By Solomon White
Students running behind a police officer across a playground, brave teachers huddling close with students, crying parents reaching out to their children. These scenes are all too familiar, and it seems school shootings are growing more common.
The Alamo Colleges Police Department is responsible for preventing such tragedies and maintaining the peace on district campuses.
At the entrance to Loftin Student Center is a sign that reads: “Pursuant to section 30.06. penal code (trespass by holder of a license to carry a concealed handgun) a person licensed under subchapter H, chapter 411 government code (concealed handgun law) may not enter this property with a concealed handgun.”
These signs inform people with a concealed handgun license that they are not permitted to enter buildings with a handgun.
“Somebody who is going to break the law doesn’t care about the signs,” Chief Don Adams said.
License holders are allowed to legally carry a handgun in their vehicles and on the campus grounds.
In cases of assault, district police are responsible for stopping the dispute.
“Our job is to make sure that peace is maintained.
So when that happens, that’s a disturbance of the peace,” Adams said.
Professors are responsible for handling classroom disruptions, Adams said.
If an event escalates, professors may call police to intervene.
A civilian legally carrying a gun is an effective means of self-defense, Adams said. However, there are limits to when and where a person can carry a concealed handgun.
“The key, if you are going to own a weapon, is to be familiar with it, practice with it, know how it works, understand that it’s not a toy. It’s designed to do one thing. Respect it,” he said.
Officers are allowed to carry handguns into campus buildings.
Every officer goes through training for about 35 weeks with extensive background checks and psychological evaluations before being issued a service weapon, deputy Chief Joe Pabon said.
“When you go into a law enforcement agency, they have yearly qualifications and training that they do with their weapons. It’s not just something they do while they’re at the academy. Every year, we have to qualify with our weapon,” he said.
It’s a common misconception that a civilian can visit the closest gun store and purchase an automatic machine gun, Adams said. Owning a fully automatic weapon requires a federal firearms license.
In the case of an active shooter on campus, the district officer’s primary course of action is to stop the shooter by any means necessary, Adams said.
All attempts at evacuating to safety the premises are the responsibilities of the students and faculty, he said.
“We go after him, that is our objective,” Adams said.
“We go right to the shooter and stop him,” Adams said.
The district police have never had to contend with an active shooter.
Students can help make the campus safer by being aware of their surroundings and reporting any suspicious behavior.
“Those who are here to get their education, or for legitimate reasons need to take a little bit of personal responsibility for their safety, be aware of their surroundings and report anything that’s suspicious or out of touch,” Adams said.
“If the hair on the back of your neck stands up, it stands up for a reason.”
Report any suspicious behavior immediately.
A student guide to personal safety, strategies of behavioral intervention, can be downloaded at http://www.alamo.edu/uploadedFiles/NLC/Website_Assets/Files/Department/Student_Services/SOBI-employee-student-guide.pdf.
Students with evening classes who feel uneasy about walking through dark parking lots can call the dispatcher at 210-485-0099 for a police escort. This service is also offered during the day.
“Safety is everybody’s business,” Adams said. “We rely on y’all, our community.”
Adams suggested students follow the “Three P’s: partnership, prevention and problem solving.”
“We’re partners in this. We’re here so you can pursue your goals,” he said. “Our responsibility in this is to create a safe environment where you can do that.”
For non-emergencies, call the dispatcher at 210-485-0099.
For emergencies, call 210-222-0911.