The University Police Department is changing its gun procedures in response to school shootings to include informational presentations and simulation training.
Not even one-third of the way through the year, there have already been 17 school shootings across the country, according to CNN.
Capt. Chris Tarmann of University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Police shared his perspective on what measures the force has taken to keep the campus safe from these potential threats.
Tarmann said one of the key components to ensuring everyone’s safety on campus being thoroughly involved with whatever goes on.
“We try to have a consistent presence throughout our community on a regular basis,” Tarmann said. “We don’t have specific routes, but our police officers are told to go through any area and do walkthroughs and talk to people.”
Tarmann said university police conducts meetings that focus on different statistics to help create daily routines for patrols.
“We actually do a meeting every week that talks about our past behaviors and then we look at our data about what’s consistently happening and then we do what we call a daily deployment,” Tarmann said. “Then through that deployment, we send our police officers to locations where we have crime hotspots happening.”
Tarmann said the hot spots change day to day, but the key to preventing them from being hot spots is to study the pattern of the spots and analyze what’s going on.
“Those change every day,” Tarmann said. “If we looked at this last Monday, there might be two floors in a residence that we looked at because we had six different drug calls. We look at those pockets of calls, and we try to understand what’s going on.”
Tarmann said he staffs people according to shifts that adjust to the amount of people on campus at different times.
“Other than when we’re in those hot spots, we’re trying to proactively police those areas, but then we’re also trying to stay in the other areas,” Tarmann said. “We position our shifts to have the most coverage during the periods of the day that we have the most things going on.”
Tarmann said he does training with faculty on staff on campus to ensure that everyone is prepared for emergency situations.
“We present on a regular basis on how to respond to those situations consistently within the residence halls and at student rec, some of those more vulnerable areas,” Tarmann said. “I would say, our ResLife staff, we teach them twice a year and then there’s pockets of other areas on campus we teach frequently on how to respond to situations like that.”
Tarmann said the training includes a presentation with a UW Oshkosh professor who has had experience with this kind of situation.
“Joe Peterson and myself, he is a survivor from Northern Illinois University where there was a shooting there in his class he was teaching,” Tarmann said. “He and I have an hour and a half presentation.
Peterson, a geology professor at UWO, said the presentations offer both data and more personal experiences to educate the campus about active threat situations.
“Captain Tarmann and I collectively bring our personal and professional experiences to our workshop; Captain Tarmann brings his experiences in law enforcement and active shooter training to engage our participants with information regarding the statistics, best practices and legal logistics,” Peterson said. “On the other hand, I offer my experiences as a gun violence survivor to offer a first hand account of what one of these situations is actually like.”
Tarmann said the first part of the training is showing faculty and staff what the Police Department has learned from data they have and the second part is focused on what procedures are in place at UW Oshkosh.
“The first portion of that is focused on data, like here’s what situations have transpired over the past 15 years; here’s what we learn from that,” Tarmann said. “Then we go into the UW Oshkosh model: What systems do we have in place here at UW Oshkosh? How do you report information? What information do you report? What roadblocks do you have to report information? How do you manage all of that?”
Tarmann said the training also includes teaching how to recognize signs of distress in individuals on campus to prevent these situations.
“We show a brief video about indicators and what you should look for,” Tarmann said. “Then we have a number of different things we talk about that are indicators. The hard part is that one indicator here may not be the same indicator that you’re going to see over here, but context is really important.”
In addition to the faculty and staff being trained, Tarmann said there is also situational training for the officers in the University police force.
“All of our police officers are required to go through Alert Level One, which is basically advanced law enforcement rapid response team training,” Tarmann said. “Level One is active shooter response, and that’s a two-day training where they go in and they learn how to respond to those situations.”
Tarmann said the officers are given simulation weapons that are used for weapon manipulation and breaching situations.
“There’s several different scenarios cops have to go through,” Tarmann said. “In those scenarios they get what’s called a blue gun, or sim gun.”
Tarmann said the guns look similar to the guns that a normal officer would carry.
“It’s a gun that looks very similar to a normal gun, but it’s got a blue top on it that shoots a soap substance,” Tarmann said.
Tarmann said with his position as captain of UPD, he cannot take a side in the discussion with arming teachers, but he has done research into what that would mean if it were to happen.
“That’s a really hard conversation to have because there’s so many different things to think about,” Tarmann said. “I’ve researched stats on when people have guns that aren’t police officers in situations that someone comes in shooting. The person with the gun is more often the first person shot because they have some sort of indicator that they have a gun or they present the gun and then they are shot.”
Tarmann said looking at the statistic worries him and he hopes that if the legislature were passed, it would include training for the teachers who do get weapons.
“That makes me a little nervous, so I don’t know how that stat would play into the discussion of how that law would be put into place,” Tarmann said. “If people were to have weapons, we would want them to have really good training, and they should also in their mind be able to understand what having a weapon means.”
Peterson said he does not agree with the potential of arming teachers because of his personal experience.
“I do not think that arming faculty or staff would make campus safer,” Peterson said. “Having been in an active shooter situation, I can verify that adding more firearms would not have likely stopped the situation, but would likely have made it worse. This may seem counterintuitive, but proper and extensive training for high-stress life-and-death situations is vital.”
UWO senior Lue Thao said she does not support the idea of arming teachers completely because of the responsibility that comes with it.
“I do not entirely support that teachers should be armed on campus,” Thao said. “I think the burden of protecting children is extremely heavy, not to mention that their primary duty is already to educate students and preparing them for the future.”
Thao said arming teachers would be something students would have to worry about in addition to any other person who is armed on campus.
“With teachers armed, there’s a good chance that students will now also have to be on the lookout for them,” Thao said. “Teachers, although armed, may not have emotional or mental awareness and/or training to shoot when necessary.”
Peterson said there are protocols in place already to keep the campus safe, but there is more the University could do.
“I think some other strategies could be implemented to supplement the practices that we already have,” Peterson said. “These might include better door-locking systems for classrooms, for example. I think that promoting an open community of awareness and an engaging and productive dialogue is vital to any other measure that is implemented.”
Tarmann said having a weapon comes with more serious implications than just safety and whoever receives one needs to be aware of that.
“If you have a gun on you and you have to present to try and resolve an issue, that usually means taking a human life or the potential of that, and that’s a very serious situation to think about,” Tarmann said.