Several incidents in Farmville and on campus have prompted some concern among students about campus safety. Here are answers to some of those questions.
What happens when police get called to an incident on campus?
On-duty officers are dispatched to the scene of the incident and immediately begin an investigation that includes, among other procedural steps, identifying whether there is an ongoing threat to campus safety. In the event an ongoing threat to campus safety is verified, the LUPD and university public information officer will issue a timely warning. In the event there is no ongoing threat to safety, the responding officers continue their investigation.
Who decides when a warning is sent to students?
We are required by law—and believe that it is the right thing to do—to issue a timely warning to the campus community when there is a verified, ongoing threat to campus safety. Police make that determination, and generally the university public information officer sends that warning.
What is a verified threat to campus safety?
A verified threat is a report of potentially criminal behavior that meets a specific set of criteria: it must be 1) confirmed to be true and 2) ongoing. Both criteria must be met in order to trigger a timely warning being sent to campus.
Why are communications about police activities sometime vague?
Details cannot be released unless they are verified and do not impede with any potential criminal investigation. In some cases, this greatly limits the information we can pass to students. While that’s frustrating—often, it’s frustrating for police and administrators as well—it’s a necessary part of the process.
Some of my friends are talking about a man with a gun at Longwood Village last week. How was that not a verified threat to campus safety?
In that case, police received a report of a person with a gun at Longwood Village. An officer was dispatched to the scene, and quickly determined that the person of interest had left Longwood property. Security camera footage confirmed his departure, and the officer determined there was no ongoing threat to campus security. The incident continued to be investigated, and the person of interest confirmed to be back in Northern Virginia, where he resided.
A few days later there was a shooting near town that left an officer dead. Why wasn’t that a verified threat to campus safety?
There are a lot of rumors about that incident, but many are unfounded. There was never a threat to campus safety—the Piedmont Regional Drug and Gang Task Force, as part of an ongoing investigation, executed a search warrant at a house near town. The person inside the house opened fire on police, resulting in his own and an officer’s death. It is a tragic situation that worried many people in town and on campus. Virginia State Police was the lead department at the incident, and controlled what information could be released, and when. VSP did verify there was no threat to campus safety, which was communicated to the campus community that evening.
Sometimes it seems like a warning should be sent out when it isn’t. What is Longwood hiding from students?
Sometimes the lack of a timely warning can seem like the university is intentionally withholding details of an incident from the student body. That’s never the case, for a few important reasons.
First, you’ve placed your trust in us to keep you safe. That’s something we take extremely seriously, and train extensively for. The LUPD is comprised of highly trained officers whose job it is to assess threats to campus safety and deal with them properly.
When we say student safety is a top priority, we mean it. We have a veteran and full-time police force led by a 45-year veteran of law enforcement that consistently wins accolades for its record of protecting students. These are sworn officers of the law, also deputized into the Farmville PD and Prince Edward Sheriff’s Department.
Lastly, it simply doesn’t make sense to intentionally withhold information from the community we have a responsibility to protect. The consequences of such actions could be disastrous.
What if I have further questions or concerns about campus safety?
LUPD Chief Bob Beach is always open to talking with students about their concerns. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and SGA is hosting a town hall meeting about campus safety on Wednesday at 6 p.m. Administrators and LUPD will answer any questions you may have.