Reposted from Total Security Daily Advisor
While mass shooting attacks in public places, offices, and on K–12 schools and college campuses are frequently in the news and more visible, a recent shooting at a city library offers a reminder of how these public facilities are vulnerable, because they can’t really pick their customers.
On August 28, 2017, a 16-year-old suspect walked into the Clovis-Carver, NM, public library and shot and killed two employees and wounded four others. He was arrested by police and gave them no motive for the attack. Like the June 2015 shootings at the Methodist Episcopalian Church in Charleston, SC, which were done by 21-year-old killer Dylan Roof, these incidents appear to be committed by depressed, disturbed young people with no connection to the organization or the people inside it at the time. These are “statement” murders, where the killer is attempting to show the world he is hurting, angry, or wanting to be recognized, even in a highly negative way.
Libraries, like other public places, can’t really pick who comes inside or controls their behavior, until it violates their code of conduct or breaks the law. Security officers are rare in most of the 99,000 libraries in the U.S., and the police presence is usually only there when they are called. Library staffers know that they deal with the homeless, mentally ill patrons, gang members, thieves, and drug takers and sellers. They often don’t know who these people are until they act out and by then, they can create fear, cause damage, or drive other members of the public away because they don’t feel the library is a safe place anymore. Like a church or other location that invites the public, library employees don’t know who may be armed with a gun or knife until that person displays a weapon.
Libraries with the best success for keeping patrons and staff safe follow these security guidelines:
- They have a posted code of conduct, which is visible in many parts of the facility and clearly spells out the rules of appropriate behavior for all patrons.
- They encourage their staffs to be firm, fair, consistent, and assertive when dealing with all patrons, but especially those who pose a security threat.
- They use proprietary or hire contract security companies to provide security officers, if not full-time, then to work during the busiest times of the day.
- They empower and encourage staff to call the police for those situations where a law enforcement presence is needed to enforce the law, preserve the peace, or make arrests for drug possession, theft of library or other patrons’ properties, fighting, panhandling, stalking behaviors, or making threats to staff or other patrons.
- They complete security incident reports to give to the library leadership, or the city or county attorneys for their agency, or to the police, to help document a pattern of a patron’s behavior over a span of time. This makes it easier to help the library get a civil restraining order against certain people who have assaulted or threatened staff or other patrons.
- The staff pays attention to the possible presence of weapons or firearms carried by patrons into the library and discusses when and if to call the police to investigate.
- They have trained their staff to follow the run-hide-fight national protocol for an active shooter or mass attacker. (In the Clovis shooting, the perpetrator allegedly told several people in the library, “Why aren’t you running? I’m shooting at you! Run!”)
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