New threat reporting process, safety commission among UArizona security changes

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Chris Richards/University of Arizona

University of Arizona leaders, during a briefing on Friday morning, detailed a host of administrative and physical changes that have already been made or are underway to improve campus safety.

Those changes include the formation of a Safety Advisory Commission, made up of university and Tucson community members, and the activation of the university's Incident Command System, which will guide the process to implement recommendations laid out in a report by the independent PAX Group to make campus safer.

The report, released last month, was commissioned after the Oct. 5 on-campus shooting death of Thomas Meixner, head of the Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences.

The briefing on Friday morning included University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins, Steve Patterson, the university's new interim chief safety officer, and 17th U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona, Laureate Professor of Public Health.

The briefing aimed to provide an update about campus safety following the PAX report's release and comes after months of meetings Robbins has had with many university groups, he said.

"Across all of these meetings one thing is clear: Our faculty want to make this university better and are eager to roll up their sleeves to drive improvement together," he said. "I know the same is true of our staff and many supporters in the community, as well as our students, and I am eager to continue this work."

The new Safety Advisory Commission, Robbins said, will include students, staff and faculty – including those who served on the General Faculty Committee on University Safety for All – and will directly advise Patterson in implementing recommendations from the PAX report.

University leaders, Robbins added, are also working to bolster the Threat Assessment and Management Team, or TAMT, which is made up of leaders from across the university. TAMT has recently created a charter, conducted multi-day threat assessment training for its members, and created an assessment process to effectively evaluate and respond to threats.

The TAMT website includes an improved incident reporting form where members of the university community can report threatening or concerning incidents. The form asks for the reporter's name, contact information and brief details about the incident.

Patterson said he reads all incident reports and will respond to all who make them.

"I can assure you that any inquiry or referral that is completed within the TAMT site there goes to me, and I look at all of them," he said. "My goal is, I will reach back to everybody, sometimes it is via email, but I try every time to make a phone call."

Robbins also said threats can be reported to unit supervisors, such as department heads or college deans. He stressed that "any and all" threats or concerning incidents should be reported.

"It's always better to be safe, and so any reports that come in will be taken seriously and acted upon," he said.

Other changes that have been made or are now in progress include:

  • The University of Arizona Police Department will now report to Patterson, moving from its current reporting structure in the Office of Business Affairs. The change will be effective May 1.
  • Locks are being installed on all classroom doors, which is expected to be completed by Aug. 13, before the start of the fall semester. Instructions and other emergency guidance will be posted in all classrooms.
  • Exterior keyless access systems will be installed on 28 remaining buildings as soon as possible, which will allow campus to be locked down within one minute.
  • Duress buttons are being installed in several high-traffic areas in colleges and student areas, allowing users to notify UAPD in an emergency.
  • Automated external defibrillators – used to help people in cardiac arrest – and Stop-the-Bleed Kits will be installed in all campus buildings.

Robbins said the safety briefings will be held every other week or as needed to provide new information to the university community. The briefings are streamed live via YouTube.