LA Sheriff’s Department Teams Up with Clinicians to Minimize Campus Threats

In this podcast, three members of LA County Sheriff’s Department discuss the success of their unique threat assessment team which provides services to nine community colleges in the area.

LA Sheriff’s Department Teams Up with Clinicians to Minimize Campus Threats

Pictured left to right: Deputy Sheriff Elias Vasquez, Captain Rodrick Armalin, and former Lieutenant Donald Mueller.

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The potential for campus threats is an essential consideration for all educational institutions, no matter its size, location or the students its serves. That is why regularly conducting threat assessments for all campuses is vital to keeping students, faculty and visitors safe.

While threat assessments are crucial, they are rendered useless if not coupled with the proper services to support at-risk students. That is why the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LACSD) partnered with mental health clinicians in the area to create a brand new, all-inclusive threat assessment program to support a local community college district with campus threats.

Right before the pandemic, Campus Safety’s editor-in-chief Robin Hattersley had the chance to speak to LACSD’s Captain Rodrick Armalin, former Lieutenant Donald Mueller, who is now police chief at Cerritos College, and Deputy Sheriff Elias Vasquez about this initiative dubbed the Higher Education Assessment (HEAT) Team Program.

In 2015, following an increasing number of mass violence incidents on college campuses and in public spaces, LACSD recognized the desperate need to establish this threat assessment team.

Weapons confiscated as a result of threat assessments conducted by the HEAT Team.

“We really wanted to try and do something above and beyond the level of training we are currently doing. Most of us do active shooter response training, how to respond to an active shooter. We want to try and come up with an additional step of that, how we can prevent it in the first place,” Mueller said. “If there are steps we can do to prevent the incidents from ever happening at first, we would save a whole lot more lives than just only response.”

The Sheriff’s Department currently polices the Los Angeles Community College District which is the largest community college district in the nation, consisting of 140,000 students on nine campuses spread out over 800 square miles. Overall, the Bureau consists of 180 personnel who provide all law enforcement and safety services to those campuses.

To supplement those services, the LA County Department of Mental Health teamed up with the department to provide two psychologists to support the HEAT Team free of charge. The department also had two deputies volunteer to undergo extensive mental health training to work alongside the clinicians.

Those individuals work on the team full time and are available to provide services to at-risk students, such as those who may have a mental health condition. The HEAT Team also conducts threat assessments should a concern arise about an individual that is connected to one of the campuses in any way.

During the interview, the trio further discusses what the team does specifically, how it implemented an educational campaign across all campuses to teach students and faculty how to recognize potential threats, and the additional services that it provides, among a myriad of other things.

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About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray
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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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