Last night at 9:57 p.m. the Emporia Police Department responded to a shots fired call at 1325 Merchant St, according to an official press release from the Emporia Police Department. However, it was not until 10:46 p.m. that an Emporia State Emergency alert was sent out, 49 minutes after the police responded.
The alert said, “Emporia Police reported an armed suspect at 1325 Merchant Street at 10:40 p.m.”
“It is longer than what we wanted to be or should be but given the circumstances of what they had they were also involved and so you can’t say ‘wait a minute, we got to stop I have to go send this communication,’” said James Williams, vice president of student affairs.
Chris Hoover, director of police and safety, was not at the scene nor was he on campus at the time of the event.
According to Scott Pearson, Police and Safety communications specialist, Hoover never comes to campus at night.
Hoover declined to comment on the incident.
The officers that arrive at the scene do not send out the emergency alerts, according to Williams.
“There is a call tree,” Williams said. “The call goes into that tree and it goes to one of five folks that then have to get that information and determine if it’s an emergency or not. In this case it was an informational awareness. They (the officers) knew all along where the suspect was so the danger was confined to that location off campus, managed by the City of Emporia Police. We are going to do an after incident review and see where we can improve on the time frame and the communication as such.”
Once the person in the phone tree, such as Williams, is contacted they type up the alert that must contain certain information and be a certain length.
“I get a phone call at 11:30 at night and I’m told this is going on I have to ask several questions, because we don’t want to overuse the alert system,” Williams said. “So by the time I get a phone call and ask several questions that’s already a four to five minute conversation. Then I open the laptop, turn it on, go to the screen, type in the code, get the notice written, send, there’s 10 minutes potentially. So a number of those things are what we’re looking at.”
Both Police and Safety and Emergency Management have moved over to the Division of Student Affairs, according to William.
“It’s the perfect time to sit down and say ‘let’s look at our processes, what’s working, what needs to be tweaked and how do we continue to have that safety and security in the best interest,’” Williams said. “That’s exactly what we’re doing. The emergency manager has been interviewing folks that were on duty last night, getting information. We’ve been working with the chief of police, Chris Hoover, to get information...One of the things we do with new procedure is we’ll try to focus one point so that you have an easy time of getting that information.”
President Allison Garrett was in Dallas during the time of the incident but said this in a tweet in reply to The Bulletin on a question as to why the alerts were sent out late.
“It was little over 40 minutes from call to Emporia PD until alert went out,” Garrett said in her tweet. “We are reviewing how to improve our process.”
“We do need to be aware that a loss of life happened and that’s a tragedy,” Williams said. “I want to make sure that the campus understands it’s recourses. If someone’s got some stress from the incident or the proximity of the incident they are certainly able to reach out to my office and to the counseling center. Everything we do as a university there is an opportunity to review and see what can be improved, this is no different then those aspects.”