Op-Ed: Response to Violence

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


By Steven H. Robinson

With the continuing violence in schools/colleges, communities and against police officers across our nation I reflect on my 38-year career in University/college law enforcement, and some possible responses to the continuing problem our society faces with increasing regularity.

As an armed university police officer for30 years starting as a patrol officer and finishing as an administrator, to an additional 8 years as unarmed college security as an administrator. From the first day I was taught to respond to incidents of violence on campuses (fights, knives, guns, explosives and vehicle assaults). At the start of my career in 1972 it was just responding to the aftermath of the violence.

Multi-phased approach
Through the multi-phased training, planning, prevention, intervention and response, as described below, we can create safer homes, communities and institutions. No one response will work alone. We, as citizens, interested in our own safety needs to be aware of our responsibility and become informed on how to create a safer place to live and thrive.

Responsible Gun Ownership
Responsible gun ownership is an ideal every gun owner should take seriously. Even the National Rifle Association supports this idea. Legislators have attempted to enable reasonable laws concerning the proper storage of firearms. Every sporting goods store including COSTCO, Big Five, Fred Meyer have gun locks and secure storage items on sale. In the past local law enforcement have provided gun locks for free. Firearm owners must take measures to prevent their weapon from being accessed by the curious, untrained or criminal element. We continue to see heart breaking stories of children shooting each other, accidental shootings and firearms entering the black market for use by individuals who are banned from possessing firearms.

Use/Enforce existing gun regulations
Major firearms regulations were enacted at the federal level in 1934 and 1968 with minor revisions along the way. Individual states, and other jurisdictions have enacted more restrictions to gun ownership. For Washington State laws you may refer to the Revised Code of Washington Title 9.41 which lays out ownership requirements and restrictions related to purchasing and owning a firearm as well as definitions of dangerous weapons. We continue to see a lack of reporting and maintaining the federal database of individuals with a criminal record or mental history that precludes them from legally obtaining or being in possession of a firearm. This lack of an up-to-date and accurate database needs to change.

Red Flag Laws
You may have heard of the red flag legislation that allows for the impoundment / seizure of firearms from individuals who have shown they may be violent to their self or others. Family, friends or associates may file to have a judge has deemed the danger exists as our state has enacted. We hear that there is no funding available to implement these programs. This needs to change. The safety of everyone is involved. Because every part of our country has different norms and expectations we should not be deterred if a national law is not enacted. We may need to come together locally to support rational and sensible weapons laws.

Behavior Intervention
Campus officials, under recommendations from the Department of Education, were encouraged and then mandated to develop a coordinated approach to identify individuals with behavioral characteristics who may pose a threat to the learning community. Trained campus staff from law enforcement, counseling, residential life, human resources developed a review model to evaluate possible behavior of campus individuals and regular visitors that might turn violent. Members of the campus community (law enforcement, residential life, instructors, student life, human resources, etc.) were provided with a way to confidentially report their concerns to the intervention team. Intervention techniques were then discussed in addressing the possible threat, and appropriate action was taken where it was deemed prudent. This action was taken to help the individual cope with any issues and hopeful assist them through completion of their academic career.

Even today there are programs such as “RADAR” being adopted by local law enforcement agencies like the Shoreline Police Department to address potentially violent individuals and mitigate the possibility of violent acts being completed.

Unfortunately, these successful programs are not common across our society or nation

Training on proper response to shootings and acts of terror
There has been much research into workplace and educational institution shootings. I was involved in a national review coordinated by the Secret Service reviewing these incidents prior to the Columbine Shooting in Colorado. Other federal agencies have done reviews and made suggestions to improve the higher education and local school community response and mitigation plans related to threat assessment and behavior intervention to address this issue.

Law enforcement officers and emergency planners at university and colleges were informed/trained in the Department of Homeland Security program of “Run, Hide, Fight” to respond to a violent situation. Many schools and colleges provide this training as well as some businesses. Everyone should be informed/trained in these techniques to be able to be safer in our violent society. Your local police or an internet search should be able to provide the basic ideas of “Run, Hide, Fight.”


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