Campus police discuss shooting threat protocols

Carly Mathews

Tragedies at Columbine, Virginia Tech and, more recently, Umpqua Community College in Oregon have caused an increase in crisis prevention plans at schools in the United States.

According to Lisa Leff and Ryan J. Foley of the Associated Press, the AP examined the policies of public colleges and universities in more than 40 states after the Umpqua Community College shooting.

Leff and Foley noted that at institutions such as Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, and Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Arkansas, training on how to respond to an armed intruder has become part of student orientation and is addressed similarly to alcohol abuse.

The AP review also found most schools have set up alert systems that use “text messages, social media or technology that can remotely take over computers tied to campus servers.”

Blair Thompson, associate professor, has found through his research in school crisis prevention that the mindset of “it’s not going to happen at my school” is still an issue in planning for these disasters. 

“Schools have gotten better prepared for this, but they’re still not well prepared,” Thompson said. “Unfortunately, some take the stance on it as ‘we’re not going to be able to prepare for this, so why should we put our resources towards it.’” 

Some of the major issues that are consistently unplanned for include the distribution of information, the impact of social media and dealing with the aftermath of these situations. 

In addition to the issues schools face during the actual threat, the lack of funding and research also creates problems for schools attempting to make prevention plans. 

At WKU, multiple plans are in place to protect students against any kind of threat that may be made.

Campus police rely heavily on the WKU alert messaging system as a way to put out detailed information regarding a threat in as little time as possible.

Though this system has disadvantages, including minor lag time between when officers are dispatched to when information is conveyed to students, Captain Dominic Ossello is confident that in an active shooter situation, these would not be much of an issue. 

“When you have an active shooter, you’re getting multiple calls in regard to that issue,” Ossello said. “A lot of information would come in very quickly, so we would be able to paint a pretty clear picture of the situation.”

In addition to utilizing the WKU alert system, all campus police officers are trained and certified in force-on-force resistance, otherwise known as active shooter drills.

While the police are fully prepared to handle any threat on campus, an active shooter is one situation that has yet to be an issue here on campus.

“We hope to never need it, that it’s never an issue here on campus. However, in today’s climate with things that are going on nationwide, it’s something that we at least need to address that there is a fear of,” Ossello said.

Ossello said despite this situation having never occurred on campus, he believes students should still be prepared to handle an active shooter situation.

 If gunshots are heard, the best thing students can do is secure themselves wherever they are, lock the door and stay away from windows until the threat has been contained. 

“In the threat of an active shooter, you feel very confident that something is occurring right now because … this information goes out very quickly so that students are able to lock down wherever they may be,”