Our View: Police act quickly; alert system lags behind

DKS Editors

On Wednesday night around 8:30 p.m., a student shot a 9 mm Ruger gun during a dispute with two female students in a parking lot near Bowman Hall. After fleeing with a gunshot wound to his left hand from his own weapon, the suspect took the gun in a backpack to Johnson Hall before seeking medical care and his subsequent arrest at Robinson Memorial Hospital in Ravenna.

The campus was locked down and students were told to “shelter in place” as police from 10 agencies, including Portage County S.W.A.T., searched the immediate area and investigated several buildings, including the Business Administration Building and Bowman Hall.

The police response Wednesday night was exceptional. At a press conference Thursday morning, President Lester Lefton credited the police for preparing themselves during the past four years with a crisis action plan.

Kent State Police Chief John Peach also believed those on campus responded appropriately, saying at the press conference, “students and faculty came together in a seamless way to the point where it seemed staged, and that’s how well it worked.”

We also credit the police for preparing and executing a plan so well when an incident occurred. The work they did last night can only be accomplished with extensive planning and preparation, and we commend the police and university for taking the time to develop such a plan.

However, the university’s Flash Alert system did not work as effectively as it could have.

The initial alert notifying students a “shelter in place” advisory for Kent’s main campus was in effect was sent around 8:50 p.m. via text.

After about two hours, a text alert was sent out around 10:46 p.m. that read, “The shelter in place advisory has been lifted for the entire Kent Campus.”

Then, around 11:02 p.m., another text alert was sent out saying those in the Business Administration Building should continue to shelter in place until police evacuated them.

This discrepancy about when the campus was safe again is unacceptable. Students within the Business Administration Building weren’t sure if it was safe to move about, and this is an issue that could have been costly to students.

This miscommunication between Kent State’s police department and University Communications and Marketing, which is responsible for Flash Alerts, could have potentially put people in serious danger, if the campus were in fact not clear.

If all parties involved cannot effectively communicate what is going on, it is easy for the university’s action plan to break down, no matter how seamless the plan might be.

Communication issues deepen when text, emails and Web posts are sent minutes apart. It is essential that the whole Kent State community can get information as quickly as possible, which means those who aren’t signed up for text alerts should be able to get the information at the same time in a different form, not have to wait — in this case, it was approximately 40 minutes between the first text and the first email.

Regardless of where the complication comes from — whether it be solely communication or issues with cell towers and timing — the university needs to address this issue to make sure students know what is going on and know how to keep themselves safe.

We urge the university to evaluate this issue as soon as possible so that if a similar situation were to occur in the future, students would be the safest they could be.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.