Since the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon on Thursday Oct. 1, the University Police Department at Geneseo has tried to respond accordingly. The department sent an email to all Geneseo students regarding “Emergency Response Information for Active Shooter Situations” on Friday Oct. 2. The email included a link to a video entitled “RUN. HIDE. FIGHT.” The video depicted a gunman entering an office building and encouraged potential victims to first attempt to flee the premises, then to hide and finally to fight the attacker. According to Assistant Chief of University Police Scott Kenney, this email was supposed to raise awareness about what to do in a situation with an active gunman.
“Always, prevention is better than response,” Kenney said. “If people think about it—and we’re giving them good ideas and examples—then they’re better aware in an emergency situation. The first step isn’t ‘Oh my gosh,’ it’s ‘I know this.’”
Chief of University Police Thomas Kilcullen echoed Kenney’s sentiment. “I think all colleges—including SUNY Geneseo—have in place a behavioral intervention—or on this campus it’s called CARES,” he said. “We’re looking at [people] in advance as opposed to waiting for something to arise then responding and trying to do an intervention and then making sure that the person gets the proper care.”
According to Kilcullen, UPD examines its own preparedness for active shooter situations after mass shootings like the one in Oregon. “[After a shooting], we immediately go back and we take a look at our policies and procedures relating to responding to such an occurrence,” he said. “We do some self-examination based on, ‘What would we have done if we had to deal with that situation here? How would we respond?’”
Prevention does not always work, however. There is always the potential for an active shooter on any college campus. Kilcullen expressed his belief that Geneseo is prepared should this happen.
“We have the benefit of having the Village of Geneseo Police, the Livingston County Sheriffs and also State Police Troop E—they have a substation in Geneseo,” he said. “We have the necessary resources … We’re in as best shape as I think any place could be at this point.”
Senior Casey Larkin said that he also feels that UPD is well-equipped to handle an active shooter, adding that he’s “never found [himself] in a situation where [he] felt incredibly unsafe” on campus.
“I know that there’s a definitely sizeable force [of UPD officers] that is on duty most of the time,” Larkin said. “In terms of the police, I would definitely trust them to neutralize it.”
Although several different units would respond to an active shooter at Geneseo, Kenney emphasized that UPD would be in charge of the operation.
“What we bring to the table is the local knowledge of the campus,” he said. “If it happens here, we know what we have to do to isolate this building or this quad or things like that. But we have to rely on other agencies for the manpower to do that because it rapidly gets very big to keep people safe when you’re talking about shooting situations and ballistics.”
In addition to being the Assistant Chief of University Police, Kenney is the Emergency Operations Manager for UPD. “We think about this stuff all the time,” Kenney said. “The definition of emergency is very wide … Emergencies are being handled on this campus in a protocol all the time.”
Although Kilcullen and Kenney said that they didn’t want to reveal too much about the exact procedure during an active shooter situation, they emphasized that UPD officers were trained to extinguish any threat. “Once the call is received, then there’s an immediate response. We revert back to the way our officers have trained,” Kilcullen said.
“The goal with an active shooter, when he or she is actively shooting, is to isolate and eliminate the threat as quickly as possible and as safely as possible,” Kenney added.
Although there are several things that would contribute to ending an active shooter situation, Kilcullen said that the most important factor is officer training.
“It goes back to the training, the type of training that our officers are exposed to,” he said. “We were looking into—for next summer—to actually do some reality-based training here on campus to work at honing our skills and responding to these situations should an event ever occur. We did have some discussions about the potential of including external agencies to be a part of that if it were a mutual aid situation to make it truly as reality-based as we could.”