LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — An independent review of Michigan State University’s response to the February shooting that killed three students was released Tuesday, finding that campus police officers’ response was “appropriate, timely, and correct” overall, but also issuing several recommendations for change.
The report was created by Ohio-based Security Risk Management Consultants, which was hired by the university to review the emergency response. The document lays out findings and recommendations to “strengthen campus safety and security” and offers ways to improve future emergency responses.
“This report is a critical next step in our ongoing commitment to ensuring MSU is a safe place for all who come to our campus,” MSU Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff said in a statement. “It provides concrete recommendations for strengthening campus safety and reinforces our efforts are on the right track.”
Three students were killed in the Feb. 13 shooting on campus: Arielle Anderson, Brian Fraser and Alexandria Verner. Five other people were wounded when shots were fired in two buildings: Berkey Hall, which contains classrooms, and the Union. The shooter later shot and killed himself when confronted by police.
“…Our overall assessment of the initial response (that is, in the seconds after the initial call and prior to other agencies mounting a response effort) by MSU police officers is that the response was appropriate, timely, and correct,” the report said. “Officers proceeded directly to the last known location of violence to eliminate the threat. Those efforts continued as the second shooting location was identified.”
But the 26-page report also noted some points of confusion, chaos or infrastructure weaknesses. It detailed recommendations for 14 areas:
- Public safety department policies and procedures
- Planning and preparation
- Officer safety and equipment
- Leadership coordination and collaboration
- Command and control
- Internal communications, situational awareness and intelligence
- External communications, public relations and traditional and social media
- Interagency memorandums of understanding, support agreements and practices
- Emergency medical and psychological care
- First responder wellness and mental health
- Victim and witness support
- Community relations, partnerships and resilience
- Institutional continuity and recovery efforts
- Campus technology evaluation
MSU said some of the recommendations have already been implemented and others are being considered.
The report said many off-duty police officers, mental health services, clergy and members of the press showed up on campus the night of the shooting. “Although well-intentioned, this added to the chaos,” the report said, and contributed to more calls about unknown people with guns walking around campus.
The report recommended that everyone who wants to help gets sent to a parking lot or another type of staging area and then positioned around campus in accordance with a new centralized Incident Command System made up of people who are clearly in charge.
Confusion in leadership was also a factor the night of the shooting:
“Our takeaway based on multiple interviews is that the Board of Trustees members wanted to help but became involved in the incident beyond the customary role and expectations of a governance board during an emergency,” the report said.
To prevent this from happening, board members and senior leadership on campus should consider which members of campus leadership are in command in an emergency. It has been suggested the board review the National Incident Management System to guide them on this process.
In the event of an emergency, orders should be coming from a dedicated Security Operations Center that has access to every security camera on campus, the report said. In August, MSU said it was in the process of renovating the SOC and it should be completed sometime this semester. This would be a secure room that is only accessible by a few lead members of the security team to limit confusion and streamline command.
The new facility will eventually use updated security software that will be able to coordinate all the cameras on campus, as well as lock down buildings at the push of a button. To make that happen, the report is recommending MSU change every door lock on campus.
MSU officials say they have already put traditional deadbolts on most of the classrooms on campus after the shooting, but the new locks recommended by the report will be able to lock and unlock remotely by security staff and be held open by magnetic door stops that can turn off to shut doors on command.
Other improvements include “making improvements to the university’s Family Assistance Center processes and plans, expanding and centralizing the university’s security cameras on campus, implementing a centralized security operations center, upgrading electronic building access and updating door locks on campus.”
“SRMC highlights equally the complexities of such a tragic event on our campus along with the incredible dedication and response by our first responders and staff,” Woodruff added. “I want to again thank each and every one of them for their swift action and care in the immediate hours following the violence, and their ongoing support in the weeks and months that have followed. At the same time, we continue to keep in our hearts the students we lost that night, those injured, the families, and members of our community who were impacted.”
WEST MICHIGAN SECURITY EXPERT QUESTIONS REPORT
Jason Russell, CEO of West Michigan-based Secure Education Consultants, was skeptical of the report.
“It is very cursory, not a lot of in-depth information,” said Russell, who used to be a police officer in Lansing and whose daughter is a Michigan State student but who was off-campus when the shooting happened.
He pointed out that the report is 26 pages. The report for the shooting at Uvalde, Texas, he said, is about 78; the one for Parkland, Florida, was 88; and Virginia Tech’s was more than 200 pages.
“So my initial impression is many this is just a summary,” he told News 8.
He was concerned that not all law enforcement agencies involved were interviewed and said the report had some conspicuous gaps.
“In the recommendations where it talks about what didn’t go well, there’s no talk about the alert system and any delay that it took to get out to kids that there was an incident,” he said.
He pointed out that there was a short period of time between when the first shots were fired at Berkey Hall and when the shooter entered the Union, which is a few buildings down.
“The delay in alerting the campus that there was an attacker on campus while he walks from one building to another and finds an additional victim is something that went wrong, except that we don’t find that in the seven bullet points of things that weren’t done correctly,” Russell said.
He said the report failed to explicitly lay out why there were delays in getting images of the suspects from cameras out to the public, though the report did include some recommendations about streamlining camera systems and training.
“It seemed like they focused as little as they possibly could on the actual incident and tried to fill the report with post-incident issues to kind of fill it out,” Russell said.
He said the report too often suggested the university review a policy rather than providing a recommendation.
Russell did agree with the report’s findings that campus police responded quickly and efficiently to the shooting scenes.
“I think the MSU department and the responding agencies did an admirable job. I think the dispatchers did an amazing job of controlling that situation,” he said.
That being said, he added, “I think there’s always things that can be improved in these situations and MSU missed the opportunity to really examine this.”
—News 8’s Meghan Bunchman reported from Grand Rapids.