University, law enforcement prepare for campus shooting scenario

Campus shootings have become an increasing risk in recent years. They can happen at anytime, without warning, often resulting in significant loss of life. Because of this, the University and community law enforcement work constantly to prepare for these sorts of scenarios.

Department of Public Safety Assistant Chief Carolyn McDermed said the University tries to prevent these kinds of situations from happening in the first place. Dean of Students Paul Shang regularly meets with the Dean’s Council — consisting of representatives from the Counseling and Testing Center, University Housing and other student affairs groups — to identify at-risk students and make sure they’re getting the help they need. @@McDermed:[email protected]@ @@Shang:[email protected]@ @@Counseling center:

“We talk about students who are having trouble coping. We watch for people who seem isolated or don’t have connections, because it’s important to help those people,” said Andre Le Duc, University director of emergency management. “It’s not a sure-fire; it won’t catch everything, but it’s a step in the right direction.” @@[email protected]@

McDermed also detailed the steps that DPS takes to help people on campus know what to do in the event of a shooting or other emergency. McDermed stressed the importance of preparation for all kinds of emergencies, including shootings.

“We go into different buildings and talk to them: ‘What’s your safety plan?’ ‘Have you played what-if with yourself?’ ‘Do you know where you will go if an active shooting occurs?’” McDermed said.

This training occurs on an ongoing basis throughout the year.

The University’s emergency management staff also plans and trains for these scenarios and how officials would respond. These training scenarios include not only DPS, but also a wide variety of campus departments. Le Duc said live training scenarios are held once or twice a year, but principal officials often meet to talk through these sorts of scenarios.

When an event like a shooting occurs, Le Duc said one of the first things to happen once the threat is confirmed is the activation of the UO Alert! system, which notifies students and staff of the situation via email, text messages and other media.

In terms of law enforcement response, the first officials on the scene would most likely be DPS officers. McDermed explained that, because of their limited equipment capabilities, DPS officers are limited in how they can respond to armed suspects.

“It’s more of a facilitating role, because they’re not armed, so we’re not going to send them into a gun battle,” McDermed said.

DPS personnel are still  valuable during an active shooter scenario because of their detailed knowledge of the campus environment.

“The biggest asset DPS would be to us would be to get into some buildings, because they have keys and also because of their knowledge of the campus,” said Sgt. Eric Klinko, a member of the Eugene Police Department’s SWAT team. @@[email protected]@

Klinko explained that EPD officers are generally unfamiliar with the University campus. Though some officers were stationed here when EPD maintained a full-time police presence at the University, and some attended the University before working as officers, most officers are not well versed in building names and locations.

When a shooting situation occurs, Klinko said the first officers on the scene would likely be patrol officers, not SWAT team members.

“In Eugene, within a few minutes we can have, depending on the time of day, three to four officers to an incident,” Klinko said.

These first few officers on scene will form what Klinko called a “contact team.” They will move into the area where the situation is occurring with the goal of stopping the loss of life as soon as possible.

“The initial, overriding mission is to stop the killing,” Klinko said.

Killing the suspect or taking him or her into custody can do this, but often the officers’ mere presence is enough to stop the killing and stabilize the situation.

“The initial mission has been successful if they are able to shoot and kill the suspect, or if they able to take the suspect into custody, or if they merely draw fire from the suspect because at least now the suspect isn’t killing innocent people,” Klinko said.

The SWAT team will be activated in such a scenario, but SWAT officers might not necessarily be on duty at the time and may have to travel from their homes to the police department to gather their equipment before heading to the scene of an incident. Klinko said this process could take up to 40 minutes, depending on where an officer lives.

Eugene has no full-time SWAT officers; the team members have regular duty assignments in addition to their SWAT duties. Additionally, there are not enough vehicles to allow SWAT officers to take their cars and equipment home with them. Despite the department’s efforts, financial constraints prevent the department from being as prepared as it would like to be.

This predicament was expressed to the Oregon House Judiciary Committee by EPD Chief Pete Kerns during testimony earlier this month. @@[email protected]@

“This is a reality we are not well prepared for in Eugene,” Kerns said.


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