Editor's Desk: Sitting on the Sidelines Won’t Cut It Anymore

I’m always amazed at the number of armchair quarterbacks who are out there. You know the type: They never get involved in any organization or with any events, yet they are the first to complain and give advice when something happens that they don’t like.

Others seethe in silence, quietly resigning themselves to the role of “victims” and accepting untenable situations. Sadly it seems that in every industry, there is a certain percentage of individuals who prefer to just sit back and let others do all of the work.

My response to these people? Get involved. Now more than ever, the campus community and the nation need you. The Virginia Tech tragedy this April, as well as the spate of deadly shootings that occurred last fall in Nickel Mines, Pa., Bailey, Colo., and Montreal have all caught the attention of government officials who are now in the process of making decisions that will most likely directly affect you, your budget and your campus.

If our industry doesn’t get involvement from more individuals on the local, state, regional and federal levels, legislation could be passed that might spell disaster for universities, schools and hospitals. Poorly crafted laws could actually make campuses less safe and make your jobs even more difficult.

For example, a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate one week after the Virginia Tech shootings would have mandated that an alert be issued to campus constituents no later than 30 minutes after an emergency. The term “emergency” was overly broad and would have caused confusion.

Additionally, the money and manpower needed to implement the 30-minute required response time would have probably taken precious resources away from activities needed to respond to the initial emergency. Another possible result would have been an increase in false alarms, thus rendering emergency alert systems less effective.

Fortunately, due to the good work of some of our industry’s associations and dedicated individuals, the 30-minute response requirement appears to no longer be on the table.

But without the input from our industry, would the bill’s backers have ever known this mandate would cause more harm than good? Probably not – and we shouldn’t expect them to know. That’s why those of you who are directly involved in campus safety and security need to participate in the political process or at the very least support others who are doing this work.

You understand the intricacies of protecting campuses. It’s time to put your expertise to good use beyond your university, school and hospital. And I’m not talking about just on the federal level; states and local governments are having similar discussions about improving campus safety. If you haven’t contacted them already, they need to hear from you or an organization in which you are a member.

So where can you begin? Association involvement, whether it’s local, state, regional or federal, is a good start. Writing or E-mailing your local congressional representative is also helpful. Visit www.senate.gov, www.house.gov or www.congress.org to obtain information on the lawmakers in your area. And don’t forget about your city, county and state governments.

Now is the time to act. Otherwise, the campus law enforcement community will be forced to implement laws that might not be in the best interest of our campuses or for public safety in general. And everyone knows that, unlike football players who only risk losing a game, campus law enforcement can’t afford to fumble.

Robin Hattersley Gray is executive editor of Campus Safety magazine and can be reached at robin.gray@bobit.com.

For the unabridged version of this article, please refer to the July/August 2007 issue of Campus Safety magazine. To subscribe, go to https://secure2.bobitweb.com/campussafetymagazine/subscribe/.

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About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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