Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Virginia Tech Conspiracy: VTech to be sued for inaction

Virginia Tech's potential liability "is going to turn on what they knew [about Cho or the initial shootings Monday] and when they knew it," said Brent Bryson, a lawyer.

In 2003, John Fishwick, a Roanoke lawyer, won a $350,000 settlement from the state for the family of an inmate killed at Wallens Ridge, a supermax prison.
Fishwick said Thursday that one avenue for a liability suit could be "a civil rights claim for violations for known constitutional rights." He added, "The standard for these claims is a high standard -- deliberate indifference."

Like Bryson, Fishwick said, "The focus in this case would be what the decisionmakers knew and when they knew it, and whether they knew they were violating the known rights of the victims when they made their various decisions."

Fishwick emphasized that it is premature to speculate about what, if any, liability Virginia Tech or law enforcement officials might have.
"I believe it is too early to evaluate the merits of any claims until a full investigation is complete and all the facts are known," he said. "Like everyone else in our area, I feel tremendous sorrow for the Virginia Tech community."

This is an exciting development as we are finally having some of the most important questions addressed; why didn't they act? Was there deliberate indifference on the part of the authorities?

We can only hope this goes ahead and an impartial,non-system planning corp, investigation takes place.


SERAPH said...


The SERAPH Research Team consisting of education and law enforcement experts has assessed “The Virginia Tech Review Panel Report”, KEY FINDINGS [Chapter II, pages 17-19]

Note: Starting in 2000 the SERAPH Research Team has at the request of members of Congress supplied three reports on school safety.

SERAPH Virginia Tech Report Assessment

The review panel isolated seven critical problems with Virginia Tech’s emergency response, emergency management and administrators’ response.

The reports’ summary states that, “The Emergency Response Plan of Virginia Tech was deficient in several respects”. The following is a list of each issue and the SERAPH response.

1. “It did not include provisions for a shooting scenario.”

Since the Columbine massacre in 1999, police departments across the United States have been training in “active shooter” response. This has been a well established practice for use in public schools.

However our survey of colleges and universities security directors and police chiefs shows that few have had this training. Two reasons were given for this, the first was the cost, administrators did not want to pay for the training and second administrators barred campus security / police administrators from seeking out the training because they did not want a “militaristic campus atmosphere”.

2. “…did not place police high enough in the emergency decision-making hierarchy. The police had to await the deliberations of the Policy Group, of which they are not a member, even when minutes count.”

The report indicates that administrators who had no training in security or police operations micromanaged the security operations of the campus. This is problematic because of the obvious delay it causes in response time and the fact that under Virginia law it is illegal.

Virginia criminal code 18.2-460 A, Obstructing justice: If any person without just cause knowingly obstructs a judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness or any law-enforcement officer in the performance of his duties as such or fails or refuses without just cause to cease such obstruction when requested to do so by such judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, or law-enforcement officer, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

The Policy Group as it relates to police operations on campus is in violation of this law. And from the report it is equally obvious that on the day of the shooting the administrators obstructed the police in their investigation of the original dorm murder and their response to managing the campus with a murder suspect on the loose.

3. “It also did not include a threat assessment team.”

Threat assessment as a science has existed in the United States since the early 1940s. Predication and prevention of violence is a critical aspect of campus security and one that in SERAPH’s experience is seriously lacking on higher education campuses. All Resident Assistants, security / police and department administrators should be trained to identify violent behavior in students, staff and visitors.

4. “The Emergency Response Plan… was out of date on April 16”

An emergency plan is only as good as the data in it and the ability of key personnel to use it effectively. This did not happen at Virginia Tech.

5. “The training of staff and students for emergencies situations at Virginia Tech did not include shooting incidents.”

Training is important for the effective management of an emergency by key personnel. You cannot ask untrained people to do what trained people do.

6. “No security cameras were in the dorms or anywhere else on campus on April 16.”

A lack of systematic monitoring of a campus contributes to crime.

7. “A risk analysis needs to be performed and decisions made as to what risks to protect against.”

A proper security audit is vitally important to campus security. However our survey of security directors / police chiefs indicates that most college administrators will not allow these assessments to be done. Two reasons for this refusal is the fear of liability exposure and the chance that the audit would require changes in management systems.

The Review Panel ironically found,

“That the VTPD statement of purpose in the Emergency Response Plan does not reflect that law enforcement is the primary purpose of the police department.” Again the report indicates that university administrators who had no training in security or police operations micromanaged the security operations of the campus through policies that control the actions of the campus police force.

Lastly, the report found that this attitude was consistent throughout the Virginia college and university community.

“It was the strong opinion of groups of Virginia college and university presidents with whom the panel met that the state should not impose required levels of security on all institutions, but rather let the institutions choose what they think is appropriate. Parents and students can and do consider security a factor in making a choice of where to go to school.”

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