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El Centro College Officials Reflect on the Dallas Police Shooting

The majority of the police shooting occurred on El Centro College’s campus.

El Centro College Officials Reflect on the Dallas Police Shooting

The El Centro College panel was the opening keynote for Campus Safety Conference Texas June 12.

Lessons Learned

Staley highly recommends that officials train staff members on handling media inquiries.

“Their first instinct might be to respond [to media questions], but it’s best to have one source handling all the media inquiries,” she explained.

Staley also stressed the importance of staying aware of any videos or photos of the incident that have been shared on social media. She noted the news media views and uses the photos, and it may affect your institution’s message.

For Hannigan, the incident just reinforced something he already knew.

“Training, training, training,” Hannigan said. “We respond to how we’re trained. Law enforcement and former military in the room know what I mean: When [stuff] hits the fan, you’re going to respond how you were trained.”

Hannigan also said providing adequate and proper equipment to officers is crucial.

In general, El Centro officials thought they could have done a better job preparing for the recovery and restoration process.

“We do all these exercises and simulations, but we don’t talk enough about what happens next,” President Adames said.

Learn about the officers who were killed in the attack

El Centro had exterior doors on two sides of the building shot out. Several windows were also shattered. The FBI held the entire building as a crime scene for ten full days after the incident, and agents had even cut out entire portions of walls as evidence.

“We had only thought about the human side [of recovery],” President Adames said. “We hadn’t thought of needing a chemical clean-up crew or everything else.”

Other lessons were mentioned in the panel’s powerpoint and are listed below:

  • It can happen to ANYBODY
  • Settle claims of command and communication before the tragedy
  • Words sometimes don’t work, actions are more effective
  • The media can be a friend and simultaneously a foe
  • The informal support structures are as important as the formal ones
  • Be prepared for everyone’s agenda: administrators, faculty, staff, elected officials and well-intentioned individuals
  • Focus on essentials, allow flexibility in non-essentials (such as relaxing academic policies and deadlines)
  • Have up to date contact lists
  • Have multiple contingency plans
  • Need 24/7 access to your critical systems
  • Information is power
  • People need a sense of control
  • Keep in mind the human side of the long term impact
  • Recovery is a marathon not a sprint

El Centro College’s Path to Healing

When students finally returned to the building, El Centro’s entire leadership team was at each entrance to greet them. Chief Hannigan also made a point to have officers everywhere on campus that day.

Unlike other school shootings, the El Centro shooting had nothing to do with the college (The shooter was angry about recent police shootings of black men).

“Students kept asking ‘Why did this happen to us?’ so it was important to tell students ‘This wasn’t done to us, it just happened in our world.” El Centro Administrator Dr. Chemene Crawford said. “I think that message really helped with recovery.”

On July 27, the college hosted a Reflect and Renewal Ceremony, inviting members of the campus and city community, in an attempt to “close a chapter” and move on. They also launched the #ElCentroStrong campaign.

“It’s important for the rebranding to happen within the first six weeks, because we didn’t want the words ‘El Centro’ and ‘shooting’ to be put together all the time,” Staley said. “We came up with #ElCentroStrong bookmarks, t-shirts, everything you could imagine, and the community response was amazing. The students took it as a sense of pride and promoted that message.”

Members of the El Centro community grew closer through the recovery process, and a video was made to exemplify the meaning of El Centro Strong (included below).

Now, nearly a year after the tragedy, members of the panel still describe El Centro as one big family, and that bond shows no sign of disappearing.

Learn about the officers who were killed in the attack

 

 

 

About the Author

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Zach Winn is a journalist living in the Boston area. He was previously a reporter for Wicked Local and graduated from Keene State College in 2014, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism and minoring in political science.

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