Parkland working to head off campus violence

Matthew Moss

Staff Writer

The spate of shootings in recent years, most recently at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, has sparked much debate from both sides of the political aisle on the importance and role of security on school campuses.

Parkland’s administration has taken a decisive stance on the matter, choosing to deploy as much as they sensibly can to head off and respond to violence on campus.

A combination of preventive and reactionary measures are in place at Parkland to dissuade violent crime, with particular emphasis on shooting deterrence and response.

The first barrier against violent crime is the Behavioral Intervention Team, headed by Michael Trame, vice president of student services, and Marietta Turner, dean of students. The focus of the organization is to assist students who are dealing with a variety of issues ranging from mental disorders to violent behavior, such as threats against Parkland.

“The more we can help and assist them, the better the chance of success they have here at Parkland,” Trame said.

The team has met every two weeks since its establishment six years ago. It is a cross-institutional organization that works in cooperation with area medical and police agencies to make itself as effective as possible in helping students and keeping the campus safe.

Turner says Parkland’s BIT may be unique in that it meets regularly. She says some campuses’ BIT analogues may only meet in special circumstances.

Anyone who is concerned about the well-being of a student or faculty member at Parkland can file a “person of concern” report with the BIT. This form can be filled out online and anonymously.

“We are very serious about looking at any situation that is sent to us,” Turner said. “This is about care and concern for the entire community.”

While prevention of violent crimes is a principal focus of public safety initiatives, the college is in no way lax in its ability to respond to a threat, says William Colbrook, chief of campus police.

“We do not want to present a soft target to gun violence, or any violence,” Colbrook said.

The campus police is a 24-hour, year-round service whose officers are trained to meet the standards put in place by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board. In addition, two officers, including Colbrook, have undergone special weapons and tactics training, giving the force valuable insight on tactical law enforcement operations.

The force also undergoes active shooter training during spring break each year, closing the campus and utilizing different wings of the school to give officers a first-person perspective on the tactical challenges presented by each wing, Colbrook says.

Parkland College made the decision years ago to transition the security force to a police department. Carrying a sidearm comes with becoming a police department, Colbrook said.

Parkland police also have access to semi-automatic rifles, which gives them the capability to counter any sort of threat posed by an armed assailant. However, Colbrook says the pistols officers carry are more than enough to protect the campus and its visitors.

“We believe that we carry a sidearm that is fully capable of protecting ourselves … and stopping the threat,” Colbrook said.

Colbrook does not think metal detectors or being searched upon entering the school is a necessary precaution at this point and the administration has not discussed the topic as of yet. He says that Parkland is secure enough from threats without entry searches.

“We do our best here at public safety to make Parkland as safe as possible,” Colbrook said. “We’re always vigilant, we’re always there.”

Parkland’s police officers work closely with area crisis response units, such as the University of Illinois police force and the county SWAT team, to boost its own preparedness in handling violent crime.

In adherence with the Cleary Act, Parkland’s crime statistics are a matter of public knowledge and available for viewing on the Parkland College website. Go to the “College Resources” heading and click on “Campus Police.” A link to this year’s crime statistics, as well as those from previous years, can be found on this page.