short said.

A police officer with the Lewisville Police Department for 15 years, Short brings a wealth of experience in various levels of law enforcement and crime prevention. He served as a patrol officer for 10 years during which he spent six years training recruits as a field training officer. Short was also a member of the SWAT team for 10 years where he served as a team leader and explosive breacher. Short had also been assigned as a detective to the Burglary and Property Crimes Unit and most recently served as a detective in the Crimes Against Children Unit with the Lewisville Police Department.

Mike Short
Michael Short (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

In addition to real-world experience, Short served as an instructor for firearms, hostage rescue, active shooter response, and breaching. Short graduated from the University of North Texas with a bachelor’s in criminal justice and holds a master’s degree in business administration from Texas A&M University-Commerce.

“Security is my department’s biggest concern, and having him dedicated to this would really help us carry this out per Bishop Michael Olson’s mandate,” said Steve Becht, diocesan director of real estate and construction. “Mike is a man of God, a very devout Catholic. He views this [job] as his mission and wants to do this for the Church and for Christ.”

A lifelong Catholic, Short and his wife Chasity have five children, one of whom, Dominic, was featured in a short film called “Dominic’s Vocation” by the Respect Life Office in 2013. The Short family attends St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Keller.

MOVING TOWARD A SAFER FUTURE
Sharing the “justly warranted concerns for safety” of members of his flock following the deadly shooting spree in Sutherland Springs, Bishop Olson in early 2018 enlisted the help of Short — then splitting time with the police department and his security firm, Guardian Response — to assist the diocese in establishing a multi-layered security program.

The first phase of that plan, a broad security assessment of each school and parish, revealed “considerable variation in their thoroughness and in the types of security to be employed,” the bishop said.

The second phase is establishing a discreet security program at each parish and school that employs a variety of measures to ensure the safety and security of the faithful and students. One aspect of the program is to select, train, and deploy parishioners to respond during emergencies in an armed capacity.

Becht said many parishioners likely will not notice who belongs to the Guardian Ministry team, but it will be a collaborative effort to identify emergencies early, summon first responders, and respond quickly when necessary. The Guardian Ministry trains volunteers across different ministries to take a community approach to providing immediate response.

“You really need a community of people who are watching out for one another and able to respond quickly,” Short said.

At a recent Guardian Ministry training, several parish volunteers practiced shooting from various positions under the careful supervision of Michael Short and his team of instructors.At a recent Guardian Ministry training, several parish volunteers practiced shooting from various positions under the careful supervision of Michael Short and his team of instructors.
At a recent Guardian Ministry training, several parish volunteers practiced shooting from various positions under the careful supervision of Michael Short and his team of instructors. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)


Although the vast majority of parishes have begun executing that security plan, Short’s full-time presence will allow that to move along more quickly. Guardian Response will continue to work with the diocese to provide firearms training to parishioners who are members of the armed Guardian teams. 

To provide the best outcome in an emergency situation, armed ministry members undergo a day-long intensive firearms safety and proficiency training where they also build skills useful in stressful scenarios such as drawing a gun quickly from a concealed holster and learning to neutralize an armed intruder in the parking lot or in a crowded church. Early detection and containment of an intruder are also taught.

Other members of the Guardian Ministry team include medical personnel who are trained in first aid and “Stop the Bleed” techniques. Other team members are ushers or greeters who receive training in identifying suspicious behaviors and body language in order to detect and prevent problems early.

Finally, Short and Guardian Response have implemented several steps to make sure “armed guardians comply with and are very identifiable to law enforcement.”

Even with many parishes already in the process of forming and training their armed ministry teams, there is a need for more volunteer Guardians, and Short encourages men or women interested in the ministry to approach their pastor.

CUTTING EDGE APPROACH
Short said the comprehensive approach to security is unique and forward looking. Instead of being a piecemeal approach, every parish in the diocese will work under a common framework.

“The Fort Worth Diocese, by establishing a Guardian Ministry at the diocesan level, is at the forefront of current church security standards of practice,” he said. “The initiative enables all of the parishes and schools to speak a common language, support one another, and have a unified incident command structure.”

Becht agreed.

“It’s all to benefit the people in all of our parishes,” he said.

Michael Short instructs Guardian Ministry volunteers during a day-long firearms training.

FORT WORTH — On Nov. 5, 2017, a small white clapboard church in the 600-person town of Sutherland Springs, just outside San Antonio, became a place of horror rather than one of worship.

Published (until 2/25/2035)
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