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By Tammye McDuff
California’s public colleges have taken seriously the task of planning for mass shootings, although decisions about how to do so are made by individual campuses, administrators and public safety personnel.
In the wake of so many senseless mass shootings, the latest being last week at Northern Arizona University, and with Cerritos College sitting here in our back yard, Hews Media Group-Community News reached out to Tom Gallvan, Chief of the Cerritos College Police Department, to learn what plans his department has formulated.
As of last week, 282 days into the year, there have been 294 mass shootings. Out of the shootings, 92 people were killed or wounded here in California. The shootings statistics are captured in a calendar, drawn from the shootingtracker.com. Shooting Tracker’s defines a mass shooting as three or more people being killed or wounded by gunfire.
“Being a community college, Cerritos is an open campus and open to the public, that presents its own individual set of problem,” said Gallvan. “We are fortunate to have a full service, armed Police Department and on call 24/7.”
Cerritos College always had campus security, however, approximately four years ago a Police Department was added with fully armed, sworn police officers on campus at all times. The department currently has twenty Cadets, which are non-sworn part-time campus employees. Their role is to be additional eyes and presence for the department.
“Whenever there is an incident,” adds Gallvan, “We increase our presence on the inner campus. We make sure officers and cadets are more visible. We patrol more on foot throughout campus and the buildings.”
Should there be a major emergency at the college, the department has been trained in accordance with the Department of Homeland Security [DHS].
DHS website states:
If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises. Be sure to have an escape route and plan in mind. Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow. Leave belongings behind and if possible assist others in an escape and call 911 when you are safe. Should an active shooter be in the vicinity, quickly determine the most reasonable way to protect your own life. Silence your cell phone and/or pager and any source of noise. Dial 911, if possible, to alert police to the active shooter’s location. If you cannot speak, leave the line open and allow the dispatcher to listen.
The first and primary response to an active shooter should be to evacuate, and, if that is not possible, then shelter in place. The main goal, DHS says, is to protect your own life. Only as a last resort, if your life is in imminent danger, should you take action against the active shooter.
“If we had an active shooter,” states Gallvan, “The role of the cadets would be to shelter in place and/or evacuate. Our armed officers would respond and attempt to become the target of the threat keeping the threat away from students and bystanders.”
“The students have a freedom of speech zone located in Falcon Square, where students are allowed to voice their opinions. Obviously that might create problems but we have a multi-cultural student body and they have always remained very cordial,” Gallvan adds “Cerritos College is a very safe campus and has had very few incidents of crimes of violence.”
Gallvan has been on campus for a little over two years. He was an officer for 35 years, 32 years with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
“I retired from the sheriff’s department, but I love law enforcement and love working with people. I thought the school environment would give me a different perspective. I had no idea what I was getting into but Cerritos College is a great place to work.”
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