Victoria Mejicanos | The Poly Post

How CPP is preparing for an active shooter

By Victoria Mejicanos, April 11, 2023

For many Cal Poly Pomona students, campus safety is a growing concern with the increase in school shootings across the nation. 

In response to the concerns, The Poly Post investigated the preparation of the University Police Department and campus safety officials in the event of such an emergency. 

The issue is at the top of mind for many students, with two recent high-profile shootings at a college campus, (including Michigan State University) and another only 20 miles away in Monterrey Park, each occurring only a month apart. 

These shootings have highlighted campus vulnerabilities, such as unlocked doors, and a lack of outreach and communication to students by UPD and other campus officials. There is also a general lack of concern expressed by campus police and administrators, with many stating there is not much they can do except prepare. 

In interviews conducted by The Poly Post, it was found that students were not aware of active shooter training and UPD preparedness. 

Active shooter training is available upon request according to UPD Officer Jose Fonseca. The training is a one-hour PowerPoint presentation that covers the “Run, Hide, Fight” philosophy used across the California State University system. There is also historical context, such as what happened in previous shootings, and pre-event indicators. 

According to Chief of Police Linh Dinh, UPD is in the preliminary stages of creating a drill with the Pomona Sheriff’s Department. 

Although students may not be aware of the opportunity, according to Fonseca, the training has become popular amongst staff, with training happening three or four  times a week.  

Fonseca emphasized the training is important and open to the entire campus. 

“It’s important for students to know that they’re not excluded,” Fonseca said. “I always say the likelihood of active shooters is very small. But the threat is real.”

In addition to a UPD response, in the event of a school shooter, CPP also has a Safety Alert System. The Safety Alert System, which is managed by Emergency Management and Strategic Communications, is comprised of multiple modes of communication each student is automatically enrolled in. 

Fonseca shared how the system would be utilized in the event of an active shooter. Students will get multiple alerts through their phones, and all the desktops in the library will display a message. Lastly, any other screens that can be used to display announcements will be used. 

Dinh also stated there are templates set by strategic communication to address an active shooter situation. 

“The first step is figuring out what’s really happening,” said Dinh. “Then we verify and vet it, and once that’s done, we can send it out.”  

The system is tested annually during the Great Shakeout. A second test was planned during the yearly evacuation drill, according to the Interim Manager of the Office of Emergency Management Arlett Carmona. 

However, in an email sent to The Poly Post, Carmona shared that the drill was set to take place from April 4-6, but was rescheduled to later in the semester “Due to weather and safety concerns.”

The weather during spring break and the week that followed was mostly clear, but there has been no announcement about when exactly the drill is rescheduled. 

Liberal Arts student Jacquelin Galvez-Coyt, was not aware UPD had a preparation and response protocol. She also expressed some questions on how it works.  

“I kind of wondered how long it would take the police to get here,” Galvez-Coyt said. “I know we have on campus police, but I just wondered how long would it take? There are places you could run and hide, but how far would you have to run?” 

Criminology student Michael Perez trusts UPD is prepared, but like many students, was unaware of the active shooter training.

“I think it should be a joint effort. For one, UPD cannot be everywhere at once. I feel like UPD could advertise that (active shooter training) a bit more. It’s more of a collaboration effort.” 

Another safety concern is the condition of buildings and doors. Doors on campus are often left unlocked.  

 “It’s kind of weird, because I’ve definitely sat in my classrooms before and thought there’s at least two doors where somebody could enter from and knowing that a lot of them aren’t locked is kind of scary,” Galvez-Coyt said.  

When told about the fact that many doors on campus are constantly unlocked, the Manager of maintenance at Facilities Planning & Management, Mark Miller, stated it is due to the campus being public. 

“We serve the public,” he said. “We’re a public institution, all the academic buildings, state buildings are on a schedule to serve the campus.”  

Although the doors don’t lock, the buildings open and close at set times. If the building is older without an automatic lock, someone from facilities will manually lock the door, according to Miller.

As students may have noticed, it is possible for older buildings to receive updates like a new lock, or even an entirely new door to protect assets in a lab. 

When asked why this is not implemented for more doors, Miller stated that any changes are a “heavily involved process.”  

 He elaborated on the issue, stating changes to doors and locks need to be funded by whoever is requesting the change, and there are over 13,000 doors on campus. 

“Security is a shared responsibility. Facilities is a facilitator,” he said. “We’re the ones that actually do the physical part of it, but policy and methods and requests are done at an administrative level. We’re just kind of the ones that execute what the campus chooses to do.” 

Peter Hanink is a criminology assistant professor and a member of the safety advisory committee, a group of representatives from all areas of campus that communicate with the police department and provide advice. 

Hanink called school shootings “tragically common” and stated they have happened “too often,” but the chances of them happening at a university are slim. 

He compared active shooter drills to earthquake drills.

“The only thing you can do is survive an earthquake,” Hanink said. “You can’t prevent them, you just have to survive them, and that’s why the way that we respond to earthquakes is retrofitting buildings having building codes. So, we if we have kind of the earthquake model of active shooters, we say there’s nothing that you can prevent active shooters so our focus should be on surviving the active shooters.”

The university does not yet have an active shooter drill, bulletproof doors or locking doors. 

Viewing an active shooter drill through the same lens as an earthquake drill is common according to Hanink. 

Hanink was aware there is active shooter training but has not completed it. He also does not know any other faculty members who have.  

Hanink re-emphasized  the probability of an active shooter coming onto campus is low, and students should use their anxiety towards the issue to make change.

“A useful use of that energy is instead of just worrying about it happening here, is trying to make sure it doesn’t happen anywhere,” Hanink said. “That would be getting involved in community organizations, getting involved in advocating for legislation, for changes of laws, for changes of policies.”

Feature image by Victoria Mejicanos

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