A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA


A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA


A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA


Would Mt. SAC be Prepared for a School Shooting?

Mt. SAC Public Safety building. Photo by Alex Herrera/SAConScene

In a time where gun violence in America seems more prevalent every day, Mt. SAC students deserve to feel that they are safe. The campus’ Public Safety office is making changes to ensure that should such an atrocity arise, they’re as ready as they can be.

Two major shootings occurred on Saturday, June 14. In San Francisco, California, three UPS workers were killed before the gunman committed suicide. In Alexandria, Virginia, a shooter opened fire on a congressional ballgame, and Rep. Steve Scalise, was shot through the hip. Whether terror-related, psychologically-driven, or politically motivated, gun violence is a serious threat that safety officers need contingency plans for.

In an FBI study examining shootings between 2000-2013, there were 160 mass killings. Mass killings are defined as a killing of three or more. In these 160 incidents, 557 were wounded and 486 were killed. Numbers like these are sobering, but also serve as a reminder: it can happen anywhere, no matter how safe.

But are Mt. SAC students prepared for such an event? No formal training or awareness protocol is mandatory for those that attend the densely-populated campus. The most readily-available source of information regarding a shooter is right under most students nose. On the first page after logging into inside.mtsac.edu, under “Active Shooter,” there’s a link that asks “What Would You Do?”, accompanied by Public Safety’s email and an invitation to ask them anything. This link leads to a video titled “Surviving an Active Shooter” provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The video simulates shootings in both a school and work environment. It provides advice such as running immediately if the opportunity presents itself, taking cover, barricading the door to prevent the shooter from entering, and using an improvised weapon as a last resort.

Bob Wren, deputy chief of Mt. SAC’s Public Safety Office, offers a presentation on what to do in a school shooting to students and professors any time they ask. As a former Orange County Sheriff, he began offering his presentation years ago.

“I’ve always said I’ll do it to one person because if it helps that one person at some point in time in their life, then it was absolutely worth it,” said Wren.

His presentation is similar to the video on the campus website, focusing on situational awareness and practicality. If students keep a mental list of exits and escape plans, they have a better chance at survival. They also shouldn’t be afraid to break a window if it’s a matter of life and death.

“I had a lady that I worked with before, I gave a presentation at city hall where she worked and she said she was in the room and she had a window there,” said Wren. “But it was real thick glass. Just a single pane of thick glass. I go, ‘Go out through the window. Haven’t you ever head of Home Depot? Go to Home Depot and buy a $5 hammer, put the hammer in your desk. Something ever happens and you were to smash the window with the hammer, you might cut yourself going out, but you’re not getting shot! And you have a hammer!”

Wren’s main obstacle with the presentation is getting both students and faculty interested. The only time he notices a high turnout is when his audience either receives extra credit, there’s lunch, or some other incentive.

But Wren strives to keep Mt. SAC safe regardless of whether or not students have heard his advice. Deterrence is the major focus. More officers are already patrolling the campus on bicycle so that potentially dangerous people know that they’re omnipresent. Four officers, including Wren himself, are constantly armed in case of emergency. Public Safety will soon have a sort of cop golf car that will enable them to weave through tight spaces and more quickly respond to crises.

“We’ve hired two sergeants, one from a sheriff’s department and one from the Los Angeles Police Department, they’re both armed,” said Wren. “We went from having potentially nobody armed to having four people armed and we’re in the process of hiring. Ran-wise, the next is police officers.”

When asked if this strengthening off the on-campus police force was partially to avoid reliance on the nearby sheriff’s department, Wren explained that it was more math than anything else. Officers already on campus can be immediately react to an emergency and know the layout of the school.

“I know exactly where the library is, I know exactly how to get there, and I’ve already thought in my mind 100 times — if there’s something at the library, how would I get there, how would I approach that,” said Wren. “People coming here from the sheriff’s department, their responsibilities are widespread so they would need somebody to tell them how to get to the library. So that’s the idea behind it. So it’s not necessarily dependent because law enforcement is interdependent. No law enforcement agency can handle everything every time, they work together.”

Sergeant Mark C. Saldecke of the Walnut/Diamond Bar Sheriff’s Station has had difficulty in the past working with Mt. SAC’s Public Safety officers, but said that relations are improving.

“My volunteers on patrol go do patrol checks and keep an eye on things, they’re extra eyes and ears for the department,” said Saldecke. “Over the years they’ve been told, well, we don’t want you at Mt. SAC. I would say overall we have a good relationship now.”

Saldecke does have concerns about the students themselves. He’s had trouble in the past since the students are adults and don’t always listen to police. Some students don’t pay attention to their surroundings and even put themselves in precarious situations. The amount of students and the size of the campus could also be an issue should a shooting occur.

“When you have a campus with like 40,000 students just that fact alone makes it a, in police jargon, pain in the ass, because that’s a lot of people,” said Saldecke. “At our station at any given time we’re probably fielding maybe 12 to 15 deputies, out working patrol. So even with 12 or 15 deputies a significant incident at Mt. SAC is gonna take all of our resources and then we’re gonna have to put the call out to have units from San Dimas station from Industry station. So it could be a nightmare, a logistical nightmare.”

While Saldecke feels confident that the sheriffs could assist Public Safety during a crisis, he still has suggestions for the campus. He said more officers should be hired and the communication between the city needs to be increased. From Saldecke’s point of view, colleges seem to only feel responsible for their students while they’re on campus, and stop caring once they’re off.

William Scroggins, Mt. SAC’s president, has plans both in motion and in the making that may prevent or help to mitigate emergencies. Planned drills will be happening this summer, an incident command structure is in place, and a new alert system is currently being retrofitted into the classrooms.

“We have what’s called the Alertist system in the design technology building that will be completed next spring,” said Scroggins. “All of the rooms in there will have that Alertist system. We’re gradually going to implement that system throughout the campus. It’s a little box that could be communicated through the fiber-optic network. It can also be radio controlled in case the fiber-optic network goes down. It has text messages, it has voice and sound capabilities. And for those who can’t hear it has a flashing light. It has adaptations for disabled people to be able to be able to receive the message. We’ve also done some facility work for example, we’re replacing the door handles with handles that have a push button lock on the inside.”

Scroggins is working with the school to change over from a security guard system to sworn officer police department. More rigorous training, the authorization to use appropriate levels of force, and awareness of students’ rights are benefits that are supposed to come with this change.

These additions seem welcome, and may allay the fears of some faculty and students. Charles Edwards, a photography professor at Mt. SAC, doesn’t feel adequately prepared to shepherd his students to safety if a shooting happened.

“I feel rather inadequate about that,” said Edwards. “I know that there are guidelines for evacuating a building and I couldn’t tell you which end of the building to get out of. From my understanding from other schools that I’ve taught at that you take your role book with you and confirm that every one of your students has gone out and vacated the building with you. But in terms of being informed by campus safety, I don’t think they’ve really adequately informed me of that.”

Jasmine, 20, Physiology and Business, has been at Mt. SAC for two years and doesn’t feel prepared for an emergency.

“I don’t really know what I would do,” said Jasmine. “I  mean as far as myself I would really want to leave but that’s not really something that would be smart to do. So I think I’d just wait and follow the instructions of my professor and the authorities that are on campus.”

While Wren, Saldecke, and Scroggins seem to know what actions need to be taken and have plans moving forward, students and faculty alike would benefit from a primer in survival tactics. Whether Wren’s presentation must be made mandatory or come with a lunch and extra credit, the people at Mt. SAC need to feel safe.

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