SPD Prepares for Emergency Operations on Campus

Rebecca Cole


In light of the surge in gun violence around the country this year, The Purple met with Chip Schane, the vice president for public safety and chief of the Sewanee police department, to discuss measures taken by the police to plan and prepare for instances or threats of violence. 

Photo courtesy of Chip Schane

The Sewanee Police Department (SPD) is made up of 12 full-time officers. Schane just recently hired the last two officers. They will help to cover the busiest times for the SPD, typically weekends from Thursday to Sunday at 2:00 a.m., and free up administrative time for higher- ranking officers. “What we currently do is something called Greek patrol,” said Schane, “We staff full-time or part-time officers during the busy times to cover the parties.” With an additional officer on call during the busiest hours, Greek patrol will be eliminated, “which we were already in the process of doing,” he said. This change will also eliminate the charges to Greek organizations for Greek patrol. 

The department also has five unarmed security officers. Schane said he often requires new hires to work as security officers first. Schane said, “It gives them a chance to work with students, because working with students is a particular thing.” He also usually requires new officers to work in dispatch, because it “helps them to understand what it is the dispatcher does and what kind of information they need. It actually makes them a better officer on the street.” There are four full-time dispatchers and three part-time officers. 

“All of my patrol officers have to be certified through the Tennessee POST (Peace Officers Standards and Training) Commission,” said Schane. It’s a ten-week basic law enforcement class (the police academy) and then they complete a four-month field training program. Schane also encourages officers to take additional courses and training. 

“I’ve emphasized training pretty heavily over the last year,” said Schane, “I’ve got two [officers] right now that just left this morning to go to Orlando, Florida. They’re going to a national school resource officer and campus security conference, and two officers are going to Nashville next week to a patrol officer’s conference.” 

“We’re under a US Department of Justice Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Prevention Grant,” said Schane, “and we are required to do a certian amount of training per year under that grant.” Last year, the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic Violence had instructors teach classes and one of them, “was a 25 to 30 year retiree from the Metro Nashville Police Department, he started the Domestic Violence Unit for the Metro Police Department and he did the training for us this year. It was fantastic training.” 

The officers also all get Title IX training. Schane added that 50% of his officers are volunteer firefighters. 

When asked about the special circumstances of working on a college campus, Schane said, “I can’t say the difference between a college campus and another place, but I can tell you about Sewanee. Sewanee is a different place.” Schane said, “I was on the street in Dalton Georgia, I worked gangs in Dalton Georgia, I worked crime suppression in Dalton Georgia, and that is a different type of law enforcement experience and a different type of approach than it is to the Sigma Nu house.” Most of the people that the SPD comes in contact with at Sewanee, from a police officer standpoint, are not criminals. “There’s also the conduct aspect of this, where things are run through conduct instead of through the court system,” Schane said. “We wear a campus security hat,” he said, “and then we also enforce the law. Dealing with 18-22 year-olds takes a different mentality and a different approach.”

Schane elaborated on how the SPD’s approach is generally kinder and gentler. “We want to have a good working relationship with the community, that’s the goal.” 

“I’ve tried to be very cautious about the mentality of the folks that I bring in because it takes a specific mentality,” he said.  Schane said he’s careful about who he puts in that position and placing people in a security role first allows him to evaluate how they interact with students and whether or not they would be a good fit at Sewanee. 

The police have an emergency operation plan that has been a work in progress for a long time. The lengthy document outlining the University’s plan was recently finished around the same time as the Nashville shooting at the Covenant school. It covers possible events campus-wide, he said, adding that it  outlines what everyone’s role should be in the event of an emergency. “For the last few months,” said Schane, “we’ve been training, doing active shooter response drills.” These have been kept quiet so as to not alarm the community and to not give away the police’s response to a potential shooter. “We’ve done some training with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and responded to an active shooter incident with them.” In the event of an active shooter, multiple agencies will show up to Sewanee and the SPD has been working hard to collaborate and train with the agencies in the area around Sewanee. 

Photo courtesy of Chip Schane

“My goal is to, June 1st, roll out some other things that will be helpful to everybody,” said Schane. One of which is a web-based program that will be sent to everyone on campus. It is a 20-minute what-to-do video in the event of an active shooter. There is also a program in the final stages of development called Alertis. It will send out alerts to anyone on the University’s network, on cell phones, laptops or any other device each person has in active use.  Sewanee’s police dispatcher will be able to send out a notification as soon as there is a danger, and each person in the University network  will receive instructions about what to do and where to go. The system will also broadcast a voice message through campus landline phones in offices and classrooms. There will also be small devices, the equivalent of iPods, installed in places where people would not typically have devices nearby; those devices can broadcast the alert message, which will also be broadcast campus-wide over the University’s the siren system. 

Plans that he mentioned such as the instructional videos for students, faculty, and staff, and the campuswide community alert system are in the process of being developed and should be implemented next year, possibly as soon as next semester

It is still a work in progress, “and that’s where the training for everybody comes in,” said Schane. Individuals need to know what to do in the context of where they are and the training video will better prepare everyone for this instance. 

“We’ve had more than one threat that we’ve had to address since I’ve been here,” said Schane, “In all cases, they were mitigated before there was an immediate risk.” There does exist a list of individuals who are not welcome on campus, he said, and the SPD is in charge of quietly handling those situations as well. “Most of the time, the threats that we wind up having to deal with are digital or telephonic,” said Schane. “We’ve been able to vet and deal with every one of them pretty decisively and been able to determine pretty quickly,” whether they were real threats or not. The SPD then responds how they see fit. 

The SPD also has a good working relationship with federal agencies, the US Marshals Service, the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration). Sewanee police officers are able to reach these law enforcement partners quickly and many of the federal agents and state police assigned to the area are good friends of Chip Schane. He said he can easily contact them for assistance and does on occasion. 

Schane said he has received many questions about how the University would respond to an active shooter since the attack at Covenant School in Nashville. “You always want to keep improving your plan and not settle on ‘ok, it’s good enough.” 

The SPD is prepared and has been training often and is happy to answer questions about what they are doing to be prepared to keep the campus community safe. Schane encourages students to come to the police department office or report anything suspicious they see, because the SPD is here to help students and is always open to individuals who need aid.

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