By Julia Goldman
The campus lockdown April 18 was the first real threat newly hired police chief Christopher Cano has had to face.
A suspect armed with a knife caused the campus to shelter in place for nearly three hours.
Following the incident Cano and risk management at RCC have devised a plan to be equipped for potential threats to the community.
Reports of the suspect began at 7:19 a.m., and at 9:36 a.m. a shelter-in-place order was issued to students and faculty through the campus’ mass notification system, RAVE Guardian.
At 10:46 a.m., RAVE notified that the situation was not an active shooter, and by 12:22 p.m. the suspect had been detained and the shelter-in-place order was lifted.
Cano was asked to expand upon his decision to withhold from notifying the campus for two hours following the initial reports of the suspect.
“Had we rang the bell and said everyone go into shelter in place when we first got the call that might’ve been premature,” the police chief said. “We found out he was no longer on campus, we had witnesses telling us he left, he was a threat to public safety but he was not on campus.”
Officers continually searched the campus to find the suspect had returned, which is when the shelter-in-place order was issued by a RCC faculty member.
“The initial notification was not made by PD – it was made by staff because they heard the helicopter overhead telling people to get in doors,” Cano said as he described the chain of events. “The RCCD employee did the right thing by putting out the shelter-in-place – every police officer was on the scene dealing with the situation. We didn’t have the opportunity to talk to anyone because we were dealing with the incident.
Treasure Lacy, a student in the Gateway program at RCC, expressed her concerns with the communication that was received that day.
“I think the minute they get a report of dangerous activity they should warn people so they can protect themselves,” she said.
Cano said that he stands by the fact that he and his force should not have rang the bell immediately, but adds, “We should have something in place to notify people of the situation. We’re looking to add something that makes people aware that there is police activity occurring even if it is not an immediate threat to one’s safety.”
Chief Cano, his force and BeiWei Tu, RCC’s director of Risk Management and System Administrator for RAVE alerts, announced their plan to equip the campus to better handle any potential threats at the Board of Trustees meeting May. 2.
To ensure the campus’ physical safety, the department plans for routine inspections of the college’s lock systems to ensure that they are operating correctly and capable of being locked from the inside.
The faulty campus lock systems were made apparent to Sherri Black, a math major at RCC, as she detailed that her professor was visibly shaken the day following the incident.
“The doors were not lockable,” Black said. “She wasn’t doing well, it was so sad to see.”
Within their plan, emergency procedure training is going to be provided for RCC faculty, starting in June, Cano and his force will be attending tabletop drills, which is specialized scenario training.
Additionally, the force is seeking to acquire less lethal equipment and a command post vehicle.
There are also plans to strengthen RAVE communication by implementing a color alert system.
The severity of a situation would be based on color to provide the community with answers and appropriate protocol; if adopted, Cano envisions informative training to be implemented at the start of each term for students and faculty.
“The incident showed us that there were shortfalls and flaws in our communication system,” Cano said. “and because of that, we need to look at this as a learning opportunity to fix the issues.”