IMPERIAL — When asked a theoretical question, “Is my son or daughter safe on campus?” Lennor Johnson, vice president of student affairs at Imperial Valley College, replied, “Yes.”
About a week prior to the start of the fall semester, a subject making threats against personnel was arrested within 55 minutes, according to Lt. Jimmy Duran of the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office. Four years ago, it took six hours to take a similar subject into custody.
The swift response by law enforcement officers may well have been attributed to IVC administration’s warpath against any form of violent threats to students, faculty, and personnel.
IVC has updated its violent threat protocols, added classroom security measures, enhanced collaboration with law enforcement agencies and first responders — including medical personnel and fire fighters — and added gunshot detectors.
Furthermore, the community college encourages students, faculty and personnel to follow a crisis protocol of “Run, Hide, and Fight,” said Victor Torres, dean of student affairs and enrollment services.
“We focus on our student’s and faculty’s safety,” said Johnson. Last year, he said an active shooting drill was held at the college. The whole campus was shut down with law enforcement officers on site. A debriefing ensued after the drill. “We are still trying to refine our emergency response process.”
Johnson, Lt. Duran, Torres and and Bill Gay, IVC’s public information officer, met with The Desert Review for an interview about campus safety, a grave issue that has plagued the nation over threats and actual mass shootings, not only on academic campuses but at events where a large number of people are gathered.
IVC’s Fall 2019 Class Schedule, August 19-December 14, 2019, stated “IVC has an annual full-time enrollment population of nearly 8,000 students.”
The campus has two groups that actively keep track of potential violent threats. The Facility Emergency Response and Safety Committee is composed of students, faculty, and administrators. The Students of Concern Team identifies and checks the progress of students and personnel who may have a history that will be of concern to the campus, according to Torres.
Should there be threats, the campus population can be reached by mass texts and emails. Cell phone numbers and emails are required from students when they enroll at the IVC.
In addition to parking patrols who drive security golf carts, a dedicated armed deputy sheriff will be present during campus hours and will have jurisdiction on criminal activities.
About six years ago, a deputy sheriff was assigned to IVC for on-campus detail. The result was promising because the number of reported criminal activities was significantly reduced by the mere presence of the law enforcement officer, according to Lt. Duran.
According to Johnson, the IVC hired a full time campus safety officer who starts in two weeks. The new hire, a retired deputy sheriff with experience in community college campus security, will lead the emergency response team, Johnson said.
Should there be any perceived, potential danger or talks of imminent threat, students are encouraged to call 9-1-1, said Lt. Duran.
At the conclusion of the interview, Johnson was again asked, “Do you feel safe here on campus?” to which he replied with confidence, "Yes, and every student should feel safe.”