Security Expert: Former Secret Service Agent, Presidential Protection
Virginia Tech Campus Shooting Incident: The Aftermath
A college campus, by nature is an open environment, where students and visitors can come and go freely, almost without restriction. There is no absolute blueprint for school, campus or facility security. Each site and environment usually has their own specific individual idiosyncrasies and issues.
Security experts attempt to develop and seek security solutions with minimal impact and inconvenience, with as minimal an impact to the social environment as possible. Their focus is to enhance security efforts, attempting to balance openness and free access with the need for monitoring and with reasonable limits on access.
Many comments have been made and many fingers have been pointed. Some questions sweeping across the nation and fueled by the media are:
• Should guns be banned and outlawed?
• Was this senseless massacre foreseeable and preventable?
• Did the Campus Security and Police react appropriately?
• What can we do to prevent this incident from occurring in the future?
• How can we protect ourselves from similar threats?Vital and instrumental government agencies in Virginia, the school medical department at Virginia Tech were prevented from sharing information by legal restrictions, while others who could have helped, just failed to do so, resulting in critical information deficits within agencies who could have intervened.
Law enforcement and security professionals have developed matrices for identifying potential violent behavior for several years. Unfortunately predicting violent behavior is not an absolute science. The media did a great job informing all of us of Cho Seung-Hui’s past unusual and bizarre behavior. Monday morning quarterbacking is easy. The question is this; did the critical decision makers have sufficient information relating to Cho-Seung-Hui’s behavior prior to the shooting incident? Obviously not! Given the facts which have emerged after the fact, most individuals, professional or not, would have no difficulty in concluding he was a potential threat and a time bomb waiting to explode.
The warning signs, red flags and clues were there. This occurrence is unfortunately, all too similar. As in 9-1-1, in almost every past school violence incident, as well as in this incident at Virginia Tech, there were social, governmental and institutional failures and restrictions which allowed this incident to play out. Once again, privacy issues and bureaucratic restrictions prevented agencies, entities and persons who had bits of relevant information, to assemble, compare, and examine for patterns and indications of potential violence and to implement an intervention and possibly preventing Cho Seung-Hui from murdering the 32 Virginia Tech students and professors before taking his own life. Unfortunately, there were and are no sufficient mechanisms in place and the problem is compounded by the fact many large organizations, institutions, schools, governmental entities, and corporations, lack the training and experience with which to handle this type of situation. These incidents will continue to occur and plague us until we do something about it. Creating “gun free zones” and adding armed Police and Security officials to the equation are not the answer. Preventing “honest” and “good” people from owning and possessing guns is not the answer. If we do that, the only the “criminals” will possess guns – and then where will we be?
In conclusion, “the signs were there, but no one saw them” – is an all too familiar occurrence. The truth is usually there were too many people looking. Unfortunately, they are usually people not trained to identify the aberrant behavior and escalate it. In addition, security policies announcing more stringent measures and posture without mechanisms to support and ensure the successful execution of that security posture are senseless and non-effective.
Despite the fact we live in a overly litigious society, the solution to the issue of school violence must eventually come down to, we, our school administrators and officials, must do all that we can to solicit our legislators to change laws that specifically restrict and prevent our schools and society to establish and implement measures which will allow our school administrators, relevant agencies and individuals, the ability to collect, coordinate and evaluate the available information concerning an individual student’s “behavior” in its totality. We must give our school faculty, administrators and relevant agencies the ability to pro-actively act in the best interest of the school society and our society as a whole and not prohibit their actions due to fears of legal reprisals and consequences. The system as it current exists is self-defeating.
Joseph A. LaSorsa, CPP
(U.S. Secret Service – ret.)
Security Expert and Consultant
J.A. LaSorsa & Associates
1645 SE 3rd Ct., Suite 102
Deerfield Beach, FL 33441