NAU safety team prepared for emergencies
By Joshua Coombs
In response to recent bomb threats in Texas, North Dakota, and Ohio, Northern Arizona University’s (NAU) Campus Safety Adviser Team holds fast in the crux of these issues by diligently monitoring behavior on campus.
As associate vice president of student affairs, Sarah Bickel encounters myriads of issues with students. Among these issues, students displaying peculiar or distressed behavior may result in a possible safety threat.
According to Bickel, Select members from the Campus Safety Advisor Team meet to review information “in the event that a student or other campus community member would behave in a manner considered threatening, violent or disruptive.” Representatives may include personnel from the Office of Student Life, NAU Police, Residence Life, Campus Health, Legal Counsel and other departments on campus when necessary. When a campus community member is behaving suspiciously, members of the Campus Safety Advisor Team convene to share information about the individual. This meeting is set forth to determine a mode of operation that would most efficiently and effectively resolve the situation and prevent further disruption.
Generally, university staff will contact the individual, seeking to determine what support to provide them. Possible assistance would include medical attention, emotional support, working with families, police action and/or removal from the campus and university.
However, the Counseling Services department on campus provides a plethora of support, including short-term psychological counseling, a substance abuse program and consultation in order to achieve emotional stability.
Indications that an individual may be in distress are primarily of academic, behavioral or physical. According to Bickel, signs of academic distress include erratic performance, frequent absences and the exhibition of violence, social isolation or despair in writing or artistic materials.
“Behavioral distress is usually distinguished by the expression of hopelessness, hostility and excessively demanding or dependent behavior,” Bickel said. “Examples of physical distress would include disorganized or slurred speech, deterioration in physical appearance or personal hygiene, and any signs of physical injury.“
Privacy laws protect specific cases, thusly, preventing public disclosure. However, school officials say that occurrences of such serious cases are sparse. As opposed to critical acclaim, most students exhibiting such behaviors are not aware that they are exhibiting them.
“These signs do not necessarily indicate an individual will become violent,” Bickel states. “It is important to realize that these signs can result from many types of problems and it is critical to access professional consultation if an individual exhibits behaviors that create concern.”
Individuals expressing violent behavior may be accompanied with the behavioral tendency to use a deadly weapon.
University officials maintain that possession of a weapon on the NAU campus is prohibited, as well as all land and buildings owned, leased or under the control of NAU. Exceptions to the policy are for weapons carried by law enforcement officers. Incidentally, weapons are allowed if lawfully stored and locked in personally owned motor vehicles, if not visible from outside the vehicle, according to ARS 120781.
Joe Tritschler, Community Relations Officer at NAUPD, upholds that information on suspects retain only a certain amount of validity because the suspect is able to change their appearance from what was originally communicated to police dispatchers after the incident was reported.
“With the recent officer-involved shooting at Virginia Tech, the shooter changed out of the shirt he was wearing when he committed the crime,” Tritschler said. ”This deviation from his documented description might have allowed him to enter the parking structure, in which he committed suicide, unnoticed. Instances like this exemplify how the exchange of information from the caller and police dispatcher will be difficult to discern and act upon as a police officer entering the situation.”
The repercussions of carrying a concealed weapon remain intact, regardless of violent or non-violent intention.
“If you perceive a threat, use your weapon, and hit an innocent by-stander, it needs to be understood that there are consequences,” Tritschler states. “You can justify almost anything by calling it an accident, but it doesn’t mean you won’t be civilly sued.”
NAU’s status as a campus prohibiting the possession of concealed weapons provides a tranquil atmosphere conducive to learning, without the worry of widespread possession of weapons.
If you have an emergency concerning your safety, or that of another, contact Campus Safety at (928) 523 3000. For non-emergencies, contact (928) 523 3611.