October 13, 2007 (PRLEAP.COM) Education News
SERAPH Virginia Tech Report Assessment

The review panel isolated seven critical problems with Virginia Tech’s emergency response, emergency management and administrators’ response.

The reports’ summary states that, “The Emergency Response Plan of Virginia Tech was deficient in several respects”. The following is a list of each issue and the SERAPH response.

“It did not include provisions for a shooting scenario.”

Since the Columbine massacre in 1999, police departments across the United States have been training in “active shooter” response. This has been a well established practice for use in public schools.

However our survey of colleges and universities security directors and police chiefs shows that few have had this training. Two reasons were given for this, the first was the cost, administrators did not want to pay for the training and second administrators barred campus security / police administrators from seeking out the training because they did not want a “militaristic campus atmosphere”.

“…did not place police high enough in the emergency decision-making hierarchy. The police had to await the deliberations of the Policy Group, of which they are not a member, even when minutes count.”

The report indicates that administrators who had no training in security or police operations micromanaged the security operations of the campus. This is problematic because of the obvious delay it causes in response time and the fact that under Virginia law it is illegal.

Virginia criminal code 18.2-460 A, Obstructing justice: If any person without just cause knowingly obstructs a judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness or any law-enforcement officer in the performance of his duties as such or fails or refuses without just cause to cease such obstruction when requested to do so by such judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, or law-enforcement officer, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

The Policy Group as it relates to police operations on campus is in violation of this law. And from the report it is equally obvious that on the day of the shooting the administrators obstructed the police in their investigation of the original dorm murder and their response to managing the campus with a murder suspect on the loose.

The SERAPH Team addressed this issue in a letter to the Virginia Attorney General McDonnell [dated May 26 2007].

“It also did not include a threat assessment team.”

Threat assessment as a science has existed in the United States since the early 1940s. Predication and prevention of violence is a critical aspect of campus security and one that in SERAPH’s experience is seriously lacking on higher education campuses. All Resident Assistants, security / police and department administrators should be trained to identify violent behavior in students, staff and visitors.

“The Emergency Response Plan… was out of date on April 16”

An emergency plan is only as good as the data in it and the ability of key personnel to use it effectively. This did not happen at Virginia Tech.

“The training of staff and students for emergencies situations at Virginia Tech did not include shooting incidents.”

Training is important for the effective management of an emergency by key personnel. You cannot ask untrained people to do what trained people do.

“No security cameras were in the dorms or anywhere else on campus on April 16.”

A lack of systematic monitoring of a campus contributes to crime.

“A risk analysis needs to be performed and decisions made as to what risks to protect against.”

A proper security audit is vitally important to campus security. However our survey of security directors / police chiefs indicates that most college administrators will not allow these assessments to be done. Two reasons for this refusal is the fear of liability exposure and the chance that the audit would require changes in management systems.

The Review Panel ironically found,

“That the VTPD statement of purpose in the Emergency Response Plan does not reflect that law enforcement is the primary purpose of the police department.” Again the report indicates that university administrators who had no training in security or police operations micromanaged the security operations of the campus through policies that control the actions of the campus police force.

Lastly, the report found that this attitude was consistent throughout the Virginia college and university community.

“It was the strong opinion of groups of Virginia college and university presidents with whom the panel met that the state should not impose required levels of security on all institutions, but rather let the institutions choose what they think is appropriate. Parents and students can and do consider security a factor in making a choice of where to go to school.”