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Public Safety’s role in times of crisis


A simple text message sent fear rolling through the Widener University community last Monday, Jan. 20. The message, stating that a student was shot outside of the college’s gymnasium, was sent around 8:45 p.m. as the extended Martin Luther King Holiday weekend was coming to an end.

The student, who was allegedly targeted by the shooter according to Chester police, was shot by an unknown culprit while sitting in his car in the parking lot of the Schwartz Athletic center.

According to ABC News reports, the University’s campus safety, the equivalent of Cabrini’s public safety,  was notified as soon as the shooting occurred and began the necessary procedures to maintaining security for the rest of campus.

Any college that does not have their own police force has some form of campus security department. At Cabrini, the primary purpose of public or campus safety is to control and protect the campus community, according to Director of Cabrini’s Department of Public Safety, Creig Doyle.

In times of emergencies such as the Widener shooting, public safety is meant to “be liaison for police with college administration and the students,” Doyle said. Since they are not the police, public safety is not meant to take direct action.

A common misconception that is often pinned on campus security that is not a police force is that they are the law. Although they do uphold order on campus, they still need to follow the instructions given to them by external assistance when they are faced with a crisis.

When asked how Cabrini’s public safety is meant to respond to these situations, Doyle responded by saying that an incident command system is put in place which “is run by Radnor emergency responders, so police and the fire department.” The public safety officers then “take our instructions from the incident commander.”

Therefore, public safety is meant to keep the college contained in order to ensure that students remain safe and do so to the best of their ability. As stated by Doyle, Chester police were slightly misleading in stating that the campus was on lockdown. In fact, it is not possible to actually lockdown a college or university. That phrasing was only meant for schools with grades kindergarten to 12th grade.

When a dangerous situation occurs similar to a shooting, it is important for students to be aware of what is happening and work with public safety. It is imperative for all students and all members of the Cabrini community to sign up with the Emergency Notification System to remain up to date on campus happenings in the event of an emergency.

Utilizing the Emergency Notification System is the initial step in protecting a campus and is therefore essential to the safety of all.

Emily Arentzen

About Emily Arentzen

Sophomore communication and English double major. I am an admissions student ambassador and student worker in Faculty Support.

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