The potential threat of a gunman on campus on February 19 left students speculating about campus communication. Many students took to Twitter to voice concerns regarding the seriousness of the situation.
Anthony Gates, a senior accounting major, responded to some of these concerns. “In my opinion, I think the most serious concern would be physically securing all people around the location, which happened because of SDPD [San Diego Police Department]. I can’t tell you what merits a text or not, only what I think happens.”
Gates says students have a right to be stunned when seeing multiple police officers fully equipped on campus.
“I think that a lot of the responses revolved around that initial curiosity and fear,” says Gates. “Situations with a lot of unknowns can be confusing for the outside people looking in. I think, however, that the release of potentially incorrect information could be even more harmful. Within five to ten minutes of police arriving, an ‘all clear’ text was sent out. In my mind, that is a reasonable response time.”
Gates says he doesn’t think it is reasonable for students to demand immediate notification of every situation, as false information can cause panic in situations where there may not be a threat, such as on February 19.
“They are trained for situations like this,” says Gates, “and I really think it is important we trust those officers and police officers who arrive on campus, to handle situations the proper way.”
Kaz Trypuc, Department of Public Safety Supervisor, said that the verbal threat made on campus on February 19 was not a lockdown situation. There are many different kinds of texts that can be sent out—lockdown being for immediate life-threatening circumstances, which Public Safety knew the verbal threat was not.
“For lockdowns, it’s something that we’ve practiced for and thought a lot about,” says Trypuc. “Obviously the situation on February 19th didn’t fall very neatly into lockdown category. It was less than a lockdown but still a serious situation. That’s one of those areas where you have to determine what’s going on to the best of your ability and then make an informed decision— the one that seems most appropriate at the time given the information that you have.”
According to Trypuc, there are different protocols for every situation. Some day to day procedures are more defined as they are more straight-forward and predictable.
“Obviously situations like February 19 you can’t plan for specifically and so you need to be able to adapt on the fly,” says Trypuc. “We have a set of protocols in place for our dispatchers about when to send out a lockdown message, which is one that we looked at that particular evening, among a number of other things. There’s steps to take before we do send out an alert.”
There are a number of individuals across campus who have the ability to send out an emergency notification. In situations of a credible sense of violence, student dispatchers can initiate an emergency text.
According to Trypuc, a witness reported to SDPD without the knowledge of Public Safety, as they knew the threat as only being verbal. In these situations, it is Public Safety’s job to make contact with police and assist, but when SDPD came on campus they were looking for a potential shooter.
“Of course if that exact situation were to happen again I think it maybe could have been done a little bit differently,” says Trypuc, “but that exact situation is not going to happen again. It’s going to be another one that’s unpredictable, dynamic and changing rapidly. You’re working with a lot of different pieces and trying to figure out what the right course of action is.”