In wake of the recent mass shooting tragedy at Umpqua Community College where nine people were killed and nine injured, university police departments around the nation have been catalyzed to reevaluate and review their campus emergency response plans.
“It is heartbreaking, and it is sad that this is becoming more and more common place. It’s a national issue,” said University Police Chief David Dugaktin. “Answers are beyond anything I can even fathom as to how to fix all of this in our country.”
Every SUNY is mandated by New York State to put an emergency response plan in place. This plan encompasses faculty, student and staff. According to Dugaktin, there are separate plans written for each of those three groups on campus that he encourages all to read annually. These plans can be found on the school website at newpaltz.edu.
Along with these written procedures, Dugaktin said that the University Police Department (UPD) is very well trained and practices quite frequently in dealing with active shooting scenarios.
“There wasn’t anything glaring or anything learned from this recent tragedy where somebody said ‘oh boy, we have to change what we do,’” Dugaktin said. “However, it always trains more awareness and causes us to look over things and review them. There are always lessons that are learned from these tragedies.”
According to Dugaktin, this winter UPD, the New Paltz Police Department (NPPD) and the New Paltz Rescue Squad (NPRS) will be involved in joint operation where members will undergo series of intense training sessions to further prepare if a tragedy such as this were to ensue. UPD, NPPD and NPRS would all be involved if there were to be a situation such as this on campus.
On May 11, 2013, SUNY New Paltz, among many other campuses around the nation, joined the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus. SUNY New Paltz, however, was a gun-free campus even before joining this.
According to The Huffington Post, Umpqua does have policies prohibiting guns on campus. However, Huffington Post reporters were told by a college official that they “would not apply to those with valid concealed weapon permits pursuant to Oregon law.”
In regards to the email Dugaktin sent out on Oct. 6 concerning a male in the library acting in a “suspicious manner,” Dugaktin said that this individual was interviewed twice by UPD. UPD was then able to determine that there was no real threat made by this individual who was a student of the college, according to Dugaktin.
“I understand confusion that email may have caused,” Dugaktin said. “We received several reports from students and faculty saying that there was a male acting in a suspicious manner, staring at people and making a gun like motion with his hands.”
Dugaktin disclosed that the report which indicated that the student was making “gun-like” gestures was received third-hand. The student who witnessed these gestures did not come forward.
“Since I’ve been here, this is the first time in four years that something of this nature got to the level where an email was sent out of caution,” Dugaktin said. “I wish it wasn’t necessary, but the world in which we live in errs that we need to live on the side of caution.”