I received an email recently with a dilemma: Hey John, I hope you’re doing well. I had a question for you. Our team was asked to post colors in a synagogue yesterday. When we arrived, one of the synagogue members stated that we could not be armed inside the sanctuary. Our policy does not allow us to be unarmed (sidearm) in uniform. We ended up posting outside of the sanctuary and acting as greeters for the arriving guests.
Is this a common issue with Public Safety Honor Guard‘s? What do you think the best way to deal with this is? It was a very awkward situation.
For a memorial service or funeral service inside a chapel (church, synagogue, etc.) there are a couple of setups from which the ceremonial team can choose:
With either setup that you choose (posting the colors or posting the color team), you have to consult with the chaplain as to what he prefers for the color team. Read this for information regarding proper protocol for pallbearers.
Color Team rifle/axe guards usually enter unarmed, but that depends on the chaplain. The standard for a color guard entering a chapel is uncovered and unarmed. This requires planning to find a place to remove the teams’ covers and leave the rifles/axes and having someone watch over the items. The team either posts the colors or posts themselves, covered or not, armed or not. Law enforcement sidearms do not fall into this category for a LEO honors guard, since they are a part of the uniform. However, the sidearm is still a weapon and the chaplain has absolute and final say.
Have a plan. For firefighters, not bringing in the ceremonial fire axe and being uncovered is a standard that is easily adopted for a ceremony. For a LEO team, it’s a different story. You need to create a plan that details what you will do when you encounter a situation where absolutely no weapon is allowed. Where will you leave the rifles? A much bigger question is, what will the team do with the sidearms? It will be very obvious if you perform with an empty holster. Do you have extra empty ceremonial belts that you can don in place of the duty belt? Some things to consider.
What about for Casket Watch?
This is a bit different. Armed (with a rifle, axe or shotgun) casket watch is not the standard, unarmed casket watch is the standard (except for the LEO uniform sidearm- read above). Casket watch members should be in full uniform (Ceremonial, Class A, etc.) including the cover- do not bow your head. For complete details on casket watch, click here.