University of Illinois Police Department talks school shootings

By Ali Braboy

Alex Tran, team leader and training coordinator for Student Patrol at the UniversityJT, said he doesn’t know if many students would know what to do in a shooting incident.

“You’re caught with a person with a gun who may or may not be mentally stable and who’s looking to do some serious harm,” he said. “A lot of people would freeze.”

On Oct. 1, a gunman killed nine people at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College and later shot himself, according to NBC News. One student was killed Friday from a shooting at Northern Arizona University, according to the New York Times. A student died Friday near Texas Southern University in a shooting, according to NBC News.

Since 2013, there have been at least 149 school shootings in the U.S., according to Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund’s website.

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    A former University student has also been involved in a school shooting.

    In 2008, Steven Phillip Kazmierczak killed five students and wounded 21 at Northern Illinois University, according to NIU’s Report of the Feb. 14, 2008 Shootings. The report stated Kazmierczak had a history of mental health issues prior to the shootings at NIU. He was enrolled at NIU in Aug. 2002 but he was a graduate student of the University when he killed and injured those at NIU.

    Although students are not required to complete training, the UIPD along with other area enforcement agencies go through several training exercises throughout the year, said Deputy Chief of Police Skip Frost of the University of Illinois Police DepartmentJT. He said the police train on rapid response and how to clear rooms and that the department is very focused on “what if?”

    The UIPD offers a class titled “3 Minutes to Live,” which provides information on how to survive if an active shooter is present at work and school. The UIPD’s website states the demand for the class grew in recent years due to the prevalence of mass shootings.

    Frost said students should make mental notes of “what if” situations, such as finding exits in rooms.

    “We train practically, you know, nonstop for a day we hope never occurs,” Frost said.

    He said many school shooting offenders are capable of buying weapons and legally passing background checks.

    Frost said school shootings circle around mental health issues. He said it used to be extremely rare to find someone who was genuinely struggling with a mental issue, but those numbers have gone up exponentially.

    According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there were around 43.8 million adults with a mental illness in 2013, which represents 18.5 percent of all U.S. adults.

    Frost said the department has tried hard to work with directors, building managers, deans and department heads to provide resources and information of what to do in these instances.

    “People always ask us, ‘well, what should I do?’” he said. “It depends on where you’re at, time of day or night, your proximity to the offender.”

    Frost said the department cannot prepare people for every single possibility; people should run, hide and fight.

    The UIPD’s website also contains information and advice for active threat’s at the University. According to the website, more than 1,000 faculty and staff are educated on incident response and command system protocols.

    The campus will receive emergency messages when there is information about a threat, according to the website. Illini-Alerts, a campus phone tree, local radio and television may be used to broadcast information to the public.

    UIPD Lt. Todd Short said the University has been preparing for school shootings since the school shooting at Columbine High School in 1999.

    Short said in 2014 former Chancellor Phyllis Wise and former Provost Ilesanmi Adesida recommended faculty put protocol information in syllabi, but it was never mandated.

    He said run, hide and fight is powerful because there’s so many variables when it comes emergency incidents and people need to have a quick and fluid response.

    Tran said the best form of self defense is to run from an incident.

    “Self defense is not about beating somebody up,” Tran said. “It’s about de-escalating the situation and getting yourself out.”

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