In light of recent violent events in the nearby Houston area, including an armed robbery on campus in October and a mass shooter in the area in late September, members of Rice University Police Department responded to questions about Rice’s protocol for gunmen near campus with assurances that response plans have been well prepared.
RUPD Captain Paul Cordova detailed the training of officers in the department and how they are prepared for shooter threats.
“The Rice University Police Department has training and equipment that allows us to respond immediately to active shooter threats on campus,” Cordova said. “Each officer has received classroom and practical training with equipment that enables us to simulate a real-life situation, including immediate response strategies, formation of small teams and suppression of active threats to the community.”
According to Cordova, officers are not only well armed and trained both offensively and defensively, but they are also trained in first aid and may carry specialized medical equipment. Additionally, he spoke about recently-implemented training procedures.
“This past June, two members of RUPD received ALICE [Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate] training, which is recognized as the most progressive training in dealing with active shooters,” Cordova said.
Cordova also spoke about the active shooter response training class that RUPD provided for students and staff early this semester.
“On Aug. 27, RUPD rolled out these more advanced techniques to students in the first-of-its-kind partnership with residential colleges,” Cordova said. “Approximately 40 students attended and most found it useful and said it built their confidence in being able to effectively deal with such emergencies.”
The training class was originally sponsored by Brown College and led by Hanszen College to sponsor another class to take place on Saturday, Nov. 12.
Brown College President Santiago Avila, a junior, said he believes active shooter response training is an essential skill, especially considering recent events and the state of today’s society. Avila, who attended the training, evaluated the class in more detail and explained why he thought it worked so well.
“The new style of class that RUPD is offering is much more effective than any other training I've encountered,” Avila said. “We were taught how to secure a room and disarm attackers through a variety of simulations. Watching active-shooter presentations can be useful and informative, but actually running through scenarios take it to the next level. I think people were more engaged and feel better prepared.”
Avila also expressed his hopes that the program will be carried out in a similar way in the future.
“I hope that RUPD will continue to offer this training to the colleges.” he said. “I made the training mandatory for my cabinet at the beginning of the fall semester and hope that this continues to be the case in the future.”
Addressing the topic of general concern for campus safety, RUPD Chief Johnny Whitehead analyzed Rice’s emergency notification system, which allows members of the Rice community to receive warnings when serious crime or other emergency situations are determined to pose a threat to those on campus.
While a notification was not issued at the time of the Sept. 26 shootings that took place nearby at Weslayan Street and Bissonnet Street, Whitehead explained that the situation was carefully monitored and not deemed a threat to campus security.
“The scene of this crime is nearly five miles from campus, which is not in the vicinity of campus,” Whitehead said. “However, members of RUPD did monitor the situation and considered whether a notification to the campus was warranted, but we concluded there was never any threat to our community.”
Cordova also emphasized the competency of Rice’s emergency procedure, especially noting RUPD’s useful communication system with other police departments in the area.
“RUPD enjoys a good relationship with area law enforcement agencies,” Whitehead said. “Our radios have local agency frequencies programmed into our radio system and we frequently monitor the Houston Police Department and West University Police channels to remain vigilant to our surroundings. In the event of an active shooter on campus, we could readily call for assistance from neighboring agencies if we need additional personnel.”
Whitehead affirmed RUPD’s overall preparedness and commitment to campus safety, both within the context of active shooter threats and outside of it. “We take seriously our responsibility to keep the Rice community safe,” Whitehead said. “We carefully monitor incidents that may impact our community and make decisions to ensure your safety.”
This is a longer version of an article that appeared in the Nov. 2 print issue of the Thresher.