Public Safety questions ability to protect students
In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that occurred on Feb. 14 in Parkland, Florida, school security has been at the forefront of the public’s consciousness. In an investigation by The Ticker, it was discovered that Baruch College’s Public Safety, might not be able to adequately protect students in the event of major emergencies like school shootings.
A campus security agent said that in these potentially life-threatening events, Public Safety would be unable to protect students and faculty members due to lack of weapons for protection.
“We don’t have means to protect ourselves. We cannot act against an active shooter,” the source, who chose not to disclose their identity due to lack of authority to speak publicly on the subject, said. The Ticker has reserved the right to refer to the unnamed agent using plural pronouns wherever possible to grant total anonymity.
Since the safety agents do not carry guns, the source said, public safety can only call the New York Police Department to hopefully defuse the situation.
Peter Flores, a former campus security assistant at Baruch, confirmed that officers are unarmed, but attend mandatory active shooter trainings. “We try to simulate it as much as possible,” he said in an interview with The Ticker. In simulations, he said, the officers start to close off entrances and practice proper codes over the radio. Flores left Baruch in December 2017.
The 2017 Baruch Emergency Management Manual specifies what must be done during a possible shooting. “Once aware of an armed intruder, the Director of Public Safety will notify the NYPD immediately, then inform the Vice President for Administration and Finance. The Director will initiate an evacuation or stay in place protocol for designated areas, as judged safest based on available information,” it read. According to the manual, Baruch Public Safety attends mandatory training annually for handling workplace violence, which teaches how to react in active shooter situations.
Public Safety then “gathers information about the incident” by trying to identify the shooter’s location. This information is immediately passed on to armed law enforcement, and “Public Safety personnel are there to support their efforts,” the document read.
The manual also said Baruch offers resources online to prepare both students and Public Safety agents on how to effectively respond in the midst of a shooting. The resources are on Baruch’s Public Safety website, and they include a range of videos and instructions from the Department of Homeland Security.
Baruch’s agents are armed in some circumstances, according to both the anonymous agent and Flores. CUNY authorizes campus peace officers to carry firearms to select CUNY Board of Trustees meetings on the 14th floor of the Newman Vertical Campus.
The officers do not conceal the weapons, and they stand near but do not go through the metal detectors. Flores and the unnamed agent said the guns are for protection in the event that protesters at the meetings escalate to a point of violence.
“In the past there have been incidents where protesters would get violent,” Flores said. “It’s one of those situations where it’s better to be over prepared than under prepared.” He also said that the officers who receive permission to bear firearms inside the building are trained yearly on proper firearm technique.
The campus security officers are organized by tier. Lower-level officers are called campus security associates and upper-level officers are called campus peace officers. CPOs wear the darker-colored blue shirts and bulletproof vests, carry batons and have the power to arrest.
They are also the ones permitted to have firearms if the college president grants them permission, according to Baruch’s 2016 security report, which details crime statistics over the past four years.
The crime statistics for Baruch only go as far as 2016; the 2017 results have not yet been reported, according to Justino Rosado, assistant director of Public Safety at Baruch. In 2016 there was one reported burglary, three liquor law violations referrals, four drug abuse violations referrals and four instances of stalking. These statistics come from recorded data on all on-campus property, which includes the Baruch Residence Hall in addition to the buildings on campus.
The unnamed agent called the trainings that safety agents go through “useless,” because they “rely too much on common sense.” In scenarios where Baruch safety agents would have to respond to instances of theft and alcohol or drugs use on campus, the agent said, “you don’t have to bang your head against the wall to become like us.”
The unnamed agent went through almost two decades of “on-and-off training.” The source said they trained at an external location since they began at CUNY. Training for CSAs lasts for eight hours — a single-day session once a year — according to the unnamed agent. CPOs receive three days of training to account for time spent learning proper pepper spray and baton technique, the source said.
To strengthen the training, the unnamed agent said, all agents should be given bulletproof and knife-proof vests. The agent also said Baruch should invest in metal detectors placed near the turnstiles to better catch incidents of gun-carry into the building.
The source said they feel ill-prepared for the job and the emergency situations that can arise. In the event of a shooting, the source said they would call 911 and “run for it” because of lack of protection.
Baruch’s Public Safety website and supplemental resources do not specify the amount spent training but indicate that “mandatory updated training” on courses like substance abuse, arrest processing and communication techniques are given yearly to all CPOs.