Tuesday, January 8, 2008

College campus risks

Just received my issue of Campus Law Enforcement Journal. On the cover is a group of officers taking down and arresting an "active shooter". (Active shooter is a phrase which has come into police/college lingo over the last several years since Columbine and now Virginia Tech. Most shootings happen and are over and done with by the time police arrive; active shooter implies the guy is going around repeatedly shooting people right now.) While it is important to plan a response to something like this, the notion that campus police would captre an "active shooter" is, I believe, overstated. Very few active shooters are going to be taken alive--if any. They shoot who their messed up mind tells them to shoot, and then, usually at the approach of police, shoot themselves.

Despite the gravity of VT and Columbine, an active shooter is still the rarest of events, thank goodness.

In the same issue, sexual assault against women in college is also covered in the back in a smaller article. It is much more likely to happen than an active shooter, and schools are struggling, sometimes more, sometimes less, to get a handle on it.

As with all emergencies or crisis, the manager should prepare for three phases in dealing with it: prevention, response/mitigation, and recovery. Buz argues that always, the most important is prevention. Once an active shooter, becomes "active", in essence, you've already lost, you can only hope to mitigate by your response--even if you're able to do that. In almost all these kinds of cases there are what Gavin de Becker calls "pre incident indicators": usually the suspect(s) will say or otherwise do someting to indicate they are deeplky troubled and//or vioilently inclinded. If only those who heard/saw could have effectively done something. The Virginia Tech police did their part, but really, he had sent several red flags up and needed to be suspended from campus. Oh, I forgot, he had rights to privacy, etc.

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