Portland State re-hashes threat of gun violence on campus

CPSO advocates for more drills, not just tests

Since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida claimed 17 lives last month, officials at Portland State are rehashing the school’s commitment to safety.

Following October’s mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead, PSU’s Campus Public Safety office told PSU Vanguard its police force, with its consistent active shooter trainings and coordination with Emergency Management, is ahead of the curve when it comes to active shooter preparedness.

However, no campus-wide active shooter training is currently in place. Some want to see that change.

Campus Police Chief Donnell Tanksley said Campus Public Safety Office should do more active shooter drills, rather than just having tabletop exams. In those exams, students discuss the procedures and preparation on how to respond to an active shooter in the building.

“We need to balance between preparation and action, to do so, we need support from the entire community,” Tanksley said.

In February 2018, the Academic and Student Recreation Center conducted an active shooter drill for personal trainers and other staff in the building. The drill was in the form of a circle discussion after a staff meeting. Tayler Larson, an ASRC personal trainer and PSU alumna, participated in the active shooter drill.

“It was optional and not everyone had to participate,” Larson said. “The whole premise of the drill was that you are responsible for yourself [in an active shooter situation].”    

Larson said the drill covered response procedures, including those outlined in the City of Houston’s Mayor’s Office active shooter “Run. Hide. Fight” instructional video. In this process individuals should try to evacuate the most high-risk areas, hide somewhere quietly, turn off all lights, and lock all doors, or be prepared to fight the assailant.

“The scenario [revolved] around the Rec Center in case there is an active shooter, and what would we do,” said Larson. “In the drill, we were shown [ASRC’s] emergency exit plans and how to get to one of [these exits].”

Larson said she thinks PSU students and faculty should have a larger discussion about active shooter preparedness because exits vary from building to building.       

Some buildings can only be accessed with a PSU ID card during business hours, including the Ondine residential building and the University Technology Services building. However, CPSO is still discussing whether or not to increase ID access-only buildings in order to maximize campus safety.

However, Tanksley said PSU wants to stay “open and accessible to all people. We need to find a balance between safety and being open and accessible.”

Tanksley emphasized again that CPSO goes through continuous training on how to handle and respond to acts of violence.

“All police officers on campus go through Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training at Texas State University,” Tanksley added. “In 2013 this program was named as the National Standard in Active Shooter Response Training by the FBI.”  

Laura Hickman, professor in the department of criminology and criminal justice, wrote in an email that the risk of an active shooter randomly targeting college students is very small.

“It’s tinier still when you take into account the risk of any one person (you or me) being one, on the campus at the time it is unfolding and two, near enough to the incident to be in any real danger of being hurt in any way,” Hickman stated.

Hickman wrote that as a criminologist, she believes the PSU campus is safe from such random active shooting situations, regardless of recent shootings across the country.    

Hickman added that she believes students and faculty members should not be overly worried, but should be paying attention to situations surrounding active shootings.

“It’s important to recognize that none of this means we should not pay attention to the horrific issue of active shooters,” Hickman said. “As a community and as a country, we should care passionately. We should act immediately and boldly.”

On Wednesday, March 14, hundreds of PSU community members staged a walk-out to honor victims of the Parkland shooting and demand more comprehensive gun control from Congress.