By Fiona Moran
Out in the desert near Socorro, New Mexico, Roosevelt University’s Campus Security officers have been learning how to respond to terrorist bombings. Over the course of four days, these officers are trained to identify improvised explosive devices, to protect themselves in order to safely and effectively respond to an attack and how to recognize tactics and techniques used by terrorists to conduct bombings. This course is conducted through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at the New Mexico Tech Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center, and students are given certification upon completion.
According to the class description on the EMRTC website, all educational and travel expenses are paid for by the DHS and the instructors give live explosive demonstrations as well as instruction in the classroom. Since Nov. 2018, Roosevelt has been sending small groups of its campus security staff to this course in order to get certified.
“60 percent of our campus safety officers are now certified first responders by the Department of Homeland Security,” Campus Security Director Tony Parker said. “They go down to New Mexico Tech and fly into Albuquerque to go to a classified Department of Homeland Security facility in Socorro, New Mexico.”
Other DHS certifications and trainings mentioned by Parker were suicide bomber response training, active shooter response training and a crisis intervention training where campus security officers learn how to help suicidal people and others in a similar crisis. Later, Parker mentioned that campus security would be receiving a shipment of narcan to place in key areas throughout the campuses in order for officers to be able to respond to opioid overdoses.
Campus Security officers’ abilities were tested on Nov. 29 when a Roosevelt student was stabbed by another student in the Wabash dorms. When asked about how Campus Security handled the attack, Parker emphasised the speed with which the officers responded.
“We had the offender apprehended within two minutes of the event,” Parker said. He also gave high praises to Danny Velasco, a Roosevelt student who was a first responder to the stabbing. “If it wasn’t for Danny I think we might have had…a very uneventful event here at Roosevelt University,” Parker said. “I can’t thank him enough for his immediate response and action and call of duty…I would love for the student body to really recognize him for what he did that day. It was admirable…”
When asked about what steps Campus Security has taken in the aftermath of the stabbing, Parker said, “We emphasize more on first aid training. Our guys now are certified in advanced first aid. We have more officers now available. We’re doing more active patrols, interacting with the students.” Parker also talked about his and the departments involvement with developing the careers of students interested in going into law enforcement, the legal field and the military. “We have an open door policy.”
In regards to what effect the stabbing had on the department’s perception and relationship with the student body, Parker said, “…I think the students found us to be very helpful and more approachable than before. They know they’ll be here to embody a safe environment for the staff and students and visitors that come here…” He said that a lot of people on campus respected how the department handled the situation and how proficient and effective they were into respondings to the needs of the students.
In addition to the certifications and trainings currently on the docket for campus security staff, the department also has plans to educate the wider Roosevelt community. Self defense classes, situational awareness and safety on public transportation, a class on bullying, workplace violence and domestic violence are all in the works, according to Parker. He also said the classes will be open to students, staff and faculty, free of charge, and will be advertised through school bulletins.
The department is also building a new command center. It will be housed behind the front desk of the auditorium lobby, where the Campus Security offices used to be. “That’s our next big budget thing that in the process right now, a command center which will allow us to watch from one location what goes on on both campuses,” Parker said. “To better serve the campus’ staff and students in a much more efficient way, all emergency calls will be relegated to the command center and then all resources will be guided from the command center based on the officers responding to that event.”
In addition to monitoring campus CCTV, the department will have access to Chicago Police Department cameras that are placed in the surrounding area. The center will also be able to monitor and open doors at the Schaumburg campus.