Michigan State Releases Mass Shooting After-Action Report
The independent review praises MSU Police for its initial response while outlining shortcomings and suggested improvements.
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University released findings of an independent after-action review of its response to a Feb. 2023 campus shooting that claimed the lives of three students and wounded five others.
MSU Interim President Teresa Woodruff on Tuesday released the 26-page report, prepared by Security Risk and Management Consultants (SRMC), which details findings and recommendations to improve campus security and strengthen future responses to emergencies.
“This report is a critical next step in our ongoing commitment to ensuring MSU is a safe place for all who come to our campus,” said Woodruff. “It provides concrete recommendations for strengthening campus safety and reinforces our efforts are on the right track.”
Notably, the firm commended the initial response of MSU police officers, calling it “appropriate, timely and correct.”
“We believe the initial response by MSU police and other police agencies was efficient and effective. The response in no way contributed to the prolongation of the incident, nor did it contribute in any way to additional loss of life,” reads the report. “Using prior training, officers understood their roles in locating, identifying, and eliminating the deadly threat.”
The report also outlines several shortcomings and suggests improvements for 14 areas related to both response and recovery, including public safety department policies and procedures, officer safety and equipment, leadership coordination and collaboration, interagency memorandums of understanding (MOUs), emergency medical and psychological care, first responder wellness and mental health, and victim and witness support, among others.
Security Technology Improvements
The report’s recommended security improvements largely include video surveillance and access control. The campus’ Security Operations Center (SOC), which gives police the ability to monitor cameras and systems in real-time, should be constantly staffed by three to four people, the firm recommends.
The review also suggests upgrading the software used in the SOC from Siemens SiPass to Genetec Synergis, a switch that MSU Deputy Spokesperson Dan Olsen said is already underway. The software will allow for a campus “emergency lockdown function” which locks all doors connected to the system when activated.
Furthermore, the review suggests that MSU develop a plan to convert all new cameras to the Genetec platform and that MSUPD ask local businesses and residents to provide access to their private cameras if they “provide views beneficial to MSUPD.”
Five months prior to the shooting, faculty raised concerns to the MSU administration over a lack of lockable doors, State News reports. Marco Díaz-Muñoz, an assistant professor whose classroom was the first to be targeted during the shooting, said he could not lock his classroom door from the inside and that he and his students pulled on the handle to prevent the shooter from entering.
In the weeks following the shooting, MSU announced it would update 1,300 classrooms with “an appropriate lock system” by the fall 2023 semester. The review determined that MSU has updated 63% of classroom locks to thumb-turn style locks which allow staff and students to lock doors mechanically. SRMC notes, however, that this does not allow doors to automatically lock if the campus goes into an emergency lockdown and suggests a “storeroom function” lock that could connect to MSU’s emergency lockdown function.
Vice President for Public Safety and Chief of Police Marlon Lynch told State News that while he is open to the suggested lock system, the current thumb-turn style locks “complete the task” of improving access control.
“At the time, we didn’t have a recommendation and wanted to get started on some of the initiatives as soon as possible,” he said.
Emergency Response Improvements
The report found a lack of consistent communication with the campus community during the shooting, suggesting additional emergency messages or updates should have been considered given the extended time the campus was in lockdown. Lynch told State News that updates were sent eight times or roughly every half hour and that the time gap should be decreased to every 15 minutes for future events. The review also found a lack of command and control when directing firefighters, EMS, and the press to areas where they waited to be deployed or given press updates.
The review also notes several successful areas of communication, including between MSU Police, the Ingham County Sheriff’s Deputies, and East Lansing Police.
“Police officers, utilizing prior training for active shooter events, were able to seamlessly and immediately deploy into a response mode appropriate for the situation,” the review reads.
It also praised the Ingram County Regional Dispatch Center for its initial handling of 911 calls, noting it “appropriately managed the influx of emergency calls related to the incident, including coordinating and dispatching fire and medic units as well as outside agencies.”
SRMC noted in its report that while some members of the MSU community sought to help during the incident, it “only added to the chaos.” In particular, said the firm, the Board of Trustees “wanted to help but became involved in the incident beyond the customary role and expectations of a governance board during an emergency.” Additional community members who “self-deployed” during the emergency included MSU staff and community providers, counselors/mental health professionals, and clergy.
The report also notes the school must take control of self-dispatched police officers “to avoid interagency confusion and public reports of unknown people with guns on and around the campus.” Lynch told State News there was a staging area where officers not affiliated with MSUPD first convened and coordinated before responding to the emergency.
The report also highlights that the school’s Family Assistance Center, a designated area for families to connect and for MSU to deliver updates, was “without the appropriate leadership and organization necessary to manage during the crisis.” It recommends a security detail be assigned to ensure only authorized people are given access, and that a credentialing system or list of persons specifically authorized to enter be used.
While the report praised MSU police officers’ response to the incident, it recommends MSU continue to hire police officers “to reach the authorized level of 75 total officers.” The department currently employs about 60-64 officers.
“This is important to assure that MSU Department of Public Safety uniformed Patrol Operations are sufficiently staffed to handle routine, and priority calls for service,” the report says.
Woodruff said she and the MSU executive leadership team are reviewing the report in detail to determine additional actions on the report’s recommendations and findings.
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