Grady boasts that NIU PD's 62 sworn officers are all trained as emergency medical technicians, some to the paramedic level, through the Kishwaukee Medical System, as are the Fire Department personnel. On 2/14, this cross-trained medically savvy police team was another instrumental element in the response. Harrison says because NIU PD officers were EMT certified through the same training as the fire personnel, he knew that the patients in the building would be cared for until it was cleared for fire personnel.
"Those interventions have been proven to make a difference and have saved lives — I would wish that on everybody," Harrison says. After the shooting was called in, an officer was on the scene in about 30 seconds. The NIU PD long ago adopted the policy that in the event an active shooter is on campus, the first officer on scene would enter the building. So an officer entered Cole Hall within a minute of the reported active shooter.
"Hostage takers do not shoot hostages before negotiating," Grady explains. Grady, who celebrates eight years at NIU this year, has been in civilian police work in the United States in Wisconsin, New Mexico and internationally in Bosnia, Austria, Kosovo and Iraq. He believes that engaging the shooter and having an armed officer enter the scene is the best way to mitigate spontaneous violence.
Each year, a mass casualty drill is held in combination with Homecoming on campus that not only educates students on safety practice and mimics a drunk driving accident, but it also gives an annual dress rehearsal for neighboring agencies to practice response together. Harrison says the drill that took place five months prior to the shooting was eerily similar to the mass casualty incident on 2/14, including the number of patients involved. Officer Terry Williams, with NIU PD for three years and an alumnus, says the chief's progressive philosophy keeps he and the other more than 60 member teams in constant training, requiring 200 hours of training during summer semester, when the campus is least inhabited.
"You play like you practice," Williams says. "If you practice hard — train hard and keep your brain moving, you will be prepared."
Finally, chiefs Harrison and Grady say that without some luck that day, more than five students may have lost their lives. When the Kishwaukee Community Hospital was alerted of the shooting and incoming patients, Harrison remembers that it was during a shift change for hospital staff and thus there were extra medical personnel on hand and waiting to receive victims. The hospital's surgeons were also in a meeting at the time, so a host of doctors were available to operate on the shotgun wounds.
The campus is not untarnished, however. In addition to the loss of five lives and the lasting effects on survivors, responders and the Huskie community, the effects of the shooting are present, some in surprising ways.
Mehwish Qaim, a specialist in the Office of Emergency Management and Planning at NIU, is also an NIU graduate. She was a resident advisor in a private residence hall and had to clear the halls and monitor the floors during the lockdown following the shooting. She says the experience as a student at a university that suffered a mass shooting inspired her to get into emergency prep and planning.
Though Grady says 2/14 didn't change how the agency does business, NIU PD has since gone seen some changes. "I've been all over the world and I've seen all kinds of things," Grady says. "2/14 is one of those things that you expect could happen in your lifetime, and it did. We recognize that we have to be more diligent and always look for the best way to do policing to assure it doesn't happen again, or mitigate the circumstances as much as possible so that we don't have as much damage as we had in the past."
Some of those new policing efforts include a special secret force of sworn police officers whose entire job it is to protect classrooms. In an effort to deter future acts of violence at the university, NIU has sped up implementation of a previously planned program, called the Community Assault Mitigation Program for University Settings, or CAMPUS. The officers are armed, SWAT trained and outfitted in ballistic protection and attend classes, football games, dances and other campus events as full-time students.