Like it or not, campus police need to know how to respond to even the most severe threats. It was just one year ago that two separate bomb scares closed down Yale Law School and Beinecke Plaza, and 22 months ago that a pipe-bomb exploded inside the Law School, damaging two rooms and a nearby stairwell. Now, a course that educates campus police on the proper response to a variety of terrorist threats has come to Connecticut.
The National Center for Biomedical Research & Training at Louisiana State University developed a course a year and half ago that teaches campuses across the United States how to respond to attacks using weapons of mass destruction. The eight-hour course, which has been taught over a hundred times at universities and colleges across the country in the past 10 months, was taught again yesterday at Southern Connecticut State University.
According to Thomas Hogarty, the university and college domestic preparedness assistance grant project manager at the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, the goal of the program is to train every campus public safety officer in the country. The course, which is being funded by federal grants awarded by the Office of Domestic Preparedness, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, intends to formally familiarize all campus public safety personnel with the types of weapons of mass destruction and how to best respond to them.
“You can’t say it will never happen here and that’s the message that we need to get out,” SCSU police officer and course instructor Thomas Madera said. “We need to be prepared.”
According to Hogarty, the course is the same awareness course that is taught to police, firemen and first-responders all around the country. Now, the program is being taught to campus responders.
“The instructors are putting situations in the context of ‘if these things happen on your campus,'” Hogarty said.
Madera said the course is also catered to campuses because it familiarizes campus security with city police departments and other accessible agencies. He said campus security does not always have the resources they need readily available and must learn how to coordinate and contact resources that are provided on a federal level.
“Everybody needs a baseline knowledge of how best to respond to this type of thing when it happens,” Colorado State University Sgt. Keith Turney said. “Every little bit that an officer knows going into a situation will always help.”
Madera said while it is a lot to cover in a day, he believes that every piece of information that an officer gains from the course is worth it.
“If that student can walk away with one thing, maybe they realized, ‘Wow I can now walk around my campus and see all its vulnerabilities,’ then we have done more then we could have without this class,” Madera said.
While Yale is not teaching the class, University Police Lt. Harry DeBenedet said the department has been training its officers in terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001, running citywide training on how to handle incidents. He said that Yale has been dealing with terrorism for a long time, including incidents such as when members of the Weather Underground stored 700 lbs of dynamite on Dwight Street, the bombing of Ingalls Rink, and the pipe-bomb explosion at the Law School.
“We teach tactics for terrorist incidents like dealing with suicide bombers and weapons of mass destruction,” DeBenedet said. “We now make note of what may have seemed like rather germane things before Sept. 11, 2001.”
Having already taught the course 100 times in less than a year, Hogarty said his organization will reach its original goal of teaching the course 500 times.
“It’s going to take some time but we’re off to a good start,” Hogarty said.